I can’t really swim and if asked I don’t really want to, but when invited to swim with a Commonwealth Champion, it was time to get my Speedos on (ok, there’s never a time to get Speedos on).
There’s a reason why I like runing. There are, in fact, several reasons why I like running, but one is that it is a simple case of putting one foot in front of the other and then repeating. Yes, some of my running friends and my Garmin might go on about about cadence and vertical oscillation, but we really were born to run.
Swimming is a sport that I know is great for getting fit and strong (see pictures of Robbie Renwick) and I know it is an excellent activity for the obese and overweight. As Robbie (more about him later) explained, when asked about injuries, it is a relatively low impact sport (he’s obviously never seen me dive-bombing). However, for many obese people swimming pools are uncharted waters. When you despise how you look, the walk of shame from changing rooms to pool can strip you of your dignity, regardless of whether anyone is even looking at you.
And then there is the synchronised swimming. No, not some artistic moves but simply using my arms and legs while trying to remember to breathe (while my head is OUT of the water).
So, when I was invited by Strathmore Water to join Commonwealth Gold Medallist and British 200m Freestyle record holding Robbie Renwick and to find out more about their Do More campaign, I put aside my worries about drowning in a sea of embarrassment and took one for Team14.
I was joined by six other wonderful bloggers (including my Team14 pal Paula McGuire) and the shared apprehension seemed to ease our collective fears. Fears that we incidently didn’t need to have.
Robbie, despite only being weeks away from a wee event in Glasgow and Sunday being his day off, was a fantastic coach. Over the course of an hour he took us through various swimming drills. We focused on streamlining (don’t think I’ll ever resemble a streamline), techniques and endurance training.
Thankfully the most we had to swim was about 400 metres and the chance for me to fully embarrass myself was limited.
Or so I thought!!
Robbie was keen to help us improve every aspect of our swimming and like David Carry, who I had listened to at a Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow conference earlier in the week, he spoke at length about how making small changes and improvements to aspects of our swimming can shave seconds off times. Seconds that can mean the difference between podiums and doldrums.
One way of finishing faster is turning faster. Very seldom (IE never) do you see swimmers replicating my approach of reaching the end, stopping, turning around and starting again. Instead, they perform tumble turns. And Robbie wanted us to perform them. It is testament to his professionalism that he kept a straight face as I tumbled and turned. On my first attempt I ended up turning 90 degrees and in the lane next to mine.
However, it was in my second attempt that I invented a new style of turning.
Somehow, as I turned and pushed my legs, with all my might, I ended up with my feet out the water and ON the edge of the pool. As I lay there with only my upper body submerged, I was literally choking with laughter
Grin When You Are Swimming
Robbie, to his credit, took my incompetence in good spirit and was obviously really impressed by the progress that I made during the training session. Despite having some excellent swimmers in our group, it was quite clear that my unique style had left a lasting impression on him and his praise was totally unexpected.
After the relay race (we’ll not dwell too much on that, other than to say that the losing team had to then swim two further gruelling lengths using the fly technique that left me gasping for breath) we headed upstairs for a Q and A
I asked him about setting milestones and goals and I asked if he worked backwards. He confirmed that Rio 16 is his goal with Glasgow 2014 and the World Championships (update: he is a World Champion) his milestones. Throughout the questioning it became clear that Robbie was dedicated, determined and disciplined. Yes, he enjoys cakes (who doesn’t) but he also swims for over 30 hours every week and has strength coaches, sports psychologists and physiotherapists in his corner. Competing in Glasgow is a great honour, but he will not let that pressure affect him. He has been training for four years, in preparation for defending his Commonwealth crown. On any given day Robbie gets up at 5 am, swims 7000 metres, goes to the gym for 2.5 hours before heading back to the pool.
At the Q and A afterwards, the question I wanted to dive in with was: “Robbie, just what is your problem?”
Instead, we spoke about something we both are passionate about. Getting people to Do More. Robbie Renwick is one of three inspiring athletes who belong to Team Strathmore. Together, they are encouraging more people to get into the sporting spirit and to take small steps. To try new sports and activities. Although sharing my concerns about the accessibility of swimming to young children, he did feel that pools like Tollcross International Swimming Centre were encouraging more and more to swim.
And guess what? He’s inspired me. I’ve harboured (last water related pun) a desire to become a triathlete but felt anchored (sorry) by my lack of swimming skills. Using the training tips he imparted upon us, I am going to wade back into the pool and I will practice. Then I will participate in the Great Swim. A one mile swim of Loch Lomond.
Can’t Swim, Will Swim.
Huge thanks to Robbie Renwick and Strathmore for a fantastic experience and to Jeff, the photographer, for not filming any of my really embarrassing moments.