For many people, swimming is something they have firmly left back in childhood – conjuring up images of embarrassing school swimming lessons in a grotty pool with a used plaster floating by. Some people are put off by frightening experiences where they have felt – or have actually been – in danger in the water. For me, I never had much confidence as a swimmer. I used to suffer with ear problems as a child and was told I couldn’t get water in my ears. As a result I never had swimming lessons aside from mandatory school ones, and I never swam with my face in the water.
Yet, a few weeks ago, at the age of 36, I donned my swimming costume, goggles and AMWRAP swim hat and competed with Kirsty as “Team AMWRAP” in WOD on Water – the UK’s first swimming based CrossFit competition. OK, we came last, but how did I go from almost non-swimmer to feeling confident enough to take on a swimming competition?
The best thing I did was to enlist the help of a professional. CrossFit coach Emma Gage is also double masters world record holder (100 free, 50 fly, long course) and a Triple World Champion at the FINA Masters World Championships 2015 - she is also a very talented coach and has a business called SwimWOD. She offers one to one coaching in person in the Manchester, UK area but also remote coaching wherever you are the form of her general programming or bespoke programming if you have something in particular you are training for, such as a triathlon. She’s even coached some of the best CrossFit athletes in the world Samantha Briggs and Sara Sigmundsdottir.
I did some PT sessions with Emma and we started with the basics – getting comfortable putting my face in the water, and breathing in the water. By the end of the first session I was already swimming with my face in the water. This felt like such a massive step. After a couple of one to one sessions I felt brave enough to try some group SwimWOD classes. Like a CrossFit class, the SwimWOD classes have a warm up, a skill section in the pool and then a WOD (workout of the day) combining swimming and water based movements such as pool muscle ups and diving down, and bodyweight land exercises (burpees, squats, push-ups etc.).
I also tried to go swimming on my own once a week. I used to just swim up and down which I found really boring. So I got some weekly SwimWOD programming and started to do skills and drills which has improved my swimming and stamina. The programme always comes with links to YouTube videos so I understand what I have to do for the different skills.
By the time of the competition I was much more confident. Also I knew I’d have Kirsty with me. Kirsty is a former lifeguard (which I thought could be useful if I got into trouble!) and a strong swimmer. After the summer holidays let’s just say neither of us was in peak condition but we just went for it anyway. Although we came last we enjoyed ourselves (it was a super friendly and relaxed competition) and at no point did I feel worried being in the water. And I was really proud of myself things that I find challenging – like jumping in and diving down to the bottom of the pool. I couldn’t even swim 50m in one go when I started so it was great for me to see the progress that I had made.
After the competition I have continued to swim once or twice a week with programming from SwimWOD. I enjoy adding some variety to my training and my new found confidence in the water gives me such a buzz!
Head over to our Instagram @amwrapuk for a chance to win a week’s free programming with @swimwodofficial and a limited edition AMWRAP swimming cap!
(Images courtesy of Neil Shearer Photography)