Swimming + Me | #1


Thames at Sonning Bridge at dawn

Thames at Sonning Bridge at dawn.

THE WATER CALLS ME CONSTANTLY.

So. Starting from today, through the medium of the LOOP, we shall chronicle the reflections of a handful of swimmers. These are the extended family of The Swim Shed; ordinary people who have an extraordinary connection with water.

Mark has been a friend of ours for over 25 years. Swimming is a way of life to him.

I cannot remember a time when swimming has not been a part of my life. It has run down the family from my father, a breast stroke specialist, and something of an all round athlete, to me and my brother - he is a beautiful swimmer, powerful and smooth. I love to watch him at work. It is rather humbling. We have, in our turn, passed our love of the water on to our boys. My 12 year old is now as fast as me. Friends have told me that he swims with a style similar to mine, something that filled me with such joy.

SCARCELY A DAY HAS PASSED WHEN I HAVE NOT SWUM.

The water called me constantly. Over the past 4 years, since I rediscovered my passion for swimming, scarcely a day has passed when I have not swum. It is my primary form of exercise, and finally, after years of effort, I am growing my swimmer's wings, those particularly enlarged dorsal, pectoral and oblique muscles that are so typical and recognisable. On a purely practical level, and without any exaggeration, I think that swimming has saved my life. It has helped me shed 35 kilos in weight, reduce my blood pressure to 114/65 and achieve a resting pulse rate of 48. This, from a man who, in his mid forties, was months away from diabetes or a heart attack.

IT IS ALMOST MEDITATIVE. IT IS CERTAINLY MINDFUL.

It is more than the physical activity that matters to me though. Swimming is a way of life. The water, whether pool, lake, river or sea, is a second home, a safe space; womb-like, accepting, asking for nothing. My relationship with swimming is like a never ending love affair. I know that, no matter how out of place, or at odds I feel with the world, the moment I enter the water, I will feel at home. The water surrounds me, supports me, envelops me, making a perfect me-shaped space. As I start to pull through the water, I can feel my heartbeat strengthening, my breathing becoming regular and deep, and my muscles starting to work in concert. As I rock through my stroke, I allow my subconscious mind to run free, without judgement or censorship, while I monitor my movements and correct my stroke. It is almost meditative. It is certainly mindful. It feels right, and good, and clean.

I LOVE TO TAKE TO THE LAKE OR RIVER, PARTICULARLY AT DAWN OR DUSK.

Most of my swimming takes place - by necessity - in the pool. I am not a hardcore ice swimmer, although I have huge admiration for those hardy souls, but, in the season, I love to take to the lake or river, particularly at dawn or dusk. Crepuscular swimming has a particular attraction for me. I think it is the peace of those times of day, that appeals. Sea swimming is a rare treat, and, if I am honest, something that still scares me. Maybe it is the feeling of the tide echoed, deep in my gut, that makes me feel uneasy. I will conquer it though, by and by, because, in truth, I love the ocean. There are so many fresh swimming challenges and experiences for me to enjoy. I know I will always swim, as I always have. I believe that it will always bring me solace and peace, in the storm of my life. I would be utterly lost without it.

Mark Gabriel

So for now, keep us in the LOOP by using #theswimshed for all of your swim adventures and watery escapades!

#swimmingandme #openwater #TheSwimShed

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