A lot has changed since my last couple of posts last year. Things have improved with my health (physical and mental), things have improved professionally and things have improved A LOT personally.
As part of that improvement, I had my first open water swim of the year last week. Then my second and my third.
None of the swims were very far, but the very fact I did them, felt comfortable in the water and even enjoyed them, felt like a big step forward.
I was on holiday with my fiancee (yes, that is the big personal change!) and our kids in the Lake District last week and we were so lucky with the weather that Derwentwater looked positively inviting to swim in. Within about 2 hours of arriving we went down to the lake and into the water.
At first I splashed around with the kids for a bit. Then I swam a few strokes and it felt good. So I swam a few more. It still felt good. I decided to swim to the island, but it was feeling so good that I decided to swim all the way round it. It wasn’t far, but it’s a lot further than I’ve been for a long, long time.
We enjoyed that swim so much, that we made special plans to get in a swim again on two other days. It was lovely!
So that’s it then. My local pool has been shut down due to the Coronavirus. Obviously it means no more swimming for me (especially as it’s not warm enough for me outside just yet) – but it also means that there are people who now have an uncertain future about their job, while for others the centre provided important physical and social benefits to help them that they may not be able to get elsewhere.
I hope all of those people are ok.
What they’ve said is that it will be closed for a month and then they’ll reassess at that point.
There are numerous articles flying around online, especially in the swimming communities, that chlorine in pools at least inhibits the virus and possibly kills it. So that the pool itself is one of the safest places to be – but of course it’s different for the changing rooms, while our pool is based in a centre with lots of other activities [formerly] taking place.
For me it means that I need to change my exercise habits. I’m not going to stop exercising, but I can’t include swimming or the gym as part of that.
I had started social distancing anyway. While not in full social isolation I was limiting the things I was doing and the potential for being with other people. However, swimming, for me at least, was always going to be one of the last activities to survive the changes.
What I will do from now on is replace it with running. I’ve been trying to do more running anyway and this will force my hand. Some stretching and body weight exercises followed by a 5k run (or mainly walk to start with I’m sure) is how I’ll be keeping fit. Hopefully the added benefit of being out in the fresh air will outweigh the fact that I’ll miss swimming and I’m rubbish at running.
I went to the gym this morning and after my workout I used the clever machine they have to tell you your weight and fat percentage etc.
What it told me was that I’ve lost 4.5kgs since the beginning of January. I’m pleased with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s a start – in fact it’s a great start.
Of the 4.5kgs loss, 3.5kgs is fat loss (and my fat percentage has come down over 2%) with a 1kg muscle loss. I don’t feel as if I’ve lost any muscle mass – in fact I’m hoping to gain a little bit, but I suspect that it is a) part of the process of general weight loss, b) that the machine can’t be 100% accurate.
Part of me is a little bit disappointed that the loss isn’t greater, but at the same time I’m pleased that I’m not crashing now to only put it back on later. How I’ve achieved this is by subtly changing my lifestyle in two key areas – I eat better and I move more.
The eating better involves nothing before 10am, having dinner no later than 7pm and no snacks outside of meal times (including no cups of tea – which is probably the hardest thing for me). On top of that I’ve become more aware of my portion sizes, I’ve reduced the amount of carbs I eat and I’ve also tried to eat less meat. The last one isn’t so much to do with weight loss, but more an attempted change to help the environment.
The moving more is quite simply about moving more. As I’ve mentioned before I’m part of the Million Metre Challenge group on Facebook and that is providing me with the motivation to swim more. I’m also trying to get back to running and I’m enjoying playing more tennis.
I’m not perfect with all of this – there are many times that I eat my dinner later than 7pm for example, and even more times that I snack between meals! But the point is that it is a lifestyle change. It isn’t a diet. It isn’t a temporary fix. And I’m enjoying it, so it’s easy to keep going. And part of the reason that I’m enjoying it is that I don’t berate myself if I fall off the wagon because there is no wagon to fall off. In fact an occasional pint (or two), with the associated bag of crisps, is probably helping as much as anything else – because it means that I can relax and enjoy life and not get hung up on the exercise or weight loss.
That said, I’d love to lose another 10kgs or so – but at this rate I won’t be far off that in another four months.
Recently Outdoor Swimmer asked on Facebook what are our barriers to training – what can get in the way and stop us achieving our goals.
I didn’t answer on Facebook, but it did get me thinking and quite simply there are two things that restrict me – Time and Timing.
Time I’m not the world’s quickest swimmer. I’m quicker than some, but for many people that are challenging themselves to big swims / big numbers then I’m at the slower end of the scale. It takes me roughly 20 minutes to swim a kilometre. So if I want to complete the million metre challenge by swimming alone it would take me over 333 hours – or nearly 14 days (13.89).
It’s one of the reasons that I’ve added in running to the mix. While I’m still a slow runner, even at my almost pedestrian 7 minutes per km pace it would only (only?) take me 4.86 days to reach a million metres.
Timing Linked to the time it takes me to swim, is the issue of timing – when I’m able to swim. Although in the summer I prefer to swim outdoors, even then my swims are still mainly in recognised ‘sessions’. So whether it’s the pool or the lake I need someone to open it up for me and let me in. And of course when they can do that doesn’t always co-ordinate perfectly with when I want to or can swim.
Another reason that I want to do more running this year is that I like the freedom of it in terms of timing. Certainly once the lighter nights start to arrive the only thing from stopping you run is your desire.
For most the challenge will involve a million metres (or whatever the personal target is) of swimming in 2020. However, I’ve decided that I don’t want to do that much swimming this year, so I’ve modified the challenge.
Even before I heard about the challenge I had decided that this year I wanted to get back into running and also wanted to play more tennis. So my personal million metre challenge will count up all metres swum, all metres run and will count 1km for every set (or 10 games if we’re not playing a set) of tennis.
After a slow start in January – due to a little bit of illness – I completed 55,510m in the month. That’s over 27,000 metres down on the monthly target, so I’m behind schedule already, but I’m enjoying the process. I’ve just got to keep it up and see if I can reach the target.
And of course this challenge is perfect for me and for this blog as one of my original goals and reasons for starting this blog was to hit 1,000kms – otherwise known as 1 million metres!
The concept is simple – swim the length of the channel (22 miles) in your local pool over 12 weeks. I’ve signed up but decided to make a vow to double the distance, so I need to swim 44 miles by 22nd April. As a (slightly lapsed) swimmer I felt that I should be able to do that – I mean it’s a bit less than 4 miles per week.
Unfortunately for me, a combination of family issues, work and laziness meant that I’ve got off to a poor start and managed a big fat zero this week.
So, as I said, the Aspire Channel Swim starts next week…
And if you want to sponsor me for this you can do here.
It was an 800m swim, followed by a 3km run and most entrants seemed to be triathletes who were using it as a gentle training exercise. Not fat blokes who barely run.
Actually that’s not true about the barely running thing, as I’ve been going to as many Parkruns as I can this year and finding myself both enjoying them and getting a bit faster. But running after a hard swim is new to me.
I was the only non-wetsuit swimmer and I started at the back of the pack to let all the triathletes fight it out at the front. Once the water settled though I started to move through the field and probably came out of the water about halfway in the field (of 67 entries). I could have held back a bit on the swim, but decided that I’d go as hard as I could for two reasons: 1) it would be the only chance I had of getting ahead of a few people; 2) it was a good ‘sprint’ training session for me.
After the swim I needed to sit down and dry my feet before I put my trainers on and set off running, so I don’t think my transition was the quickest! But then it was the run and bloody hell I struggled.
In the end I finished in 37:22, which I suspect could be broken down roughly as follows: 16min swim; 2min transition; 6:30min per 1km lap of the run. Of course what I realised is that for most of those entering the swim was a slog, but the run was just a sprint; for me it was very much the other way around.
Anyway, that’s my current PB and I’ll try to beat it next time (although I can’t make the second event in the series).
Lac Leman (or lake Geneva as we know it in English) is a real bucket list swim for marathon swimmers. At 70km long it is a similar distance to a two-way English Channel swim and has been swum by only a very select group of swimmers.
That’s why, this summer, I was delighted…
… to be invited to visit some friends who live near the lake.
I didn’t bloody swim it, of course I didn’t – I’m nowhere near a good enough swimmer to do that. I did have a nice dip this morning though.
As for the weekend, I had a lovely time. A really relaxing weekend with friends, mountains, a lake, wine and LOTS of cheese.
Maybe one day I’ll be back with more serious swimming intentions…