When I was a child my Mum used to incentivise swimming lessons with a trip to the vending machine afterwards. Turns out, this is counterproductive if getting healthy is your aim, so I've had to come up with some other rewards, and top of the list has been good sleep and mental balance (less tasty but hear me out). When I came back to swimming as an adult two years ago, the idea of it becoming something I couldn't live without was completely beyond the realms of my comprehension, having never successfully managed to keep any exercise routine going in the previous 25 years. But it was surprisingly easy to fit into my life, and now I actually feel unsettled if I miss a session. For me at least, it provides a pause from real life stresses (and my phone), where I do most of my most rational thinking, while also burning calories and improving my muscle flexibility.
Sounds great right? Well I also know all of the best excuses around for avoiding it, because I've used them all myself, so here's a list of the ones that I hear most frequently, and their counter arguments.
Excuse: I don't want to be seen in my swimsuit
Right, this is a common one, and something I can totally sympathise with, because it put me off for about a year before I actually decided to suck it up (literally) and try to get over it. The first thing that no one tells you is that nobody actually cares what you look like in a swimming pool. After having carefully calculated a plan to get from changing room to pool in a way that optimised towel coverage and subsequently falling over and damaging myself in the process, I soon realised that most people that go swimming actually are just there to swim, not to look at me…no really. And actually, as insulting as this was to my ego, it was the key to my liberation from the shackles of swimsuit anxiety. The bonus is that after two years of doing this three times a week, I am now so comfortable in my swimsuit that beachside holidays are no longer the nausea-inducing panic fest that they once were.
Tip: if you really can't get past it, the good people at Marks and Spencer's have developed a cunning product to make you fool the rest of the pool into thinking that you have a banging bod (or at least to cover the parts you would rather not advertise).
Excuse: swimming is for old ladies
If it's exercise that old ladies can do, then maybe it's not strenuous enough right? Wrong. In swimming, like any other form of exercise, you can vary the pace and effort you put in to make it a more or less vigorous workout. So that's that sorted. An added bonus is that the old ladies make great company in the pool. If I hadn't started swimming, I wouldn't have met Mary, an 82-year-old woman who swims every morning in my pool and fills me in on the latest EastEnders plots while reassuring me that I've definitely lost weight (no idea if this is true, but it's always good to have a cheerleader). And to be honest, if swimming has kept Mary mentally and physically active into her ninth decade, then it's good enough for me. Also, do you know what old ladies also do? Shop in M&S, and that didn't put you off the magic swimsuit.
Excuse: I don't have time
I have a secret, don't tell anyone, but it took me ages to work this out: in the same way that you will happily make time to neck a bottle of white wine with your friends in your local Wetherspoon's or waste hours talking about Britney Spears's contribution to fashion in the late 90s, you have to make time for exercise. This is easier said than done, but I find that it helps a lot to be realistic. I used to think, 'Oh I don't have time for it because an hour swim + shower + hair drying + make up = wow I need like 6 hours and I totally can't fit that in'. But then I realised that if I spent just half an hour swimming just three times a week, it was easier to fit into my schedule and still far superior to doing nothing. Find a few slots in your timetable, actually write it into your diary and plan the rest of your week around it.
If this doesn't work, train your best friend to work as your external conscience and rebuff whatever (albeit creative) excuse you have come up with that day.
Excuse: I don't want to carry a wet swimsuit around
This one goes hand in hand with the whole 'chlorine will ruin my hair' thing and is easy to dispel. Most gyms and pools these days have this clever thing called a suitmate that is like a tumble dryer for swimsuits. If not, you can find somewhere to hang your swimsuit in your office so that everyone can see, which also means you can be the smug person at work that has done exercise making everyone else feel bad about themselves—'cos if we’re honest, what's the point in going to all that effort if no one envies your resolve? As for the hair problem, there are loads of products on the market developed to help people like you and I avoid this problem without resorting to the dreaded swim cap, like this one by Philip Kingsley.
Excuse: I can't remember how to do it, what if I'm rubbish?
I was really self-conscious about my swimming technique before I started, but there's no shame in it. According to a recent survey by the Amateur Swimming Association, one in five people in England can't swim, so you're in good company. The good news is that most pools have lane swimming sessions in which you can pick a pace that is suited to you, so if you're not feeling confident, start in the slow lane and just focus on getting your strokes right. You'd be amazed how quickly you'll improve, and in next to no time you'll be gliding along with the rest of them, wondering what you were ever worried about.
But if you're still not convinced, why not book yourself in for a couple of quick lessons to get you back into the swing of things? Most pools offer one-on-one adult lessons at reasonable prices and once you've parted with cash, you're much more likely to stick with it.
Excuse: it's raining outside
Unluckily for you we live in a country where most of the pools are indoors, so better luck next time.
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Picture: Eylul Aslan
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.