OK... so just to be clear.... I didn't swim slowly in the slow lane.... but I did swim more mindfully and it was good!
We all know that it can be super frustrating when people swim in pool lanes which are not really suited to their speed and ability. When I'm faster than them, mostly I manage to work around them. When I'm slower than them I always keep an eye out and make sure I stop to let them pass, or time my sets around theirs so as to not frustrate their swim. If I need to stop before the planned end of my set or if I need to add another half a length to avoid a random turn or overtake then so be it... I'm not going to win any Olympic medals any time soon so a bit of instant adapting to the flow and traffic is helpful for everyone I hope.
But today I was struggling to understand why, in a relatively quiet pool (it's half term, lots of the regulars are away), a swimmer would get into the 'busiest' lane and then hold everyone up whilst they swam their swim happily oblivious to the growing frustrations of the others around them. This is not new. This particular swimmer swims 3x a week and holds everyone up 3x a week. Occasionally people will comment and try to have a diplomatic word but this hasn't really worked in the greater scheme of things so far. So we generally all just muddle along, overtake when we can and tap feet when we need to, keeping the peace and swimming our swim.
Today there was nobody in the slow lane, and with only 20mins left of the session it seemed unlikely that anyone would arrive and get in. After a quick word with the lifeguard to check it was ok and reassure him that should anyone arrive I would move over, I headed to the other side of the pool. And started to swim. And slowly but surely a few little rays of light and inspiration took over. Literally and metaphorically.
The slow lane at my local pool is near the window. Today the sun was shining (for a change) and shining through the glass and into the pool. Usually the lifeguards draw the blinds when its sunny but today this didn't happen and the rays of sunlight flickered and bounced merrily and unshaded over the water as I swam through them, catching my eye every other length, making me squint and making me think about the sunshine in the open water. How beautiful and uplifting it was to swim in the sunshine.... but where were my tinted goggles when I needed them!?
The directional arrows shouted out to me to swim anti-clockwise.... what???? the WRONG WAY??? OK so there was only me in the lane, what difference would it make if I just swam up and down the middle??? Well, on the off-chance that another swimmer rocked up I figured I better more or less stick to the correct direction of travel so I swam the 'other' way! That was a bit of an eye opener in itself. It felt strange and unfamiliar and took some getting used to. My first 4 turns were off kilt and felt super unbalanced. I felt disorientated and thrown off course. Thankfully this very quickly subsided and 'the wrong way' felt absolutely fine in no time. How strong is our sense of what is 'normal' and 'routine' and 'familiar' yet how quickly the brain adapts. Change is good.
The biggest impact, however, of this relatively small change today was to free me from the 'busy-ness' of having to keep an eye on the other swimmers, of being aware of who is where, who I am about to bump into, who is getting twitchy behind me, whether I have enough time for my 10s interval break before someone comes along, whether there's enough room to overtake or will there be a painful octopus-like entanglement of arms and legs mid length. Instead, my mind was quiet, my swim was calm. I could 'just keep swimming'. Without seeking it out, I found a much more relaxed rhythm, breath and stroke and just swam. My brain was able to think about every part of my stroke and about all the little things I know will slip in my technique when I'm 'busy' thinking about the other swimmers in the lane. How wonderful it was. How relaxing it was. My pace, when I checked out all my stats post swim, was pretty much spot on my 'normal' pace if not just a tad speedier, but at the end of the session I wasn't nearly as tired, my brain wasn't nearly as buzzy, my body would have been happy to carry on.
Don't get me wrong, I do rather like the 'buzz' of swimming in a busy lane and will be back in the 'fast' lane for sure tomorrow but just for today, without actually slowing down, I slowed down. A truly 'mindful' swim which allowed me to take check of my stroke, to enjoy the sunshine and the water. A reminder of how the things happening around us can impact on our own experience, wherever we are, whatever we are doing.
Today I swam in the slow lane and loved it!