Challenges and Positive Ripples

People inspire people.  The experiences of others can spread positive ripples.

Having coached Monica she has kindly shared her swimming story.

As we start 2024, this article reminds us how challenges are good for us, they give us focus, make us braver, teach us resilience, perseverance,  grow our confidence and expand our comfort zones.  The scale of any given challenge is personal to you and your experience and if we tried and for some reason failed….well you know the quote.

“Better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all”.

We will have learnt from the experience.

Experience has shown that we are generally capable of far more than we realise.


What is your swimming background and experience?

Monica:  I have always loved the water, I was the 5 year old that was desperate to be in the sea all day when I made it to the beach (not often enough).  I had a few lessons at school, but cracked swimming in a sea pool in Minehead when I was 9.  We lived in the countryside in North Devon so couldn’t easily get to a pool or swim club.

I have been swimming for pleasure and sometimes fitness until I was in my 50th year and have always been able to get in a pool and swim a mile or so.  Then I got into open water swimming through a friend who was keen to do the 5 Great Swims in our 50th year.  Properly hooked.  I have had some lessons since and have improved my front crawl, been on swimming holidays in South Africa, Scotland, Mathraki and others (some of which focused on technique) and now plan holidays where I can swim most days.

I have swum at Stubbers and Redricks, but Luxborough Lake is much closer to home and has meant that I can swim 3-4 times per week over the summer, then once a week in the winter adding London Fields lido more frequently.  I have gradually increased the distance I swim and really enjoy longer swims.

I hadn’t really thought about bigger challenges until I was in the Lakes in 2018, and Graeme from Swim on the Wild Side suggested I might want to try swimming the length of Coniston – I messaged him a day later and asked if he was free to accompany me the following weekend and I did it.

The longest distance to date was the Ulswater Chill Swim in 2022, at 7.5 miles end to end which was a proper challenge and a real achievement.

What was your motivation for improving your technique?
I am really enjoying swimming I know that there is significant room for improvement as I haven’t had much coaching.  My swimming has improved over the last few years as I have had some lessons, but coming through the summer I was keen to do even longer distances and knew that improving my technique would really help with that.
I am also quite slow and have been a little frustrated by that – so keen to improve technique and therefore potentially speed.  In addition, I am keen to swim into the future so the better my technique the less stress on parts of my body.
What led you to Susan?

I met Susan at Luxborough over the summer this year. I found the weekly group sessions Susan coaches helpful and could feel/see some improvement. I had heard of TI and been around a debate or two but to be honest for me its more about working with someone who gets me and I connect with and over the summer I found myself enjoying Susan’s approach. 

Susan mentioned the one day introduction at Bancroft’s  when we were finishing the summer sessions at the lake and I booked in for one, finding working through the whole approach really helpful. I then booked a follow up lesson for December as I knew having some one-to-ones would help me improve and focus through the winter and into the spring. 
How did you feel about coming to your first lesson?
I was quite keen, although a little apprehensive, coming to the first session at Bancroft’s. I knew I had more to learn and I was keen, but its also interesting meeting a couple of new people in a group context and spending the day learning together. 

The day was great, and whilst I struggled to get some of the movements, as much of what I do is ingrained 😊, it was really helpful working through each part of the approach methodically- works for my brain. 

How have lessons improved your swimming?

The lessons have changed my technique significantly since the workshop which was really helpful. I have pretty much rewired my technique- focusing on one or two actions/elements with every swim session and then trying to build it into my overall swim. I am thinking as I train and practise, trying to get in the right position. In many ways I have enjoyed the focus in the pool. 

• Definitely gliding and rotating more – easier on the right side (as a right handed being).  
• Head position has improved and is right some of the time- but not as relaxed as its needs to be
• I am longer and more in control.
• Hand and forearm not as relaxed as I think they need to be on recovery but I am at least aware of that :-).
• I am posting better – although right hand still seems to want to point up a bit after entry – darn.
• Not thinking about the timing of the kick too much yet- but know I have lazy legs! My kick has never been a strong point. 
What do you like about the lessons and what’s a challenge?
I like the time to focus in the lessons and Susan’s approach. Keeping practicing an element until I know what it is meant to be like helps me when I come to practice on my own. I am enjoying improving and the feeling of moving through the water differently. 
Some of the elements are a challenge and are going to take a bit more to embed: sinking right arm on the breath is my real challenge at the moment, although there are a few other issues too, I am trying not to overthink or get frustrated when I am not quite getting it. 
What is your proudest swimming related achievement?
So I have three:
1. Swimming the length of Ulswater, the furthest distance I have ever swum last year. There were a couple of miles in the middle when I properly had to get my head down and talk myself through it- it was taking longer than I had anticipated, and so I was struggling with myself. However, really proud that I managed to get my head in the right place and finish it. 
2. Corrupting my 10 year old nephew- he is a good pool swimmer and I spent an amazing few days in the Lake District with him this summer introducing him to some of my favourite swimming spots including Loughrigg Tarn. 
3. Swimming onto Robben Island in South Africa, part because of the challenge we had with the crossing and in part because of where it is and what it stands for.
Are you training for anything at the moment?
Yes the goal is to swim Windermere or an equivalent distance next summer- will be my longest swim, 
Funniest swimming moment?
Skinny dipping in Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye with a few women, who were lots of fun to be swim with in a beautiful location.
Listening to the fears of other people when I said I was going to swim off the Cape in South Africa, they were worried about sharks- for some reason it didn’t bother me at all!
What are your future aspirations and dream goals?
I have a few:
– Continuing to swim in beautiful waters around the world if I can, creating memories and challenging myself. 
– The length of a Scottish Loch at some point
– Lake Annecy if I can get my speed up a bit.
– Swimming a distance in open water with my nephew (I might struggle to keep up)
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