Saturday, May 06, 2006

Things I enjoy # 4 - Swimming

As I’ve mentioned previously in this Blog I was always terrified of the water as a child, and at the age of 12 was frightened even further by a Physical Education Teacher who tossed me into the school pool, knowing full well that I couldn’t swim. Can’t teachers make or break a child at times?

And this may sound rich coming from the fingers of one who trained in that profession.I finally learned to swim in my mid thirties because I’d had a muscular back injury and was told that swimming was the best way of keeping further problems at bay, so I taught myself to swim and to swim properly with head down, front crawl until I swam my victorious first whole length.I continued in this vein until I built my stamina levels up to swimming 64 lengths which is equivalent to a mile, 3 x weekly. However Multiple Sclerosis takes over occasionally and I had a break during a relapse.

People may look upon swimming as a means to an end, in so much as that you exercise your cardio-vascular health. Therefore you can just keep pounding the lengths relentlessly or you can exercise your limbs safely because the water takes your weight, but I never really found any joy in that.

I'm the type of person who, if I don't enjoy what I'm doing by totally getting 'lost in the moment' , then I may as well not do it at all. I bought the following book....THE ART OF SWIMMING... because not only does it show you how to use The Alexander Technique during swimming to maximise its health benefits but it also has many pages on what I would describe as 'The Zen' of swimming.

This concept was something which appealed to me more than anything. My favourite swimming venue is a pool 6 miles up the valley from where I live, at Pontardawe. It’s is enclosed by glass windows and outside are views of hills, mountains and trees which are really rather beautiful and on a sunshiny day; the rays of the sun hit the deep end of the pool in such a way that if I hang there, head down in mushroom shaped float with eyes open inside my goggles, then it's almost like being in some kind of magical rainbow with the sunshine prismed through the ripples of the water.

By the time I've finished my swim, I've exercised my stresses away because exercise raises endorphin levels, and I feel high on life despite feeling dead on my feet ; I've exercised my heart and lungs which is vital to all of us but I've also attained a kind of higher level of being, almost like having been in meditation. I expect that by now, everyone thinks I'm ready for the funny farm but on the contrary, it really does bring an added dimension into your life.