Tag Archives: swimming

Role models and jellyfish

24 Sep

ocean

Human beings are prone to acts of madness. We engage in activities that can to others seem pointless, reckless and downright dangerous. Many people would have been thinking this when they read about Diana Nyad. Earlier this month, Ms Nyad made her fifth (and ultimately successful) attempt to cross the Florida Strait from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Not in a boat, but by swimming 110 long, painful miles.

What possesses a 64-year-old woman to swim a volatile stretch of water brimming with sharks and jellyfish?  To be honest, that’s not important. More important is what we can learn from her. What can someone who has such a strong desire to achieve a goal that they will persevere for 35 years and endure a skinful of jellyfish venom teach us? She certainly deserves to feature more highly in people’s minds (and the press) than a £300,000 per week footballer.

Nyad is a role model in the true spirit of the term: someone who inspires others to achieve their dreams whatever the discomfort required. She has no shortcuts to success. Neither celebrity nor money can help her. Ultimately her success is down to sheer hard work and preparation (with perhaps a dash of luck on the day).

In the dark days we are living in, we need to read stories of the apparently pointless. Far from being trivial compared to current world events, individual endeavours such as Diana Nyad’s remind us that the human spirit – and with it hope – still remains. We need such seemingly mad acts to keep us sane.

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Seeing blue

20 Feb

A couple of days ago I nearly killed myself doing a pregnancy pilates DVD. Admittedly I should have started doing it sooner than 34 weeks into my pregnancy. The teacher on the DVD had, despite being 36 weeks up the duff, retained an ability to move with the speed of one of the X-Men. I on the other hand had to keep hitting pause in order to get into the next position before she’d finished it. What’s more, Lil’ Miss California Flexibility (surely the bump was fake?) stated that she was naming her baby Sienna Chilli. Sienna – fine, but Chilli? That was enough pilates for me. Far too North London.

To cut a long tendon short (ouch), this brief experience of home exercise settled in my mind that swimming is the activity for me. (Principally because I’ve been doing it regularly for a while and therefore am not trying to master it at one of the least fit and inflexible times of my life, nor is there anyone to keep pace with and I can still perform it with relative speed – although now more like a whale than a dolphin.)

Arriving at the swimming pool midweek revealed a peaceful haven in comparison to the usual weekend rabble of toddlers screaming and dads trying to outdo each other on the diving boards. Midweek swimming promised proper lanes, serious swimmers and, without kids, far less pee in the pool (although there were lots of elderly folk so this latter assumption may have been ill-founded). And whilst we’re touching on the scatological (rubber gloves on of course) it never fails to amuse me that the sign for the toddler pool is always slightly obscured and thus reads ‘Teaching Poo’. How apt. Keep your mouth shut in that pool. It was lucky that my daughter only got a piece of foam stuck up her nose in there.

Unfortunately, the serious swimmers (ie those that like to swim up and down and don’t do underwater handstands) hadn’t totally eliminated the idiots. I was always sceptical of my brother’s tales of ‘swim rage’, thinking it was more to do with his lack of patience than the other swimmers. However I’ve grown to appreciate his intolerance. Offenders generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Those who have chosen to swim in a lane that is above their ability (the safest option I’ve found is always to opt for the ‘medium’ lane).
  • Those who can swim fast but splash like they’ve got trays strapped to their arms (clearly a failure of technique – speed over style is not going to earn you any friends in the pool, especially with people like me who swim in their contact lenses but no goggles and risk blindness at the merest hint of a ripple).

A particular offender in both categories was a one-armed man who swam with a float. Not only did he splash but he was also slow. Actually, it turned out that he had two arms so I’m not exactly sure what it was I saw sticking out of the water. Nothing would surprise me in a public pool, even in oh-so-civilised St Albans.

To pick up again on bodily functions (funny that – they always seem to be inextricably linked to public swimming baths), my mood was somewhat lightened by the ‘farting drain’. Located at the deep end of the pool (which I never get to at the weekend as it’s cordoned off for the diving board idiots and their belly flops and wedgies), the drain created noises to rival that of the glorious Whoopee Cushion. The trick was to wait until someone in the lane next to you drew up alongside the said drain, wait for the drain to let rip and then shoot them a look of combined horror and surprise. Ah, the joke that never gets old. Well it got them out of my water space pretty quickly and I even forgave them a splash.

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