Big news of the week – Prince of Wales baths has reopened: http://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/leisure/sport-and-physical-activity/sports-centres/kentish-town-sports-centre/;jsessionid=6942A12B2A5264717EA109BCE321D592.node2
There’s a fantastic Flickr photo gallery here – it looks stunning. I’m not sure when I’m going to get there, but it will be soon.
Today will be my first time back in the pool after a 9 day gap after I came down with and fought off another bug. I actually felt well enough to swim again on Wednesday but I didn’t want to take any chances and also have had a very heavy week for socialising. But I have a swimming lesson so it’s Usual Pool for me.
I have been back swimming again – the back got better, then I got the beginnings of a cold, which I seem to have fought off – but haven’t really felt like posting as I’m not feeling terribly positive about things. I can’t swim breast stroke properly – and indeed, I’ve worked out that while I’m trying to do it, I’m tensing something which is what’s responsible for my lower back pain (I never had back pain with Old Legs breaststroke). But I feel guilty when I swim it the Old Way – like everyone’s going to laugh and point and tell me off. It seems almost impossible to capture the old feeling of freedom and enjoyment in the water. And my back pain just tells me how far I have to go – even though I seem to be able to propel myself forwards with my legs now, I’m obviously still doing it wrongly. Yesterday, after half an hour of fretting in the water, I just tried floating like a frog for a bit (thank heavens for Usual Pool – couldn’t have done it in a pool with lanes) and just feeling the sensation, not worrying about stroke, speed or anything else. It did help and I did feel better after the swim. But it upsets me that I can get to a place where I don’t want to swim because I don’t feel relaxed enough to enjoy just being submerged.
I’ve had lower back pain since Saturday and, while I know it can be good for you in some circumstances, I’m not swimming until it becomes less painful. That meant cancelling today’s swimming lesson, but hopefully I’ll get another one in on Friday. No running until I’m 100 percent better! What a shame this isn’t balanced by a similar rule for ‘no beer’, ‘no cheese’ and ‘no pork scratchings’.
Today’s lesson definitely showed improvement, but the level I’m at is so low that I’m painfully reminded of being picked last in games classes and not being able to do cartwheels at gym club. Except it’s worse, somehow, because swimming is something I’ve been doing for years and years and is supposedly part of my identity. I feel like a fraud.
I do feel there’s something about sports instruction that’s flawed though – I know I’m hypersensitive, but it takes a special skill to teach something you’re very good at to someone who is struggling. My teacher makes jokes, which I’m sure are meant to be friendly, but just make me feel even more humiliated (it really didn’t help when she pointed out a competetent breast stroker and said ‘You’ll be able to do it like that. Or maybe not.’) And I do resent it because I didn’t have to make the choice to try and unlearn a skill I thought I had for years. I could have saved myself the time and expense and just carried on with my nice, streamlined flip kick and been none the wiser and carried on feeling fit, healthy and good about myself. Instead I’ve chosen to start from scratch and be bottom of the class at something I already thought I could do. At least there’s one consolation. If I ever progress enough to move onto crawl, at least I won’t have anything to unlearn. I won’t feel so bad about it either – I *know* I can’t do crawl already!
Due to one thing and the other (and rather too many of the other) I didn’t go swimming on Wednesday or Thursday morning. So it was on Thursday evening, with a colossal hangover, that I dragged myself off to Usual Pool for a run and a swim, keen to try out my new leg action. And guess what? I can’t do it. I can’t propel myself forwards at all by bringing my legs up and out in a circle. According to my swimming teacher, I’m not catching the water as I bring my legs round, so I’m not creating any resistance to push me forwards in the water. But knowing this doesn’t seem to help. And it’s very difficult to practice with or without a float. After a bit, I realised I wasn’t getting any exercise, so I reverted to swimming with my Old Legs but concentrating on incorporating the arm tips my teacher had given me, ie point downhill and do a very shallow scoop.
I have another lesson today but, right at this minute, I wish I’d never started it.
I had my very first breast stroke lesson today – about 23 years after I first started swimming it (god I’m old). I’ll need some more, but I think it’s been really helpful. I’ve finally got some kind of idea of what I’m supposed to do with my legs. It will be a struggle to remember, but now I at least have a mantra I can repeat ‘straight legs, point, together, bring knees up, knees apart, legs out, flex ankles, bring feet together in a water resistance propelling movement’ and I can picture it as I tried it out on my back first. I was very nervous beforehand (I even did the ‘maybe the pool will be closed, maybe my teacher won’t turn up’ thing) and it was hard as I don’t have a body which learns things easily. But at least I’ll have something in my head to try when I go swimming tomorrow.
I can believe that I swam breast stroke wrongly for years, not having thought about my technique or having been formally taught it. What I can’t believe is how wrongly I have been doing it in the last 6 months thinking about it all the time, taking advice from everyone, reading voraciously and even channelling Courtney from the Guardian online clips. Which just goes to show, there’s no substitute for face-to-face lessons.
One more thing – gosh it’s cold being in a swimming pool and not exercising! I know it’s worse for my swimming teacher, but I’m glad I’m doing this while the weather is warm!
Today I went to the pond for the first time since the weather’s been warm. I’m so used to the water being cold that I automatically made the exclamation that I make whenever I splash into cold water, only to have to rearrange my face into a ‘isn’t it warm’ expression (incidently, I’ve noticed that the standard way of covering for this in cold water weather is to go ‘urghhh!… umm, isn’t it lovely?’). The pond was full today which, while it’s not as special as when it’s just me and a duck, has its compensations, as this pond is full of characters (probably characters I’d find really irritating on a committee). Today’s favourites were an elderly woman who was swimming with her digital camera (waterproof I’d assume), a woman who stopped a pair of strangers to point out you could see the moon (‘I just had to share this with you’) and a woman swimming crawl up and down the middle and making a noise which ‘like a lawnmower’ doesn’t really do justice. To be completely accurate, I’d have to say it was ‘like your neighbour is playing loud drum and bass at a party in the house 3 doors down’.
The pond doesn’t really attract the super-sporty tri-types. In fact, I was swimming without goggles and with my head out of the water, partly because it’s so nice to enjoy the scenery and it’s a bit murkey under the water, partly so as not to get my hair wet under my swimming cap and partly because I didn’t feel I needed to do a massively sporty swim after my week’s exercise. In the event I was swimming for 20 minutes before I started to worry about my back and thought I’d better get out. If I swim there again on a warm day this summer, I’ll take my goggles, but won’t necessarily wear them the whole time.