Sometimes, life brings you opportunities that can shape how you move forward and feel about yourself and last weekend’s Swimathon Masterclass was one such moment.
It was the Ambassador launch event for Swimathon 2018 at the truly outstanding London Aquatic Centre and I am both proud and privileged to be a part of this amazing challenge.
Proud because I am not a chiseled instagram friendly fitness blogger showing off my abs, but instead an overweight but passionate try-athlete who simply wants to show that sport is for all, regardless of your shape, size, age or ability. My goal have never been to move products or promote myself, but to move people and to promote the benefits of being active. Swimathon is providing me with another platform to challenge myself and the often stereotypical view that the overweight and obese are lazy.
And privileged because being an ambassador does come with some amazing perks, not least the opportunity to meet and train with not one, but two Olympis legends
Anyone of a certain age will have grown up with Duncan Goodhew’s exploits in the pool, his Olympic Gold Medal (not actual size above)in Moscow and with his unwavering promotion of swimming. It was no surprise to learn that he is the President of Swimathon, although I was both disappointed and surprised that he was not a fan of my beard (although he is right about the drag).
Throughout the course of the day he provided invaluable feedback and advice. However, it was another Olympian present who really left their mark on me…..Double World Champion and Olympic Silver medalist, Keri-Anne Payne
Not only did she deliver a swimathon masterclass that has transformed my swimming and boosted my confidence, but she also kindly sat down with me for an interview.
Keri-Anne Payne Interview
Hi Keri-Anne, what is it about Swimathon that made you want to be an Ambassador?
I love swimming and everything I do is focused on encouraging and helping others to swim, so when approached to take part, I said yes. Swimathon is a brilliant challenge supporting wonderful charities.
You made the transition (couldn’t help the triathlon pun) to Open Water Swimming; what is it that you love most about the sport?
The freedom. Being in the wide open space of an ocean or sea, with no lanes, brings you closer to nature and it is the most amazing of feelings
What would you say to those interested in open water swimming, but who are maybe worried about the whole getting closer to nature bit?
Get in! Don’t be afraid! The sea is full of creatures and almost all of them are more frightened of you than you are of them.
It has been a year since you officially retired from competitive swimming, so what have you been up to?
My husband David and I set up Triscape, a swimming retreat and coaching business. People can attend our SwimFit sessions on Caribbean retreats in St Lucia and in Nevis, where you can participate in or watch the amazing 2.5 mile swim between Nevis and St Kitts that includes sea turtles as companions and also in Scotland for the Great Scottish Swim. At every retreat, we focus on making people more efficient and better swimmers while we also deliver masterclasses with our team of experts.
David is also an Olympian and I once listened to him speak at a sports symposium where he described that world class swimmers look to make incremental improvements to every aspect of their swim; that individually might only make them fractions of a second faster, but together could make the difference of getting on a podium or not. For those participating in Swimathon, what would you suggest are the fundamental areas to focus on to improve their swimming?
There are three areas that I would advise everyone to work on.
- Breathing. Although we take it for granted, how you breathe while swimming dictates how well you swim. Don’t take huge inhales and exhales as this tires you out. Instead, inhale gently through your mouth and exhale via your nose. Not only does this prevent water going up your nose, it is a more efficient way to release air.
- Posture. At Triscape we coach swimmers to adopt a straight line swimming approach. You want to reduce drag, so keeping your body straight will enable you to more efficiently and to feel less tired. Rather than looking up and ahead, which can result in hips and legs sinking, keep your head facing down and only turn to breathe.
- Propulsion. We want to be as efficient as possible and by rotating our bodies slightly from the hips, our shoulders follow and this gives us extra reach in our front crawl and further reduces drag.
You make no secret that you love cooking and eating, so any nutritional tips for those of us training for Swimathon?
Years of experience have taught me that eating within 20 minutes of a gruelling swim session is optimal. Ideally, it should be a good source of protein and I love making a smoothie of milk, berries, seeds and nuts
Like me, you also love cake. Any tip on having your cake and eating it?
Always share any cake that you bake so that you don’t eat all the slices. Yes, that does make me a bit of a feeder, but it means that I don’t pile on the pounds
Finally, you’ve seen us all swim today. Who is your Star Pupil?
(sorry fellow Swimathon Ambassadors, I could not resist)
After the interview, we headed poolside where Keri-Anne delivered the Swimathon Masterclass and provided us with feedback on our form and some drills to help us improve along with some training plans. We all listened intently and everything she said struck home, especially my head positioning (i.e. it is ALL over the place).
By the end of the masterclass, I was confident that I had made some genuine improvements in how I swim while I had also identified key areas in which I need to make further adjustments, not least the sharing of cake.
Being a Swimathon Ambassador is a huge honour and it feels wonderful to be part of an amazing group of people and I am really enjoying being back in a pool after spending most of my life believing that I was not a swimmer. However, since returning home, I have been to the pool to hone my skills and on Sunday, it all came together.
Not only did I almost swim 2km ( a wee Garmin malfunction), but I did so freestyle. Prior to my session with Keri-Anne, I struggled to swim 25 metres freestyle and it is a mark of her ability as a coach that despite still needing to improve, I now look forward to spending more and more time in the pool. I have not felt this excited or determined for a long time.
For I am now a swimmer!
You too can look forward to swimming more by joining us at Swimathon 2018. You do not need to be a world champion like Keri-Anne or swim 5km with me, but with distances for everyone, this truly is a #swimforall
But do not just take my word for it. Watch this fantastic Swimathon video and then feel free to ask me any questions on Facebook or on Twitter at @hommanymiles_.
Together we can make a splash!