Finding That Foothold

I do enjoy a good climbing pun, but actually this post isn’t really all about climbing. In fact, it’s barely about climbing at all. It’s about swimming.

I’ve not swum properly (eg. lengths, rather than paddling on holiday) for at least 5 years – definitely not since I started wearing contact lenses when I was 16. So when I braved my local pool, the first thing I noticed with great joy was I could actually see underwater wearing goggles – a small feat, but a novelty nevertheless, which made the whole re-entering the water a slightly less intimidating prospect. The second thing I noticed was how difficult it was to breathe, and how obviously long it had been since I’d even attempted to swim correctly. It took 20 lengths – stopping every 2 for a breather and a back-stretch – to get my breathing right, which then made the last 10 lengths much more straight forward. So after a 5 year minimum break, I managed 750m in the pool, 90% breaststroke, 10% front crawl.

And remarkably, my back was not sore. I didn’t ache, I didn’t twinge, and I felt like I’d been supported throughout the 45 minutes of exercise. Now I realise that water does literally support your bodyweight, but I’d never needed to fully appreciate it until now. Last week my back completely regressed, my pain scale going from 2/10 to 8/10 in the space of 24 hours of very minimal movement. Such a relapse after an apparently awesome recovery was a big blow to both my confidence and motivation. Despite this, I managed to work the crux (ie. hardest) moves of a 7a down at the Cuttings, and as I’d mentioned before the injury is slowing my climbing down and making my moves more conscious. Which I can already see is going to benefit me immensely.

But it is the rediscovery of swimming that I think is going to save me. Yesterday I upped the lengths to 40 – a good solid 1k swim. And it felt so good. I’ve never been one to run, having a tendency to develop a stitch 1/2 mile in regardless of whatever tricks I try. Cycling bores me at the gym, and anything else I’m too unfit to really feel able to give it a go. A vicious circle of complacency -> laziness -> lack of fitness -> lack of motivation. But I think this might have been broken. With another swim session planned for a few days’ time, with a friend who’s army-trained and always keen to push me, I think I might have just found the exercise I need to keep motivate, regain my strength and fitness, and maybe aid in the recovery of my back. I’ve found that next foothold to keep me going.


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