Rediscover | Recover | Return of Joy

Camilla shares her swim story.

Part 1: I knew everything;

Part 2: I accept I know nothing.

And in between is surgery.

I’ve been watching Susan Cheshire teach for years. Every Monday she takes up ‘The Fast Lane’ at my pool which is OK by me as although I’m a good swimmer, I’m not a fast swimmer so no skin off my nose. Great entertainment, though; people laughing as though they’re actually enjoying being taught how to float. Past that, thanks.

I love that Camilla comments on people laughing, learning should be fun; as coaches we should be able to put those we teach at ease otherwise how can they find ease in the water. Learning is best done when it’s a pleasure and you feel involved and engaged; this helps ignite the flame to practice.

I quiz a man whose lesson has just finished. I was puzzled; he looked to me like he’d mastered it. ‘I check in with Susan every once in a while just to tweak my technique.’

I’ve already got a techniquemaybe a few pointers…and there’s the tumble turn which I’ve never mastered. I go online.

First lesson: rotate. It’s all about rotation. Hard to stamp your foot in the water but frustration is making me rigid. Relax. It should be easy.’ This can’t be right. How do I know I’m giving it my best effort if I’m not panting and slapping and kicking and churning. And panting. ‘Relax your mouth keeping it open as you exhale…ready for the inhale.’

I had noticed that Camilla had been watching: I coach so regularly at the pool and Camilla swims each week. It’s quite hard to hold back on offering tips but with Camilla when she decided to approach me, I knew where we were going to start. Forward rotation of a balanced, streamlined aligned body is the engine of forward momentum and connected whole body propulsion. A change in technique can unravel an experienced swimmer as it may challenge and change their notions of movement and effort.

I went back. For another lesson. And then one more. And slowly the rotation, the following arms, the breathingbeginto cometogether.  

Time out for surgery. I feel fine but my mammogram doesn’t so I have a double mastectomy and can’t get back in the water. I miss it like crazy: the wonderfully endless zoning out: up and down, up and down…OMG, will I be able to ‘up and down’?!

I do the enforced relaxing and resting, the massage, push through the stretches and the exercise – gently – and finally, finally after 3 months I’m back. And Susan says, Your balance may have changed, your body perception may have changed, let’s start from basic principles.

Camilla was understandably keen to get back in the water as soon as she was able, we had spoken about how there may be a change of maybe balance (Camilla was now missing two impressive buoyancy aids, or so I had thought) but also, understanding that the scarring and movement in her arms may also feel tight or different, it seemed a really good time to revisit fundamental principles of balance and gently discover the movements available to her.

More in tune with my nowaltered physical self, we concentrate on how every little movement feels. Not what it does or how to get from one end of the pool to the other but how change feels. A tweak here, a shift there…no pushing beyond my limits.

Although Camilla had been given the green light to start swimming again, she was still recovering from surgery, her body using up so much energy healing that, although ready to start back to swimming, yoga and her rehab therapy, we took it gently so not to cause unnecessary fatigue and guess what…she found herself floating in the water, re-discovering her balance, posture, alignment in the water and the importance of fundamentals.

Patience and six months on from surgery, I can definitely do the ‘up and down’. Im still learning. Turns out the swimming is the stretching is the rehab is the technique is the persisting is the healing is the return of joy! I’m even beginning to have – dare I say it – a technique.

What’s so wonderful is that Camilla looks better than ever!

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