Yesterday I was privileged enough to go swimming at the London Aquatic Centre with two ex-Olympians; Keri-Anne Payne and Duncan Goodhew. Not only that but I was lucky enough to be doing this with a fantastic group of people. We had all been chosen as ambassadors for this year’s Swimathon. Once we were all in a room together I could see why.
We were all at different stages with our swimming and had various reasons for wanting to take part in Swimathon. The one thing we had in common was the desire to push our boundaries and achieve something new.
What had been holding us back? Confidence. A day spent together at the pool saw each one of us challenge our limits and encourage each other to face fears. There are often so many fears involved in going to the pool. If we can break down these mental barriers our confidence has the chance to grow.
1. You can forget body image
For most of us the idea of stepping into our swimwear fills us with dread. We feel exposed and as if we have nowhere to hide. We were given lovely new Zoggs Swimwear to train in. I thought my Aqua Reef costume was fab and flattering but the voice in my head still said ‘Yeah, it’s still me in a swimming costume’. Not only that but we were being filmed and photographed.
As we all stepped out poolside one thing became abundantly clear. How we looked was totally irrelevant. What mattered was having fun and learning new skills. We were all different shapes and sizes and I doubt any one of us was 100% happy with how we looked. But (and here’s the key to forgetting about body image) no-one else cared! They really didn’t. Our hang ups are ours alone
2. You don’t need to know it all
We’ve all had it. That fear of going to a new place and not knowing where things are or how they work. Which changing room should you head to? What coins do the lockers take? Where do you need to take your shoes off?
We sometimes wonder why we aren’t told all these things when we first arrive. To be honest, we probably should be. Leisure Centres could help everyone by displaying this and other information clearly. But just because it isn’t always obvious it doesn’t mean no-one wants to help. Staff probably don’t know you are new and will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Failing that just ask another swimmer. Twice yesterday I was unsure of something and asked someone else. Both times they didn’t have a clue either! But that meant a shared experience. Suddenly you are no longer alone and have a partner to work things out with. It is amazing how much confidence we gain by realising we are not in a situation alone. If you’re not sure, just ask. You certainly won’t be the first one to do so.
3. No one else is getting it right
My biggest reason for signing up to Swimathon was to re-learn front crawl. I can plough up and down the pool forever in breast stroke but daren’t try front crawl for fear of humiliation. What if I wasn’t doing it right? Would everyone point, stare and snigger?!
Well, they can’t. And guess why; because they probably aren’t getting it right either. Each one of us yesterday looked different when swimming. I learnt that I swim totally flat. I don’t rotate my body, so my arms have to make a huge effort to come round and I struggle to get my head position correct to breathe. It didn’t make me any worse than anyone else. We all had our technique quirks which made us less than perfect.
Keri-Anne coached us and gave some fantastic advice and then showed us how she swims. Wow! It was mesmerising to see how smooth her technique was. If anyone is getting it right it is her. But that’s her career, she has worked on that every day of her life for many years. And I bet she’ll tell you she still isn’t perfect.
So give yourself a break. Relax, enjoy and (bringing me to my next point) keep learning.
4. You can ask for help
Swimming lessons are for children and athletes aren’t they? That was my reasoning. I know how to swim and if I wanted to get better I should just try harder. Plus, as I recently told a friend, I don’t like being coached. The idea of someone watching, analysing and criticising was just too much for someone as self conscious as me.
Turns out I was wrong. And that almost never happens! I loved being coached. It wasn’t about criticism, coaches genuinely want to help you get better. That’s why they became a coach. They are there to build you up and make you feel awesome.
Yesterday I had so many lightbulb moments from the tips Keri-Anne gave me. That’s not to say I came away a hugely better swimmer. But now I know how to get there and what I need to work on. If you are anything like me and worried to try improving for fear of failing then get yourself a lesson booked.
5. Swimming gives you a glow
Who doesn’t get out of the pool with rosy cheeks, feeling better about themselves? I always feel happier after exercise and when you’re happier you give off a glow!
You will also be getting fitter, which makes you feel good about yourself. Feeling good about yourself glows through as confidence.
So get to the pool. Forget all your worries and get yourself a glow!
Swimathon 2018 takes place from Friday, April 27 – Sunday, April 29. With distances from 400m to 5k, there is a Swimathon challenge for everyone. Choose to take part in an organised Swimathon session or take part at a time and place which works for you with My Swimathon.
I’m going for the 5k distance at my local leisure centre. Are you in?! You can sign up to Swimathon here.
Never Miss An Adventure!