I've been a member of a local leisure centre for a while now and usually try to go twice a week. Initially I went once to the gym and once swimming, before eventually realizing that I enjoyed the swimming and found the gym pure torture; it was smelly, noisy and boring beyond belief. Even a Christmas gift of an ipod failed to help matters much. Given the right song, it helped me maintain a certain rhythm on the rowing machine but it failed to drown out the local radio station blaring over the speakers and didn't do much for the boredom aspect. Consequently, I now go swimming twice a week after dropping E off at school. I find it much more pleasurable - only the smell of chlorine, no annoying music and no over-competitive, smug members in the latest lycra, looking upon my ratty old track suit bottoms and ancient T shirt with derision. The swimming clientele are a much gentler, friendlier, less threatening class of person, I find, always ready with a cheery greeting and it's also nice to catch my breath and warm up in the sauna afterwards.
My stroke of choice is breast stroke. You get to keep your head above the water, thus avoiding swimming pool hair, and it's relatively leisurely and not too splashy. It is, however, comparatively slow and I have often watched enviously as others, more seal like and front crawly, plough their way effortlessly up and down the lanes. I have always wanted to have a go but embarrassment has stood in the way. Given a pool all to myself with no spectators I would have tried it long ago but, short of building my own pool, that's never likely to happen, so onto my 50 list it went, thus forcing me to give it a bash.
Having probably been taught how to swim crawl at some point in the dim and distant past, I know the basics. Kick the legs and make windmilling actions with the arms - how difficult could it be? As it turns out, very. I was extremely fortunate to find only 2 others in the pool this morning so, with a lane all to myself, I had no excuse not to try. I had dug out daughter number 2's goggles in preparation and, with much fiddling and quiet cursing, actually managed to get them to stay on my head. Throwing caution and embarrassment to the wind, I set off. The legs I could do, the arms I could do, the breathing - that was a different matter. Not used to having my head in the water (it seems so much colder!) I went into slight panic mode and let all my breath go too quickly. Not for me the streamlined, effortless breath taken, almost imperceptibly, to coordinate with the arm action. Mine was more like a whale erupting to the surface, effectively doggy paddling for a few seconds whilst gasping pathetically, and then plunging once more beneath the waves. It was an impressive sight.
Nobody guffawed and pointed (I said they were a nicer class of person) and, fortunately, nobody felt the need to rescue me and administer First Aid. If I could have swum a length without coming up for air, I probably wouldn't have looked too bad. Unfortunately, my lung capacity isn't that great and I found I had to come up at least twice to do my dying whale impression. I persevered and, goggles now steamed up with the effort, managed to complete 6 lengths of front crawl. It wasn't pretty and rather a lot of water was imbibed in the process but I did it. Never again though - I can tick it off my list but it's back to good old breast stroke from now on. The sauna had never seemed more welcome.
Given that, fortunately, cameras are rather frowned upon in the swimming area, there is no photographic evidence of my achievement, so I thought I'd finish with a photo of my lovely tulips instead. Believe me, they are a far more attractive sight.