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Do I need a Swimming Roadmap?

OR.... a light hearted contemplation of my return to the water plan…. Which also covers all the important stuff!

As the news broke that there was a new Roadmap for our Lockdown exit, one of my first thoughts, if not my first thought was ‘When will the pools and outdoor sports venues reopen?’ Unless you were a golfer it seemed like outdoor sports and leisure centre pools had been low on the list of priorities after the first lockdown. Now I’ve a healthy respect for golfers (my dad was one for many years) but honestly I’d rather rake the bunkers than try to coordinate my ability to see and subsequently hit a small ball with a long steel/titanium/carbon fibre stick (sorry, club) into a teeny tiny hole some 400 yds away (what is it with golfers and yds?!?!)

Sorry, I digress…. As you can imagine I was pretty ecstatic to see that outdoor sports (aka ‘ the lake’) and indoor pools featured much earlier in the new roadmap than in 2020… Hurrah!

This celebration was soon followed by the sense that I now needed to dust off my swim kit and get a Swimming Roadmap (aka a return to swim plan) in place as to ….. as to what? I would have written a list but I was too busy checking out the STA and Swim England Websites for clarification about when coaching would be allowed to think of it at the time!

With my swimmer head on, this is what would have been on my list…

- Cold water

- Lockdown cake consumption (will I actually fit in my wetsuit)

- Cold water

- Limited land training (it’s cold, it’s dark, why would I get up early and jump around in the living room to Joe Wicks all over again in 2021… been there in 2020… loved it but honestly)

- Cold water

- What’s the point… (I’ve missed the million metre challenge boat again this year… thanks Coronavirus! Oh.. hang on there’s that 10k event coming that was deferred from last year I think)

- Cold water

- Will the Pool sessions still be limited to 45mins? 40 mins by the time you’ve got your ear plugs and cap on… (perhaps need to turn up in dry robe, ear plugs in, cap and goggles on and just pray I don’t get into an incident in the car en route!)

- Cold water

- Will the really snotty guy be back in the pool snorting and coughing at the end of every length?

- Cold water

- How far will I actually be able to swim before my shoulders start to tell me exactly where to go – (def should have done more land training?)

- Cold water

- I wonder what everyone else has been able to do over the winter? (all those posts on social media from secret swim location and garden pools)

- Cold water

- I wish I lived nearer a river where the water actually came over your knees. I did a fairly extensive reccie of the local river and potential access spots back in January and tbh there were slim pickings…. Or rather … there were slim safe & accessible pickings within a travel distance that would sit comfortably with my conscience and my interpretation of ‘essential travel’

- Cold water

- Will my back be able to withstand 25m fly? A bike related mishap back in November left my back in a very sorry state and my bike more dust covered than my tow float!

So you get the idea…. I was mostly anxious about the cold water… which is an anxiety that is so completely bonkers to me that it kind of caught me by surprise. Usually that would be way down at the bottom of my list having normally been swimming all winter.

Armed with all the ice blocks from our freezer, I went to run a cold bath to contemplate my swimming roadmap…. Which currently looks something like this…

The cold bath has become my friend (not my BFF… that would just be weird even by my standards!). Our cold tap runs about 8 – 9 degrees depending on the day, so whilst it isn’t as cold as an ice barrel or an outdoor puddle, it’s a start. Our shower temp control is broken so cold showers aren’t an option, although tbh I can think of nothing worse… except maybe eating a marmite bagel (but that’s another lockdown story which you can find out more about here )!

Thanks to Jo a spot has been found where the river is accessible and hip height and within a guilt-free travel distance… hurrah! There has been dipping… not as often as I might have liked because any OWS for me relies on having a buddy or a spotter to keep an eye on me…. Jo has been busy working away throughout the pandemic so it didn’t seem fair to drag her out to the middle of nowhere on a dark morning or after a long day cursing at remote computers and our occasional lunchtime appointment with 1980s Eastenders

Cold water aside the rest of my swimmers list falls loosely into the categories: fitness, swim specific fitness & strength, injuries, motivation and Covid19 related stresses and anxieties…..

Following Boris’ big speech…. Joe Wicks, 26 Olympians, the 7 minute workout, Yoga with Adriene and my ‘go-to’ Pilates routine started to call to me again… or rather their collective call to action that had been clamouring to be heard since January (when I had abandoned them for a daily walk around the neighbouring fields and gullies) became more of an incessant yell which plagued and tortured me until I found my mat and resistance bands and gave in to them. Along with some very unusual physio exercises for my intermittently annoying and hugely frustrating back, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that getting reacquainted with these usual suspects wasn’t so bad after all, although the cat was mightily confused by the return of this strange game from the past.

People all have their own favourite ‘motivators’ and ways of feeding and retaining their motivation. For many, tracking progress and training is a big help and the technology nowadays which is out there to support this is just fantastic…. Trouble is that I don’t like technology and generally speaking it doesn’t like me! I don’t use Strava or an all singing all dancing watch that could probably make the tea if I knew which buttons to press. So I have a number of swimming related goals for 2021 (such as hoping that my ‘2021 10k at Lake 62’ time is significantly better than my ‘2020 10k in the sea with next to no training’ time) and keeping track of my training and progress towards them is a much more creative task! I have a fantastic little blue book and I like maths. So yes, I do use a regular CSS test as well as stroke counts, distance, time and speed related stats but I also listen very closely to my body and to my head.

And to be sure, part of my swimming roadmap is definitely about preparing what’s going on in my head and all the Covid19 related stresses and anxieties. It’s always fairly busy in my head and I don’t want this blog to turn into a Hobbit-like trilogy so, just one example….

I know the pool water itself is Covid safe (I’ve sought out and read the science on this one), but the changing rooms and the air and the floor and the door handles and the baskets we put our gear in and and and…. As a swimming teacher at several of the local pools I know that the teams at the leisure centres will be working super hard to ensure that the pool and centre environment is as Covid safe as it can be. I have to trust that process. Although I’m still not too sure what to do about ‘snotty man’, I may have to work on my diplomatic tone/look and how to politely ask him to retain his snot inside his body until such a time as he can release it elsewhere…. Suggestions of positive and effective wording are very welcome!

In my swimming roadmap/plan I’m essentially going with a ‘control the controllable’ school of thought, adjusting my expectations and using my knowledge and experience of many years of swimming, indoors and out, to inform my ‘soon to be out of hopefully the last lockdown’ routines and planning, whilst trying to allow for the uncontrollables and not to fret too much over them…

Above all, I intend to enjoy a safe and long awaited ‘return’ to the water, so having a swimming roadmap is a handy way to make sure that happens. To make sure that my first swim isn’t plagued by the cold or by a pain in the back/shoulder/knee (there will be breast stroke!), by worries over what other club swimmers or my many swimmy friends are or aren’t doing, by anxieties over whether my first tumble turn in 3 months will make me vomit, worrying how far I can swim or how fast I will be in the water…. though tbh it’ll pretty darn quick if it’s as cold as I think it’s going to be!

And then of course I had to put my coaching hat on and make a whole new list, where not surprisingly cold water also featured quite a bit! But that’s for another day….

Stay safe out there lovely swimmers and see you back in the water very soon (10 days to be exact!)

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Joanna Turchet
Joanna Turchet
Mar 20, 2021

Geat blog TT; I think your compass is pointing in the right direction! And by the way, it's always a pleasure to be your buddy 😊

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