Over the many years we have been running the Active Blu squads, we have met the most inspiring, dedicated and passionate people. They all have their own reasons for joining us, from lifestyle changes, personal challenges, fitness goals, social reasons….and the list goes on.
I guess as a coach this is why I do what I do. Why I love making the training so inclusive and inviting everyone to take part, get moving, do what you can with the support of some other amazing people.
So over the next year on a weekly basis I will introduce you to the members of the squad -Celebrate their stories, their journey, their reason for doing what they love.
The Squad Members:
Lets welcome John:
Swimming – what’s it like – how can one activity tick so many boxes – health , wellbeing, fitness ,meditation, challenge , travel, friends, wearing bright cosies and beautiful scenery to name just some.
I learned to swim in a pool overlooking the River Mersey – it has gone now – the pool that is. It was also where I got my first job as a lifeguard in 1969. The pay then was 3 shillings and 3 pence an hour ( about 16p ) and I can remember buying a snazzy Ben Sherman shirt with the first wage – but I digress –
Fast forward a few years and I’m working as a lifeguard at the Kingsway baths in Lancaster – that too has gone – but at the time it had two pools and a set of slipper baths – who knows what they were ?
All this time swimming was in a pool – up and down – up and down – usually chasing someone’s feet.
Fast forward again and my sons are swimming in a local club and teaching swimming seemed much more interesting than sitting on the side watching so with an ASA teachers badge it was good to help youngsters in our village learn to swim
Open water swimming was , of course , invented in 2008 – the year of the Beijing olympics and the first GNS.
Who would have thought – the lakes were not just for admiring from the top of fells and mountains – but you could actually swim in them too and admire the fells from a totally new angle
This swim was a game changer – looking back I am sure it involved swimming across the bay – running out of the water round a tree and then back. A group of us went that day and with a real sense of achievement ate bacon and sausage sandwiches in our camper van parked up behind the hotel.
Lots of open water swimming followed – some mindful quiet swims in beautiful lakes like Wastwater – others full of nervous anticipation and challenge as mass starts made swimming a bit of a contact sport.
Fast forward again and a video analysis in 2014 suggested that it might be possible to actually improve something you already liked doing – that seemed like a good idea and so joining a squad became a means to increasing levels of personal confidence, skill and fitness that has made open water swimming more enjoyable
Squad swimming is an interesting mix – sociable, friendly, challenging and then ultimately you on your own with your head as you chase down the feet in front of you – or not as the case may be
And all this squad training sets the occasion for those memorable open water swims – the quiet swim down the side of Wastwater – just where the underwater cliff edge starts – the excitement and adrenaline of another GNS , the personal challenges you set for yourself that make you smile as you warm up on the drive home
So onto another season of open water swimming – the chance to enter favourite events again , to try some new ones and to set some challenges – for me its another crack at a Windermere swim
There was a recent Swim England video showing a guy being fastest in his age group for 50 metres front crawl – his age group was 100 to 104 ! That suits me fine – still plenty of time then to improve that catch and perhaps even to crack the unco drill.
Welcome Michelle – Thank you so much for sharing your swim, run, triathlon journey.
As a kid we moved a lot when Dad was promoted through various roles at work. My Dad couldn’t swim, nearly drowning as a child, but my Mum always had swum and wanted my brother and I to. We went for lessons every weekend and I loved them. I remember finding chicken pox spots and crying because I couldn’t go when I about 5. My brother came back from his lesson with a board game about ladybirds.
We moved back to Kendal when I was 7. I couldn’t do breaststroke and was told by the teacher that this meant that I couldn’t swim. I lost my love of water and nearly never found it again.
Always known for being a bit too stubborn for my own good I took part on the Great North Run in ‘06. The personal trainer I employed to help admitted when I’d done it that he has his reservations. 10 years on my love of running and my hubby’s love of cycling meant we went in different directions when he was not travelling for work so I bought a bike (as you do) to share more time together. Apparently as I have a bit of a reputation as a ‘nutcase’ when to comes
to a challenge, one of my running buddies said it was ‘only natural’ I should do a triathlon. I ‘couldn’t swim’ but booked the Kendal ‘Sprint’ (hahaha) Triathlon on the first of January ‘17 to take part in the May.
I found Active Blu on the Internet and emailed Emma. Before she’d had chance to reply (and probably recommend swimming lessons) I’d booked a video analysis session. What’s the worst that could happen? Poor Emma!!
Emma explained what would happen at the session. I learned about the experience of the others there and wondered what on earth I’d done (I seem to remember it was a bit more sweary in my head). Emma had, quite predictably seen enough after two lengths but in spite of my starting point she worked wonders, can I go as far as to say miracles?, and by the end of the session I was ‘swimming’ or at least drinking less of the pool.
To ‘ease in gently’ I signed up to do swim 22 for Diabetes U.K. I did my 22 miles over the weeks to train for upcoming challenge. The Triathlon wasn’t pretty but I did it! I’m not sure it makes me a triathlete but I wasn’t last and I’d regained my swim confidence.
So much has happened since then as a result!
In June 17 Jon got the chance to go to Barbados for work and I was allowed to tag along if I paid my flight. My new found swim skills meant, to the envy of the others, I got to swim with Sea Turtles. I have always love Turtles!! I’m not a sentimental sort but I cried.
In that same year I completed Emma’s open water course, took on my first Great North Swim and the 2.5k open water swimathon. The organisers tweeted my picture and Susie Rogers (Rio Paralympic Gold medalist) congratulated me. It was so excited!!
A few shaky starts and chickening out before the end of the 10 weeks of squad on at least 3 times I promised myself that I’d do all 10 squads this time round and I’m nearly there!! I have a wobble every week and nearly chicken out but love it once I’m in the pool!! Emma has been amazing in helping me to get over the totally irrational anxiety about it!!
This years challenge is the Coniston end to end. It’s my 40th and I can’t spoil my reputation by doing something my friends consider normal. My Dad grew up there and nearly drowned in the lake, my brother held his wedding reception on the Gondola so it seems it’s my turn to create a memory there and follow with more good ‘Coniston’ memories.
31st August 2019 here we come!
Lets welcome Sandra,
SANDRA AND THE SWIMMING SQUAD
Hi, I am Sandra and I have been in Emmas swim squad for almost 2 years.
I’m in my early fifties and was brought up on the North East coast and although I loved swimming it wasn’t regarded as a ‘sport’ at school so I didn’t get a chance to take it up seriously.
As my life and career developed swimming fell by the wayside as I took up walking, climbing, cycling and just being outdoors.
I have never been an athlete though, and I have never done any team or individual sport at school. The egg and spoon race was about my limit and I am pretty sure I never won it. I don’t know anything about training, nutrition, stretching etc. I just enjoy being outdoors and being fit enough to do the walks, climbs and cycle rides that peak my interest. Then out of the blue about 6 or 7 years ago my brother entered the Great North Swim, came out of the Lake and said to me “you will absolutely love this and you must do it next year”. I didn’t believe him and was so reluctant to do it that I refused to buy a wetsuit and it ended up that my husband bought it for me. I was so certain I wouldn’t manage it and didn’t want to go to the trouble of buying a wetsuit.
How right they were, and how wrong I was. I entered the Great North Swim one mile and did it all breast stroke, I loved every minute of it, and was determined to do the two mile the following year, but very quickly realised that breaststroke was not the thing for long distances, and so I had to learn front crawl, or freestyle.
Freestyle was something I could never get to grips with. No matter how fit I was I could never manage more than 2 lengths of a 25m pool before I felt like I was going to die. So I turned to YouTube and I am certain I viewed every single video on there about freestyle, breathing techniques, kicking techniques, etc etc. I would watch videos and create a list of either 2 or 3 tips that featured often in the videos then go to the pool and put it into practice. By limiting the tips to 2 or 3 I could remember them easily and didn’t need any notes or lists. The first things I learnt were to breathe out all the time your heard was in the water so that as soon as your head was above water you could breathe in, the second was that your little finger should come out of the water before your thumb. The next time I went to the pool I managed to swim 24 lengths, that was a 22 length improvement in one session, and I was totally hooked. Every night I was watching more videos, breaking it down into a tiny list I could remember then practicing when I next went to the pool. Within a year I had gone from one mile breaststroke to 2 miles front crawl and I was now obsessed. Not only did I enjoy the satisfaction of teaching myself a new stroke and achieving my goal of doing the 2 mile Great North Swim, I also loved the feel of the stroke. It sounds weird but it felt beautiful when I was doing it and that pushed me even more
I continued my pool swimming pushing myself a bit further and when I gave myself the goal to swim 5K I decided I needed help to fine tune my stroke, so I signed up for a Video Analysis session with Emma. This was March 2017.
By this time I had joined the same gym that Emma uses for the squad and I had been in the pool swimming many times while she ran the squad. I would sometimes sit and stare at all of those people swimming up and down so fast and so close together in each lane and I was totally in awe of them. They all looked so fast and so fit, and like they all knew what they were doing. I felt like I was of a different species.
The analysis session was fantastic and I learned so much about swimming, my technique and what I was doing wrong. I think Emma very quickly picked up on my enthusiasm and possible obsession, so at the end of the session Emma dropped what was for me a bombshell and said I should join the squad!
This is the squad I had watched in awe many times before, squad wasn’t even in my long term aims, it was completely off the scale. I never thought I could go there, keep up with them, or even be accepted since I was such a novice, but I believed Emma when she said it was the right thing for me, and that I could “keep up” and so I joined squad the very same day as I did my Video Analysis. Since then I have never regretted it.
That advice changed my life, while I’ll never be the fastest in the group, my swimming has come on tremendously; I’ve knocked 20 seconds off my 100 meter time, improved my two mile Great North Swim by 16 minutes in three years and last year took part in the 5.25 mile Coniston End to End Challenge ,but for me being a member of the squad brings so much more than simply improving time and distance statistics.
Squad has allowed me to develop as a person, when at the age of 50 I thought I had done all the development I would ever do. Squad is an amazing group of people who are so helpful, supportive, and knowledgeable about all things swimming. I love it all, the swimming, the chatting in the changing rooms and the giggles at pool side. Squad is the font of all knowledge from what are the best thermal booties, to where are the best places for a mid winters dip, and everything in between, but more importantly they have become my friends and my swimming family, a group of like minded, slightly mad obsessives who love their swimming as much as I do.
I recommend Squad to anyone who loves swimming and wants to improve, just so long as they don’t pinch my place !