On Thursday night I went to my Former Fancy Gym! The lovely Lainey goes there and kindly invited me along with one of her guest passes. Oooh it was spooky being back there after twenty months away. Not that I’ve been counting. My favourite shouty instructor was still there, and so were the comfy couches and giant changerooms and sprawling fields of cardio equipment.
There were still the same Ladies of Perfection in the changerooms too. I couldn’t help gawking at one woman who had a flawless all-over tan, carefully landscaped nether regions and gravity-defying boobs. Not to mention the arms that had that perfect blend of muscle and slimness. I know it’s wrong to stare but she WAS standing there butt naked with the hairdryer, it’s not like she was shy. As much as I miss the fancy facilities and Body Jam classes, I must admit I feel more at ease at the Girl Gym and Council Gym I go to now, where there’s saggy tits and stretchmarks galore. Much better for one’s self-esteem
Lainey has admitted that our jaws got more exercise than any other body part. Hehe. But it is great to be able to gab about Fat Busting Issues to a real live person. Not that we’re incapable of talking about other things, mind. But it is always hilarious talking about Blog People in real life, as if they live right down the street. At one point I said, "How bloody foxy did Kathryn look today?". As if I’d just seen her at the shops five minutes ago, and not just referring to pictures I’d seen on her blog.
Lainey of course knew what I was on about and said, "Oh I KNOW, she looks so good!"
And then later on Lainey said, "We should try an aqua class. Sue does aqua classes." And I said, "Sue who?" and she said, "Smaller Sue!" and I said, "Oh Smaller Sue. Derr!".
I really love that shit.
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Lainey also mentioned there’s only 14 weeks til Christmas. I dunno about you, but I am totally Going For Gold between now and Christmas. I failed in my Five Year Plan to be at goal by the Dietgirl 5th Anniversary (15 January 2006), so I’ll be damned if this caper is going to take any longer than SIX bloody years. So there.
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Swimming Lesson Report. I did not drown!
I very nearly called up the teacher and cancelled. An hour before I almost threw up, which is my typical response to extreme nerves. I put on my swimmers and examined myself from all different angles in the bathroom mirror, alarmed at the sight of myself naked but for a flimsy bit of lycra. I’m so used to living in Scotland and cowering behind layers and layers of clothes, and that’s the way I prefer it.
Then I needed to pee about 27 times, my second most typical response to extreme nerves. I’d forgotten how complicated that is when you have swimmers on, having to take off your jacket and t-shirt and trackies then peeling off your swimmers over and over again. Arrgh. And the smell of the rubber swimming cap was making me even more nauseous. Yeah, I was panicking big time.
But it was too late to cancel. So fifteen minutes later I stood by the pool, waiting for the teacher and literally shaking like shitting dog (one of Gareth’s favourite phrases). Just looking at the water and all those memories I talked about in the last entry were on replay. I cursed My Stupid Website and my Stupid Public Declaration of Intent. WHY did I have to tell the world I relearning to swim? These plans always look so exciting and brave when they’re just words, but then when the moment of actual action rolls around… well frankly, it sucks.
Then my Teacher arrived and she was lovely. She spoke in soothing, encouraging tones that were no doubt most often used to calm hysterical toddlers, but they worked just as magically on a trembling 28-year-old.
We stepped down into the pool and without thinking my hands shot up in the air and I screwed up my face, expecting the water to be freezing. But it was perfectly tepid, being an indoor heated pool and all. Oh yeah. It was funny how my body automatically assumed the Australian Open-Air Ice-Cold Pool position.
"So Shauna, just start swimming and let me see your technique."
"I don’t have any technique!" I protested, "I haven’t done this for about fifteen years."
"Don’t worry, just have a go!"
Dammit. So I started hacking away at the water in a pseudo-freestyle, or front crawl as they call it here. I managed about two strokes before I was swallowing and snorting and on the verge of drowning.
When I surfaced I looked up at the far end of the pool. It was only 25 metres long but my heart just sank, it seemed like a hundred miles away. How did I ever do endless 50 metre laps at school? I looked at all the tiny kids and puffy old ladies happily lapping away and just felt so cranky and jealous and bloody hopeless.
But the Teacher was positive and reassuring right from the start. I explained that my basic problem was that I just didn’t remember how to swim. I know it sounds dumb, but I just didn’t get the basic concept of how you breathe with your face in the water and propel your body in a forward direction at the same time. So she broke it down to absolute baby steps. First how to let your breath out under water. Then what to do with your arms. How to hold your hands. What to do with your legs.
We worked on one tiny bit at a time. I’d do one tiny thing, two or three tiny strokes, then she’d get me to add one thing, and then another. We used kickboards and foam noodle thingies. I’d swallow some more water. She’d explain another thing in extremely simple language. I’d thrash about some more. I’d readjust my googles. I’d cling to the side of the pool and gasp for air. I’d accidentally kick her in the boobs. Twice.
But she was just such a positive lady and she made me want to do well. This was what was missing at school. Pure encouragement – no mocking, no bullying. I was too busy concentrating to be self-conscious. I was making an arse of things left right and centre, but I loved being in the water. I loved paying attention to her instructions then eagerly trying to replicate. I grinned when I got it right. I frowned when I didn’t and immediately tried again. I was acting like an over-sized over-excited five year old, so desperate to please and ridiculously happy with every word of encouragement.
By the end of the hour she had me doing proper laps of messy breastroke and even excruciatingly slow laps of front crawl. Suddenly the end of the pool didn’t seem so far away. Sure, I had to stop halfway because I kept forgetting when to breathe, so I’d do about ten strokes without a breath then surface, gasping and groping for the edge of the pool. But I was actually MOVING! Forwards!
But I have soooo much work to do! Aside from my lack of freestyle breathing technique, my legs are a mess. My left leg has a mind of its own, and when I attempt to breastroke it just sort of drags along behind me, smacking the surface of the water. Apparently it’s a common problem but the loud THUMP THUMP THUMP is embarassing. It made me laugh so hard as I did my laps I’d start gulping in water which of course made me stop and thrash about so I didn’t drown. Hmmm. Also with the breastroke, my butt sticks up too high in the air, so I need to learn how to keep it down so I don’t look like a demented caterpillar.
Overall my lower body is really, really weak. No doubt all these long months of knee injury and limited leg work have taken a toll. It’s going to be a hard slog to build up some strength there. At one point I had to do a lap while holding the kickboard and just use my legs only, and I was barely moving! My legs were kicking away but I just wasn’t getting anywhere. Old ladies were zipping past me in a blur. Oh dear.
But my teacher did say my upper body is really strong. There’s something to be proud of. Finally my honking huge shoulders will come in handy for something!
She says I will need a couple more lessons then I should be fine to go lappin’ all by myself. Wow. I am so excited. Soooo excited. I had such a blast. Once I was in the water not once did I think about my fat. I just wanted to learn and get better. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. I really shocked myself with how hard I concentrated and picked up on her instructions. She’d tell me do another lap and I was all, "Woohoo, okay!". I actually wanted to do it. There was no moaning and excuses like I used to pull with the running. I was just raring to go. I was actually sad when our hour was up.
I will admit, it was a battle at first to not panic, to shut out the Old Doubts and force myself to listen to this lady and learn. I tried to tell her about my History of Crapness, but she’d just say, "You can do it". So I started telling myself, "Why the hell not".
Of course I realise now that I was probably never as crap as I thought I was, all those years ago. It’s amazing how easily you can convince yourself that you’re rubbish, especially when other people are telling you so. But now? I just want to keep at it. I like how I felt in the pool. I liked learning a new skill. I think this is something I could stick to in the long term. I was deliciously sore the next day but my knee wasn’t troubling me. I know I have a loooooong road ahead to learn to breathe and to strengthen my wimpy legs and to not drink the water and to move faster than a geriatric turtle… but I can’t wait. In your FACE, Swimming Fear.
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