At long last I’m writing a post about swimming! That category on this blog hasn’t seen any action yet. It’s not that I haven’t been swimming in ages (it’s so part of my routine that I can’t imagine not doing it), but just that more one-off ideas for posts have come into my head at a specific time, whereas this is more of an on-going thing. This post is a bit of a trip down memory lane, as I go through some of my childhood and teenage years, remembering how much swimming has featured.
Swimming has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents took me when I was a baby and toddler, and I had lessons in which I learnt how to swim unaided when I was about 4. By all accounts I took to swimming like, well, a duck to water. Amongst my earliest memories are times spent swimming widths and lengths at Ernesford Grange pool in Coventry, under the instruction of Mrs Leigh – a slightly scary and bold-voiced but very good at getting kids to swim teacher. I remember ploughing through the ASA swimming badges, first the distance ones from 10m (1 width) to 1mile (about 60 lengths), and later the skill ones from stage 1 to Bronze, Silver and Gold (I even went back to do the Honours badge some years later after it had been invented as the next stage up from Gold).
When I’d completed all the badges (not sure exactly what age, but sometime around the middle of primary school), I decided that I liked swimming so much that I’d like to join the City of Coventry swim club. That meant swimming twice a week (Friday evening and Sunday afternoon) at the main Coventry baths in the city centre, and one evening at a smaller pool in the suburbs. It was a big time commitment, and I’m very grateful that my parents were so supportive, as they had to do all the ferrying around and buying me kit (swim costumes, caps and goggles wear out quite quickly when used so much). But I loved every minute of it, and learned so much about how to swim with good technique. We also had regular galas against other clubs, and although I was never such a high flyer (or super fast swimmer) that I won loads of medals, it was fantastic to take part and be part of the team. This competitive training did me lots of good for school swimming too, as I was one of the strongest female swimmers in my year, and was awarded house colours (sorry, bit of a posh school term – prize for participating in and winning for my school-internal team) for helping us win in a few inter-house galas.
My stint as a competitive swimmer came to an end in my early teenage years. I had swum the times needed to move up to the next level in the squad, and that meant an even bigger time commitment involving early mornings before school. It wasn’t so much the time of day that put me off (I’ve always been a lark), but the extra time that I would’ve needed to put in would’ve been a strain on my school work, which was getting more important to me as GCSEs were looming on the horizon. I was no longer feeling the fun of swimming with all the pressure to train most days of the week, and I decided to call it a day, concentrate on my school work, and swim for leisure in my own spare time. I’ve done this ever since, and still swim 2 or 3 times a week (as often as I can with a baby) to keep fit and unwind.
Another big part of my childhood memories is spending much of the days we were on holiday in France in the pool! Most years from the age of 7 to 15, my parents, my brother and I spent a couple of weeks each July/August holidaying with in our caravan somewhere in France – we went to a different region each year. When Mum was booking each campsite, she was under strict instructions from her (might-as-well-be-a-fish) daughter that it had to have a nice outdoor pool otherwise there was no point booking it. We would usually go out and explore some local place in the morning, then come back to the campsite for a baguette and cheese lunch, and I would proceed to spend the whole afternoon and early evening swimming. Here are a few pictures from different years showing some of the French pools that I lived in 😉
To finish this first post on swimming. I’ll leave you with two of my favourite swimming memories from teenage-hood (just after my 18th birthday when we were on holiday in Australia). I swam in the Sydney Olympic pool, obviously ages after the Olympics, but still there was something amazing about pacing up and down those lengths, thinking about all those Olympic swimmers who had once swum there too and won Gold. Also on that holiday I swam in the Great Barrier Reef. I’m not normally a great fan of the sea – I love swimming, but only when I can see what I’m swimming in! But the water in the reef was so crystal clear that it was almost like being in a pool, and the fish and coral that we got to see were breathtaking.
That completes my blast to the past. In future swimming-related posts, I’ll write about swimming in my life as an adult, including swimming at university, swimming in pregnancy, and swimming with Andrew.