Like Dutch kids, Australian kids start swimming at a young age. Some are natural born fish, while others take a while to earn their fins. I was one of the latter. I remember having my first swimming lesson before I had even started kindergarten and I really didn’t like it. I remember there were tears. I also remember my sister was one of those kids who belonged in the water. Something else I remember? She got an ice block after the lesson and I didn’t because, well, I wasn’t the most co-operative child there! The following week I nervously forced myself into the water and kept the crying at bay. It wasn’t out of a sudden joy of swimming. I just wanted an ice block! My mum likes to say “you can only do your best”, and I must have that day, because not only did I get the treat I was after, I also started to realize the joy, the peace and the relaxation that only swimming can bring.
As I was growing up, I tried and played a myriad of sports. Tennis, gymnastics, athletics, basketball, hockey, volleyball…the list goes on. But the pool, and the ocean, were always a constant. I trained and swam competitively for many, many years, and played water polo for six. During my university days I’d swim in the same pool as some Australian Olympians, always admiring their flawless strokes, strength and stamina from the recreational lanes. It’s safe to say that swimming is in my blood, passed down from a truly natural born fish – my grandmother. So I’m not sure how, or why, for the past few years I’ve been swimming only sporadically, preferring instead to pound the pavement in my running shoes? However, the water is always on my mind.
It seems fitting that I now live in such a water-rich country and have started diving back into one of my first loves. It’s how I ended up at Ir. Ottenbad on Wednesday morning for a 30 minute ‘trimzwemmen’ session. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the staff there are always so helpful and patient with my not so fantastic Dutch, and Georgy, the coach, was no exception. He was friendly, knowledgeable, and had a wide variety of exercises up his sleeve for all the swimmers. There were three groups – beginners, intermediate and advanced, and everyone works at their own pace. Although it is essentially lap swimming, it also involves the use of other equipment, which makes it far more interesting than simply following the black line. It also trains the muscles in different ways for a fantastic workout.
We started with about 6 laps of breaststroke. This not only got everyone warmed up, but also gave the coach a chance to see where everyone was at, and move some people into different levels if need be. We then moved into the core of the session, using a ball as an aid – throwing it forward and swimming to it, putting it between the legs so as to only use the arms, passing it around the knees, hips and neck while continuing to swim on the back (this one took some real focus!), and pumping the ball with the arms under the water to really get the legs working. Each exercise was for six laps, which was enough time to burn the muscles without getting bored. We finished off with a four lap, relaxed pace cool down. The thirty minutes had flown by and I left with a huge smile on my face.
This love affair is still going strong.