Puff, the magic formula; slow and steady like a yogi

‘My natural state is not Zen-like calm’

‘My natural state is not Zen-like calm’

 

Conor Pope ‘My natural state is not Zen-like calm’

Slow and steady wins the race. Or, at least, slow and steady might get me to the end of the Swim For A Mile challenge. That is what Trainer Pete (or Peter Conway, to give him his actual name) tells me on more than one occasion this week.

I have seen Trainer Pete watch with sadness in his eyes as I windmill down the pool like a demented Whirligig witch, and I have felt his despair as my whirling slows towards the end of each length and I start to sink, like a stoner drawing his last.

So he came up with a new strategy for me. I am now supposed to cover the watery ground with the regal grace of Countess Grantham walking through a summer fete. Where others fit in four strokes, I am to put in only two. Then, on the second stroke of my right arm, I am to keep my left arm out in front of me and breathe. And glide.

And breathe. And glide.

This sounds easy, right? Of course it does. Just slow down your stroke and breathing. And glide. The thing is, it requires a whole lot more mental discipline than you might imagine; or, certainly, than I imagined.

It also requires patience. And you have to always keep the rhythm and develop a Zen-like state of calm in the water. “I will get to the end. There is no rush. When it happens, it happens. Slow down. And breathe. And glide.”

This is not my natural mental state. I am not brilliant at delayed gratification and as I move slowly through the water I find I have to work hardest not on my stroke or my breathing, but on quelling my natural impatience.

My head keeps telling me that if I move my arms faster, the end will come sooner. My body disagrees. Racing to the end of one length makes the next one harder. By slowing my stroke and steadying my breathing, I can make it up and down the pool a few times without running out of puff. And that is the secret to long-distance swimming. I need to keep telling myself that.

Dominique McMullan: ‘Swimming is a lot about slowing everything down’

Our swimming buddy Rosita has been with us since Week One and is becoming quite the accomplished swimmer. She practises Bikram yoga and is as fit as anything, but even she struggled at first in training. But now, after 10 weeks, everything has clicked for her, and she has realised that she needs to slow down her arms. It’s a surprising realisation from a yogi.

She suddenly feels she can swim forever and has oxygen in reserve. I’ve learned over the course of this programme that swimming is a lot about slowing everything down. The slower you move, more the more relaxed you are and the easier it is to breathe. Once you are breathing easily, in theory you could swim forever.

Swimming has also benefited other parts of Rosita’s life. Due to its low impact on joints and bones, but big impact on fitness and toning, Rosita’s neck and back problems are disappearing, meaning that she can actually enjoy Bikram more.

Rosita has been nipping at my heels since training began and each session we push each other forward a little more. There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competitiveness for motivation. This week Rosita told us of her plans to join a swimming club after we complete the mile, and she’ll need a pair of heels. I plan to oblige.

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