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Swim Snobbery

Ok… how many of us can truly say we’ve never been a swim snob?

I confess that I had a monumental sulk upon returning from our trip to Scotland last year where I had been lucky enough to swim in some amazing lochs, with mountain backdrops and clear open skies, clear (albeit peaty brown) water and wide-eyed onlookers waving at me from passing boats and wondering if I was mad. Returning to the lakes at the water park was hard enough after that, let alone returning to the chlorine pit…. I was a proper Loch snob that week!

Then just the other day, I found I needed to give myself a serious talking to…. I had been spoiled by a swim in the 33m pool at Strode on Sunday morning and then really didn’t want to hit the 25m pool in Marlborough on Monday…. I was, once again, at that moment a real Swim Snob. I put my 12y old sulky face on, curled up on our living room floor wrapped in a blanket and a hot water bottle and binge watched our box set of Grey’s Anatomy with my ever-patient beautiful wife wondering what on earth was going on.

Thankfully I got over my pool snob sulk and was soon back in the water (our local 25m pool, which I do love really!) knocking out a storming 4k set in a particularly good time (for me anyway). And it was whilst I swam that swim that I got to thinking about swim snobbery, in all its forms and how easy it is to fall into its trap.

I had a friend who loved pool swimming until I introduced her to the open water. Not unsurprisingly she fell in love with it and soon found the lakes up at the Cotswold Water Park and their beautiful clear chlorine-free solace. She began to get really grumpy in the pool to the extent that she rarely swam with us anymore and when she did, she never seemed to be enjoying her swim as much as she used to, commenting that she disliked the pool water and wouldn’t it be nicer in the lake?

This was something I just couldn’t get my head around at all back then, but was reminded of after my post-Strode hissy fit. Let’s be honest, none of us really like the smell of chlorine or the effect it has on your breathing, sneezing, on your skin and hair. That said, seeing the cat going bonkers and trying to catch my toes when I’m chlorine covered is always a good laugh! Some pools are smellier and gloopier (is that a word? My spell checker seems to think so … let’s go with it for now!) than others but I have always found the pool to have an important role in my swim journey and have always loved it for that.

The pool is where I work when I’m teaching children how to swim. I teach swim school in various Wiltshire pools, and I love it… it’s where I get to be part of a special journey beginning for many swimmers and who knows… one day I may even find myself teaching a future Olympian! It can be hugely frustrating and often a little painful when I get kicked by an eager beginner in the water but also hugely rewarding as I am privileged to help the same eager swimmer take their first strokes across the water, without my help.

It’s where I coach clients more comfortably through the winter. I appreciate that whilst I may be happy in sub 5 degree water, it’s not ideal for stopping to talk about the finer details of stroke technique! And it’s where most of my ‘Video of your Swim’ sessions take place - the lake water is amazingly clear but not always ideal for video with sun and light challenges, weeds, wildlife, wind and rain and so on!

The chlorine pit is also where I often choose to work on my own technique and skills, push myself in timed interval sets and try to shave some time off them in preparation for my annual 10K challenge. It’s where I maintain my distance swims and swim fitness over winter, when (like many of us) travelling to sunnier climes and warmer waters isn’t always possible. It’s where I try out new drills and new sets before torturing my clients with them.

The pool is also where I catch up with lots of my swimmy friends and people who I only ever see in their swim costumes….and often don’t recognise when fully clothed! This can, of course, be a little embarrassing as I ignore the strange woman in Tesco waving and smiling at me from behind her face mask. When you swim regularly at a pool you get to know people, get to chat, make new friends and hear all manner of interesting and strange things! And as a club swimmer I do love to procrastinate (sorry Coach!) at least 5 minutes (ok… nearer 10, on a good day) at the start of every session as I catch up with the latest from my fellow lane swimmers.

The pool is also where I first did CPR on a human rather than on Resus Annie. I thought I would hate going back after that particular episode, I feared it would colour and cloud my swim and that I would be haunted by the vision of a fellow swimmer face down and limp in the water. Thankfully it didn’t, no doubt in good part because he survived to tell the tale. It’s not a happy pool story but it’s one I hold especially dear as a reminder of how precious our time is, in and out of the water!

And then there’s our nearest water at the lakes in the Cotswold Water Park… often cold, sometimes murky, sometimes weedy with scary swans giving you an evil stare as you pootle past them, ducks

and the promise of swimmer’s itch… I mean who wants that? Wouldn’t you rather be in the beautiful warm, clear sea waters off the Turkish coast….Well, of course I would but I LOVE the lake (when I’m not being a swim snob and missing the Scottish Lochs with mountain backdrop!)

The lake is also where I work and swim and chat (things I love to do, obviously!)… where I meet lovely open water swimmers (always a fab bunch of people), where I eat cake (those of you who know me, will know I eat lots of cake!), where I help nervous clients getting into the open water for the first time, or confident triathletes, prepping for their next event, or everyday swimmers just wanting to swim a little faster/further. There really is something very special about being in the water under an open sky – yes, even when there’s rain pouring down!

But wouldn’t you rather be in the sea….. or a spring fed plunge pool… a natural heated spa…. or the bath tub…. or even a puddle….

Swim snobbery - I’ve been as guilty of it as the next person…. But I try very hard not to sulk at the prospect of heading for the chlorine. I was reminded last week very starkly that I’m lucky to be heading to ANY of these places, there are swimmers around the world as I type who can’t swim at all. Some of them may be out of the water nursing an injury (get well soon!) some of them may be hiding in an underground cellar waiting for the bombing to stop (you are in my thoughts every day). So every swim is a gift, every body of water a bonus, every stroke is special.

Happy swimming out there, wherever you are; I hope you’re safe and able to get your swim fix in again soon.

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