Inspiration comes in many forms

Here I am aboard the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin en route for Ironman 70.3 Dublin on Sunday.

I’ve got a few hours to just sit and relax. It’s a rare treat.

So with nothing more to do than sit, my mind has started to reflect on a few non racing highlights of the summer so far.

DHgOEK-WAAEo4kV.jpg-largeI do most of my swim training in the local leisure pool, between 7 and 9 in the mornings. At this time of day the pool is rarely busy and attracts regulars who are mostly in the age group that my blog is intended to inspire, the over 50’s. In fact, I would imagine that most are well into their retirement years.

Retirement is one of those words that I don’t like as it is too often associated with slowing down, becoming entrenched in comfort zones and reluctance to learn new things…..all pet subjects of mine and hence my Blog!

Amongst the retired group in my local pool the key subjects of conversation each day( other than the weather of course) are how busy the pool is (or isn’t) and who is ill or sadly passed away. I’ve noticed that they tend to swim in the same spot and swim the same number of lengths each day. Routine is clearly important for them. When a fellow swimmer is missing for a day or two, they worry that something catastrophic has happened. Over the last couple of years I’ve grown very fond of my new swimming friends. Our relationships have progressed from silent daily acknowledgment, through daily greetings, to small talk, and I now seem to have been welcomed into various circles of trust. Me being me, have used this as an opportunity to encourage them to break their routines a bit.

My racing seems to be a subject of real interest to them and so I occasionally use it to challenge them to do things a bit differently or to set new goals for themselves.

About a month ago one 85 year old lady was telling me that she wished should could swim faster. Much earlier in her life she had been a swim instructor but as the years had gone by she had stopped swimming and has only recently returned to the pool. Getting from one end to the other was a challenge in itself and she would battle her way to 10 lengths before getting out. We discussed a strategy for improvement. First aim for 12 lengths, then reduce the rest period after each length, then aim for 14 lengths, then 16. 16 lengths would represent a massive improvement and at that point she could look to try going harder for a couple of her lengths. As she listened, I could tell that she was remembering many of the techniques and tools that she would have used years ago to improve others. She smiled and told me it was nice to talk to me.

Each day afterwards I saw her and made a point of telling her how much quicker and confident she looked in the water. She told me she was increasing the number of lengths she was doing. She is now upto 14 lengths and is definitely swimming so much smoother and quicker. She now smiles whilst she is effortlessly breast stroking her way up the pool. She is an inspiration. 85 years old and still open to breaking her routines and achieving new goals.

Another of my swim “buddies” is also in his 80’s. He reminds me of my Dad, with his use of certain phrases and mannerisms that are features of men of Chester. He’s a very good swimmer. Each day he ploughs up and down knocking out about 1000m in a metronomic front crawl without taking a break, then gets out. He always asks about my races and I can see in his eyes that these exchanges dig up memories for him of his competitive past. I tell him he could try a triathlon or maybe an open water swim event. He chuckles and changes the subject. But I keep on at him at every appropriate occasion. Then last week he told me that he’d been to watch the Dee Mile. The Dee Mile is an annual swim race in the river through Chester that has been taking place since 1922. It always attracts hundreds of swimmers and it’s one of the events I’ve suggested he try. He told me that he was surprised how many “ald fellas” were taking part. Watching these “ald fellas” had clearly got him thinking that if they could do it, maybe he could too. I could tell he wanted to give it a try.

Next year he’s agreed that he”ll borrow one of my wetsuits and have a go. I can’t wait.

Yet more inspiration. Thanks.

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