We do the lesson together, then his Mum comes in with him afterwards, giving me the chance to swim a proper length or three. So another mile clocked up this morning , and all in all it has been absolutely pivotal in helping me get moving on the weight loss front, there really is no better exercise for you in terms of maximum aerobic benefit with a minimal risk of injury. I would encourage any one out there who hasn't been swimming for a while to give it a try again. Right now in the UK, under 16s and over 60s get to swim at any participating leisure centre, absolutely free of charge. Family fun, that does you all the power of good.
Which leads me nicely into another article I wrote about the benefits of swimming
So come on "water" you waiting for?
Wise words Rolf
"Kids and water - they love it!!"
For those of you who've never had the privilege of witnessing his classic public service ad dating all the way back to circa 1973, you're no doubt wondering what on earth the wobble-board supremo is going on about....
But his bleary-eyed, medallion chested pool side appearance has stayed long in my memory, and his message was entirely sincere and still relevant today. Right from an early age, I firmly believe that learning to swim being safe and confident around water is such a useful and important life-skill for all of us.
Bet you also digderee-didn't know alongside all his artistic achievements he was a very talented swimmer, in fact he even won the Australian Junior Back stroke championship!
My swimming beginnings
Now growing up, starting in my primary school years, my experience of swimming was probably fairly typical -mum and dad had started me paddling around in those enormous orange and blue armbands of the era, and through leisure centre extra trips during school term time could eventually just about muster a feeble doggy paddle or a leg dragging, head bobbing attempt at breast-stroke.
A visit to the gloriously horrible Scunthorpe Baths Hall (which eventually lived a double life as a haven for gigs- actually rated by John Peel as his favourite venue!) became a regular Saturday morning treat, after which I emerged, wreaking of the finest brand of late 70's vintage chlorine, hungry and ready to enjoy my fresh cheese roll at the Buccaneer café - ahh the memories!!
But with all of this, I never seemed to be able to muster more than a width, and vividly remember my utter fear and failure to see how many fingers the swimming teacher was holding under water, and being kept down in the beginners class - sadly after that I never kept up the lessons - the scars the scars...
A Pool of my own
All of that was well and truly left behind, following a monumental change in a shy Scunny boy's life - in 1981 my Dad was made redundant from the local Steelworks, and took the extraordinarily brave step of taking a job in Zimbabwe (back in those early Independence days - it's a whole story of its own I'll save for another time). So suddenly there we were, the other side of the world, big house, big garden, our own swimming pool - wow!
Pretty soon we were regulars on the expat family party circuit, and messing about in the pool was just part and parcel. All the other kids seemed such accomplished swimmers, but gradually I managed to extend my meagre repertoire to include a gangly little front crawl and felt that I was getting there. I particularly remember a school sports day gala later that summer, where I felt my moment had arrived.
We only had to swim a width, and I'd even managed to practice a little flop forward dive so my hopes were high drawn against all the other 'beginners'. Nerves got the better of me to begin with and I embarrassingly false started. Still a bit damp and bedraggled, I lined up again, only to lose my footing and flop in again well ahead of the starting gun. They'd obviously given up on me at this point, so the race went ahead anyway.
Unbeknown to me all of this drama was captured on my Dad's new state of the ark rickety clickety old cine camera, and my humiliation was there for all to see, over and over again. My huge advantage from my dodgy start, was mercilessly reeled in with just a couple of strokes by the entire rest of the field leaving me trailing in last.
Stick at it
And there we have it, from that day on I vowed to become a proper swimmer, it just made me so much more determined. Having your own pool, naturally barring the odd worry about snakes floating around the drainage etc was just brilliant.
All that playing around on party afternoons helped me gain that vital confidence of face in the water, and the main revelation came through learning how to breathe out the bubbles when head down in the drink. It just came naturally, floating on my back, underwater lengths of breast stroke, all the fun of the butterfly, splashing those waves everywhere. I fondly remember one Christmas day spent diving for golf balls at the bottom of the pool!
Now, of course I'm not remotely suggesting that given our hopelessly unreliable climate and current fragile economic status, the only way forward is to go out and build a pool in the back garden!
But what I'm trying to convey, is that it really can be so rewarding to persevere with swimming. With so many competing activities in family life, it can seem such a time consuming exercise, trekking down to the pool, faffing around getting changed etc and so its really hard to stick to a routine.
But the benefits and rewards of learning the proper strokes and the proper breathing techniques carry on long into adult life and make it absolutely worthwhile to stick with it.
The great thing about kids swimming these days, based on our godchildren's experiences, is the number of badges and rewards schemes you can achieve - from tadpoles to dolphins, there's a real sense of achievement and a great support network to tap in to. Who knows you might have the next Michael Phelps sitting in your paddling pool -(mmmm those early mornings!!)
Swimming for Life
As an adult, swimming is one fantastic all-round exercise, particularly for building up aerobic fitness and stamina. Fair enough, I understand that for some people, the prospect of swimming up and down is more than a little mind-numbing, but I really do find that if you get your technique, rhythm and breathing right, it really can be a very peaceful and relaxing experience.
Though I'm not quite up to a Channel swim, a few years back I was proud to take part and complete a charity Swimathon where you swim 5000M or 200 lengths of a standard pool. Following on from that, I also went on to do LifeGuard training. Basically this is split into two parts - first you do the bronze medallion, which teaches you the basic tows, and rescue techniques as well as invaluable first aid training, and if you pass that you can go on to do the full life-guard qualification. It maybe a far cry from buxom beauties in red costumes slow-mo strutting their way into the water, but it's a really fantastic experience to go through.