So I have been swimming. Swimming a lot… and it has been great. I have definitely and unexpectedly found my happy place… thanks to an invitation from the gals at Elemint who invited me to join their outdoor swim group.
From Humble Beginnings…
While I have been working out for the past two and a half years at the Sport Science Institute, and while I have always loved swimming, I remember when I began how it took me almost a year to get into the pool at gym… because you know… “loving the body you are in” didn’t actually mean that I had the actual confidence to step out from the change rooms and into the pool.
My first problem was not so much swimming, or getting in and out of the pool, for that matter. The biggest problem for any plus size athlete is finding a swimsuit that actually fits. Once I had overcome that problem. I had no trouble swimming and for the past year or so I have been swimming a kilometre in the gym pool a couple of times a week. Swimming is fantastic for me, its a workout I can do easily to build fitness, without the impact of running… I simply cannot run everyday, but by alternating running and swimming, my running has really improved.
I had toyed with the idea of entering an Open Water swim a couple of times, but to be honest just didn’t have the nerve (a) to enter or (b) to show up and compete. Until this past winter the team from Elemint invited me to join them for their training. I thought to myself for a fraction of a second, this is my chance to try this sport out for real… so I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and my goggles.
Training for Summer Starts in Winter
Can I just mention the winter thing, yes you may have glossed over that as you read… but we are heading into Summer over here. Open Water Swimming seems to require swimming throughout the year and waiting for balmy weather is going to have you doing a lot of sitting and waiting for a good day for swimming… and that is not the way to get any training done. If you want to swim, you are going to have to embrace the cold, conquer the wind and lose your fear of water in wild conditions… you just have to get in there.
Put the Cold in a Box
Every couple of swims we get a glorious day, perfect for swimming, clear warm water and rolling waves… But mostly there is a lot to overcome. From the start I was able to put the cold in a box and swim. Once your body gets over the initial shock of getting into the cold water, if you keep breathing, then it is actually possible to calm down and get into the serious business of getting from one side of the dam to the other, several times. Once you have calmed down… you also can’t really be thinking about what’s in the water too much either. The water in our dam is a dark dark dark… you can’t see past your fingers and you can’t think about what could be lurking there. So all ideas of Loch Ness Monsters, and slimy creatures have to be put on hold as well. And that’s in a dam, when you get to the ocean the waves, the wind and the swell can be fierce, but… visibility can be better, I am not sure if that’s a good thing though!!!
Turns out that wild swimming is definitely a mind game, and I like that… it levels the playing fields a lot. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what size athlete you are, it’s how you overcome all those things going on in your head as you get in… the cold, the dark, the crazy thoughts… Once you are in… you are good to go. You do calm down, you do find your rhythm and you can swim… And obviously I love it. I never get out of the water without feeling victorious!!!
Funnily enough, there are not a lot spectators for this sport… nobody really wants to stand around in the freezing cold, watching a group of swimmers vanish into the fog… but when the sun is out… we can raise a veritable crowd… And they don’t always stand on the sidelines either.
We Swim as a Team
Like most things in life… it is easier to do things together. I would never go swimming in the great outdoors on my own… nothing would possess me to get into a freezing lake without some encouragement. Of course I can swim laps in a pool, in warm water and my own lane and… all the luxury. But I love the challenge of the great outdoors, I love how hard it is to take that first step in… I love getting through and knowing the miles are done. But really, even though you swim in your space, you need a team to support and encourage you… together we can do great things and it is fabulous to be part of a team…
We have trained together, we have raced together, we have cleaned beaches together…
It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are… from the first timer to the veteran… these gals are great at working together, encouraging and helping each other reach their goals. Some of us want to swim the first 400m of a triathlon, others want to swim Robben Island… different folk, from widely different backgrounds, with different goals. All of us want swim…
Let’s Talk About Elemint
Elemint is the place to be for outdoor sports enthusiasts, who want to train as part of a group. I love being in the great outdoors and sport in the wild, is fantastic… but it needs to be done with friends.
Trail running on Table Mountain and Open Water Swimming are not recommended as solo sports. Joining their programme is a great way to get outdoors with company, apart from the safety in numbers aspect… there is also the gentle encouragement and specific training that you receive along the way, so that you can improve at your chosen sport and reach your goals. I have loved swimming with Elemint, from winter through spring… and now I am really looking forward to summertime.
This is not a sponsored post, I wasn’t even asked to write it. I do join the Elemint team by invitation, and have been gifted with training, and I am thrilled to be part of it. And none of the links in this post are affiliate links… just free, fair and old fashioned blogging.