mundane adventures in running
Swimming is a great way to cross train. It offers a plethora of potential benefits to improve your running, strengthening core and upper body, working different muscles in the legs and glutes, giving a good cardio vascular work out all count for something. Post run, just sliding into the water cools the body, anesthetises, de-inflames the inflammation and feels just amazing. Swimming is also a way to safely push it on a rest day from running: get a really good work out without any danger of overdoing it and finding that your legs fall off.
Oh yes, and swimming is in itself a wonderful thing. While there’s something monotonous about swimming lanes, the sensation of swimming is something to revel in. To feel your body supported by the water, to feel the potential to move in three dimensions, to dive and twist and tumble, to push off the side, to drag your body through the parting water is wonderful. When you can swim without feeling like a drowning dog, you feel powerful, graceful, awesome. Swimming is a way to enjoy the physicality of your body, to work every muscle, to test your lungs and to celebrate your fitness.
The pay off is quick. If you can only manage ten lengths of breast stroke now, with a bit of persistence you’ll be swimming 2k of front crawl in a couple of months. It’s incredible how quickly the post swim exhaustion (and chronic post swim munchies) stop being issues, and how soon it is before it becomes difficult to swim so hard your shoulders ache. For anyone who likes to see rapid progress, and who is rubbish at swimming at the moment, it’s a good way to feel good about yourself and to feel like you’re really improving at something. You start to improve very quickly. Especially when you first start, the improvements are wonderfully tangible. Less fatigue, bigger, stronger muscles, better form come with every session.
In London we have an incredible range of pools to choose from. Swimming spots have their own cultures, their own unique vibes. Swim the fast lane of Crystal Palace and you feel like you’re swimming with Olympians. The ponds at Hampstead have a British, literary eccentricity about them, with a kind of Baden Powell healthy innocence thrown in. Brixton Rec feels almost ridiculously democratic: you swim alongside aquarobics sessions for the over fifties, and 12 yr old school kids leaving you for dust, figuratively, with perfect butterfly. Marshal Street has the quota of body beautiful men you’d expect in Soho. The pools are worlds to explore, oddities to experience.
I didn’t plan this essay especially well; when i started writing, it was going to be a humorous critique of this training article. It would seem, on reflection, that I have a lot more to say about swimming than I thought. Also, it turns out that I get a lot more out of it than I expected when I first started swimming in earnest last September. Hooray!