The Things I Have Gained From being a Swimmer
When I say I’m a swimmer, I don’t just mean I go for a paddle when the water’s warm...
I wake up at 4:12am and lug my cold, tired body up and down a concrete hole filled with water. I rock up to school with dripping wet hair and a faint chlorine scent. I haul 20 kilos worth of gear with me everywhere I go and my eyebags… well we don’t need to discuss those.
When you put it like that, some would probably think I’m insane, but the things that I have gained from swimming- the memories, experiences and opportunities far outweigh the ‘negatives’. Today I thought I would share these, and some of the tricks that I have learnt to combat those days where the last thing you want to do, is get in the water.
I believe one of the most valuable things I have gained from swimming is being able to spend time with likeminded people. Afterall, your teammates are with you at your worst, those gruelling IM sets, or the days that it pours with rain… in the middle of Winter…in an outdoor pool. Your teammates know you better than anyone else and I for one am incredibly grateful for the relationship that I have with my swimming friends, for they are the real deal.
Now to address the faint chlorine scent. I always thought that it was inevitable and I was just going to have to put up with smelling like a public swimming pool. But Swim Skin has changed the game. I’m all for products that are quick, easy and effective and Swim Skin is just that. Not to mention they are easy to chuck into my bag ready for after training (Yes!) and perfect for sensitive skin like mine. (And an added bonus- my hair no longer looks like straw if anyone wanted to know).
For me, swimming is an outlet, the place I go to not think for a couple of hours. I focus on that extra kick of underwater, or not breathing on the first stroke, because they are the things I can control. When we line up to race, you do not know how others will perform; so, you must control your own race. Swimming is all about control: control of your strokes, control of your mind, but really, in life, we must also focus on what we can control.
A couple of years ago I attended a seminar run by Swimming NSW and Meg Bailey, and one quote stuck with me the most:
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Swimming has given me so much more than I ever thought possible- leadership skills, grit, determination and positivity in the face of adversity. At the Olympic Swimming Trials this year I got the opportunity to race against some of the fastest people in Australia (and the world), and whilst my performances were not my finest, I developed courage, resilience and an extra burst of motivation regardless of the result.
Because, standing there; I realised that swimming is so much more than the destination, it is about the journey. Emma McKeon, Ariarne Titmus and Meg Harris (Just to name a few), didn’t get there without those character traits- and in the same way, each of us can do incredible things with a little bit of grit, determination and positivity.
In some ways, swimming is addictive. The rush of adrenaline that I get lining up for a race is truly unmatched. The opportunity to constantly be the best version of myself both in and out of the pool is something I wouldn’t change for the world. As pools and gyms begin to open up post lockdowns, I challenge you to find your why- have a go and challenge yourself to be better, do better and have a little fun along the way. Afterall, it’s not all 4am starts and cold mornings. Sometimes the best things are found where and when you least expect it.
Written by Anneke van Zoggel | Swimmer
Follow Anneke on Instagram @annekevanzoggel