Category Archives: Swimming and other fun things

Having fun fly boarding by being body positive

This was just going to be a straight forward review of my experience, but I went through some body image stuff in the lead up to going fly boarding and after I’d done it. So I thought I would make it a bit of both!

My sister bought me a voucher to go fly boarding for 30 minutes for last Christmas and Birthday and I admit I was putting it off, because of my swim and all the training I needed to do. However she reminded me and I realised it was starting to get near the expiry date and therefore I could not put it off any longer.

Why was a worried? I was freaking out because of my weight and not having done it before. I had also looked on the website and there was a weight limit and since I have not weighed myself since I took the focus off weight and dieting, I had no idea what I actually weighed. I was feeling good about myself and my clothes fitting well, but this was totally out of my comfort zone. I decided to take my own wetsuit as I knew it fit me and it would take away the awkward bit of selecting a wetsuit when you arrive, which is normally some guy looking at you and then looking at a rack of wetsuit – not the most inspiring time in any process. Also my sister had said she had wished she had taken her own wetsuit when she went last year.

So off we went to Big Crazy at the National Diving and Activity Centre in Chepstow. I was nervous, but on arrival the weather was extremely wet and that meant all the spectators were in the cafe and not wandering around the site, so my audience would be small. They guys from Big Crazy were also amazingly nice and encouraging. I was in a group starting at 3pm and I was the only girl (but I think I was the best out of all of us!) and when we were changed and walked down to the jetty I ended up going first – they asked who had the smallest foot size and I was the only girl!

The rest of the experience can be found in my Go Pro videos below!

 

Side note – I now really really want a Go Pro as I would use it swimming and for other things like this!

I had the most amazingly fun time doing this! I honestly can’t believe I was worried! But since then I’ve begun to understand why and it all about how we think about our bodies and what we think other people think. I look back at the videos and see a woman having fun and being really good at fly boarding the first time. I didn’t look at how I looked in the wetsuit until later, when I realised I hadn’t noticed. I was laughing the whole time (some was a nervous laugh as that is what I do) and focused on making the most of being in the water and doing something different.

I came away form the experience with a new appreciation of what my body is capable of. It also showed me some of the areas I need to work on with how I see myself and giving less of a shit about what other people think. It’s always going to be a journey I think, it won’t end, but I hope to get to a place where it doesn’t matter to me. I’m not going to change how society sees larger bodies, but I can keep doing my bit to prove those bodies are capable of anything!

A couple of weeks after this I went to the doctor as I’ve been struggling in circuits class with light headedness and almost fainting a few times. Its very frustrating and I was worried it was something serious. Again I went into that completely expecting the outcome to be told I needed to lose weight, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The doctor told me I have an athletic resting heart rate and didn’t mention my weight once. We talked about all the endurance swimming I’ve been doing and after testing my heart rates and looking for problems with valves he thinks it’s just that I am not used to the high intensity and I need to start slow and build up so my body can get used to it. It was amazing feeling to come out of the doctors surgery and not feel bad about myself. I know I want to treat myself well and that means dealing with my issues with food by understanding them, not sweeping them under a rug by going on another restriction diet. I am active and strong and want to learn and grow as a person and I need to do that through positive challenges and joy, not punishment!

Life is good and my body is loved and capable of anything!

Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon Swim

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It’s been a couple of weeks since I undertook my swimming challenge for this year and I still can’t quite believe I did it!

Last November I signed up for the Henley Bridge to Bridge Marathon swim. This a 14km swim from Henley to Marlow. My swim coach took part in 2015 and decided to get a team together and make it a social event for 2016. This meant we could train together and set up days when we would all do long distance swims so we wouldn’t be alone.

It was a long journey of training, but it actually kept me going through a time where I really could have given up swimming. I gave up pool swimming and solely focused on the open water swimming. It made huge difference to my mental strength to just focus on the one thing. Taking the pressure off made it much easier to enjoy the journey. I also changed waves so I could swim in the middle one, rather than the faster one – best decision ever!

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It was a very early start on Sunday 8th August – 4am to be exact! I drove to a friends house so we could then car share to Henley. We arrived at Henley at 6am and registered, waited for the group to arrive and got ready. This is where my nerves started to kick in and I focused on thinking about swimming at my own pace and making it to the end.

The sign in the photo below was from the very start and it was a great reminder of what the event was really about. We didn’t need to worry about time as it wasn’t a race. it was run as a sportive and all focused on getting everyone to the finish.

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The swim we split into 4 stages with 3 feed stops at the locks. The first stage was 4km, then 6km, then 1.5km, then 2.5km. Each feed stop had drinks and a variety of food. Hand sanitiser and extra vaseline was provided and you had a to walk at least 100m from the exit to the entry points.

The fist 4km was easy and the stop came up to surprise me. It was a very busy section as everyone in the one wave started together. It meant getting clear water was hard and I lost the two friends I was swimming with (we caught each other at the stop) so I just focused on swimming steady and trying to notice where we were on the river. I felt good for this section.

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The second section was the big one – 6km non-stop. it’s the furthest I’ve swam non-stop and I was surprised at how good I felt. The river changed as we swam along. We passed green fields and very big houses and felt like there was no one else around. When we got in at this section we were asked to keep to groups with a kayak, but there was a steady stream of people that they didn’t make anyone wait to start (they did in the slower wave I was told). There were a couple of points along this route where you could have taken the wrong split, but the kayakers with us were great and kept us on course the whole way. My friend got cramp around 4km in and we pauseda minute, but got going again and this is where my arms started to feel it. My friend picked up speed and I started to slow, but we worked well together and kept going.

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We stopped for a little longer at the next stop to make sure we had the energy and were hydrated. I topped up the vaseline around my neck and then was ready to go. We had to cross the river and walk across an island before getting back in at quite rocky point, but the flow of the weir was a nice push off to start the last 4 km. I found this stage the hardest as my arms ached and it was not quite long enough to find my rhythm after the 6km stretch. Mentally I had to work hard here and kept focused on even arm strokes and moving forward. My friend was able to lose me here, but we caught each other at the last stop.

The last stage was started by a jump into the river after a lock and staying out the way of the boats. It was around 11ish at the time and there were many more boats on the river than the rest of the time. Also we were heading into Marlow so the it was generally much busier on the towpath and the river itself. This stage was easier in a way because I knew it was the last, but it was also hard, because it was the last 2km of a 14km swim! I focused again on keeping steady and getting to the end. Energy wise I was, just tired, but my arms were struggling a lot by this point. I definitely could have done some extra conditioning training in the run up!

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I was so happy at the end. One because it was over and also because I had done it! I had swam the farthest I’ve ever swum (and probably ever will). It was also much sunnier than when we started and I knew I would be able to relax for a couple of hours waiting for the others to all finish before heading home.

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While we were waiting in the glorious sunshine we talked about what other swims we would like to do. Our coach will probably put another team to together for this event next year, but I don’t think I want to do it two years running. I would come and support though as I think it would be a lovely walk along the river to follow the swimmers. Instead we were thinking about Coniston in the Lake District. That could be a fun trip!

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I would recommend this swim to anyone doing long distance swimming. It was fun and really well organised. The feed stops were well stocked and the volunteers at each one were super helpful. The kayakers and start/finish crews were also amazing!

As long as you put in the training and do not underestimate the distance or the mental requirements of this type of swimming then you will absolutely fine. I stuck to feeding as I did in my training, which mainly involved gels and chocolate to take away the taste of the gels. That works for me, and take time to figure our what works for you. Some people didn’t feed, others used what was at the stops, and others used fruit and nut bars only. As everyone has a wear a tow float I found it easy to carry what I needed and it got lighter as you swam further.

Training wise I progressed from swimming around 3km a time to regularly swimming 5km, with longer swims of 7km to 11km every couple of weeks. I didn’t have a set plan in the end, but rather worked out what I needed to get to and fitted into my schedule as well as making sure I took part in the group long swims.

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Overall this was a fantastic day and a great achievement for me. If you fancy doing it go to the Henley Swim website and sign up for 2017! They also do shorter swims, including one that end at a pub with the medal being a bottle opener – open water swimming is for everyone!

Photography Fun!

I’ve been learning how to take better photographs and this last weekend had my first chance to take event photos for my local running club.  It was fun, now I just need to get quicker at changing setting in between. Also I would like to get better at getting closer up to people rather than have lots of background, but it’s all part of the learning process.

Here are my favourites from the day:

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Keep on Swimming

I think I’m finding my love of swimming again after a bit of a turbulent year of not really feeling it. It’s funny how something that you love can become a chore so easily and then the love disappears and you wonder why you ever liked it at all. It was a horrible time as I do love swimming and being in the water is one of my major childhood memories. What I realised is that it was no longer fun. I was no longer the kid just jumping in to swim around and enjoy the feel of the water. I had a time to swim or a distance to get to. It was all about the goals and not about the enjoyment. So no wonder I didn’t want to go every single time!

I took the pressure off myself and stopped swimming in the pool with my swimming club and began to focus on only lake swimming and that has made such a difference. I reconnected with lake friends from last year and have been having fun building up to longer swims, while having a good time doing it. I still have a goal, but it is one goal, rather than 10!

I like to have something to train for as it gives me focus, but I don’t like events really. So this year I am not using other events as training sessions. I’m still planning on swimming the Bridge to Bridge Thames Marathon in August, but have changed my wave to the middle one, rather than the faster one so I can swim with my friends and take the speed pressure off.

I’m making the most of my membership to one of my local lakes and going as often as I like. There are also three other local lakes that I can use if there is an event on at my lake on the day I want to go. I usually go twice a week with one session being a long swim building up to 10km and one being a coached session working on skills. I would like to get in another session to have some fun and swim too, but timing is harder with that one. I’ve also started back at the gym and doing a couple of classes with my friend Helly and we are having great fun and it doesn’t feel like working out at all. We have a gossip and catch up while moving around and laughing. This means I am working out 4/5 times a week without trying too hard, which is nice and it feels good mentally and physically.

Come rain or sunshine I’ll be at the lake this summer!

Socialising with Swimming Club

In this last week I’ve been to two swimming club social events (and only one swimming club swim session – is that balance?) and had so much fun. I’ve been inspired by all my friends from the club and am rethinking my thoughts from the other week. I think I just needed to be reminded that it’s okay to do what I need to do and take part with the club when it works for me. It’s funny how we sometimes let fear control us without realising. I was afraid what I want to do wouldn’t fit in, but it wasn’t that at all. I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in anymore and I have no idea where that came from!

Anyway back to the social events as they are obviously just as important as the swimming itself, when it comes to being part of a club 😉

The first event this week was a big birthday for our social secretary. She is normally the one organising all of us to do different things outside of the pool, so this time someone else organised a meal for her and it was great fun and a chance to catch up with lots of people.

The next was the annual awards night. This links back to the swimming races I took part in back in November as part of the Club Championships each year. I did less in 2015 then 2014, but still did quite well and beat a couple of my previous records. I also won the ladies achievement award and jointly won the Ladies Overall Champion. It’s really nice to remind yourself of the work you put into the year and see the results a while later. It’s also great to see the kids I coach going up to get their medals and trophies and having a great time being kids away from the pool.

The night started off quite civilised, but being at the only adult table with the masters swimmers soon turned into drinking way more than I should and included drinking shots of jagermeister! One friend was kind enough to take burst of photos showing how much we loved this experience.



This was a great night and an excellent reminder of why I love my swimming club. It doesn’t all have to be about swimming and it’s okay to take some time out from the club sessions to work on what I need to work on. Looking ahead I see myself not doing all the sessions each week, but making sure one or two form part of my training as I fit everything around work and lake swimming. I’m feeling really positive about my swimming year ahead.

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