Aqua Aerobics in Guadeloupe to My First 5km Race
Being a fitness professional for a number of years, I’ve always intellectually know the benefits of swimming but only relatively recently have really experienced it first had. The benefits are vast and range from mental, emotional to physically health irrespective of age and fitness.
Research into the mental health benefits of swimming by Swim England found symptoms of anxiety or depression has been significantly reduced by swimming for 1.4 million adults in Britain. Endorphin release, stress reduction and a boost of the brain function are just to name a few mental benefits of swimming. In addition, historically water has been used for thousands of years an alternative medicine also know as hydrotherapy, in the form of mineral baths, spa baths to plunge pools, water has always been associated with pain relief, relaxation and detoxification.
In March 2019 I did my first 5km Swimathon after starting my journey to learn how to swim 3 months prior. It was a pretty big occasion being the furthest distance I’d every swam not to mention being 5 months pregnant as well!
Being able to swim throughout my pregnancy has been a God-send . It’s one of only a few physical activities a mother-to-be can continue to do well into her third trimester.
Swimming allows your body weight be fully supported as you increase muscle tone and circulation. Personally it has worked wonders for my nausea and also releasing tension in my body and opening up my chest and serving as a form of immersive moving meditation.
It started in Guadeloupe last year, where I decided to go to learn French and escape the terrible British winter weather. I was in a town called Saint Anne, a small costal town on the Grande Terre Island of the country. My planned one month stay turned into three and as the weeks went by my French was improving and I wanted to delve deeper in the local social life and culture.
"...Next time doesn't exist..."
One afternoon after my French class, I hazily wondered on to the town centre beach with the sun blaring down on my head all I wanted to do was to jump into the water, shimmering every tone of blue to green you could imaging. Looking closer at it I could see figures in waist-height of water in formation rhythmically bobbing up and down, clearly straddling something looking exhausted but having a good time. It was only until I focused a little more that the picture unfolded. It was an aqua-bike class, where stationary water bikes were taken into the water and a class was held with an instructor at the front, no different from an indoor spinning class (well maybe a little different). As my gaze panned a little more right across the water, sectioned off was another group class being held, “un, deux, trois, quatre! … un, deux, trois, quatre!…” I could hear as ladies with sun kissed skin tones and brightly coloured foam noodles between their legs were kicking and punching in the water to the command of the instructor, who stood at the front on the shore. Aqua aerobics! As the class finished, a swim class started straight after. One of the staff of the Base Nautique watersports centre, who was in charge of the kayaks came over and asked if I wanted to join the swim class.
“What now? No, I’m not ready, it’ll take me too long to get changed and I don’t want to be late. Maybe next time.” Although I blatantly had my bikini underneath.
“Next time doesn’t exist” said Mr Kayak matter of factly, “Make use of the Now, seize the day as now is all we really have”. In that moment I learnt an unforgettable lesson in procrastination and serendipity, I changed and joined the class, the best decision ever!
Now bear in mind that at this stage I was super comfortably floating in a starfish position in the water but the furthest I could swim with some kind of freestyle stoke was about 20 meters, after which I was knackered for a very time! I was fine, the water wasn’t deep and the class was for non-swimmers to good swimmers. We did swim drills with floats held and wedged in an array of different places of our body to practice our technique. It was absolutely amazing! I loved it! The rest of the group was encouraging and corrected my French in between exercises. The swim became a weekly thing, I was hooked!
By the end my three month stay in guadeloupe, I was confidently swimming 30 meters with a little rest and may be another 30 meters and another and another. Swimming there was such an important part of my week. I not only got that authentic social interaction, but I also got to totally submerse myself in nature. When swimming I often saw beautiful fish whizzing past and felt the warming sun radiate through the water. After a swim I was energised and felt alive!
Wanting to continue with my swimming, when I got back to London, I reconnected with my old swim teacher, Dave whom I took a few lessons with a few years prior and who got me swimming that milestone 20 metres from nothing at all. The next weekend, I joined his swim group, DMT Swimming.
Once I got into my groove I was swimming in the classes at the weekend and doing 3 days by my self during the week! Still swimming as a beginner but I loved it! My body shaped change and my post holiday blues were a thing of the past.
Seeing all the benefits of swimming, I ask myself why I didn’t start before. Thinking about it it was childhood memories soggy plasters and stinking of chlorine from the pool with god knows what in it, not to mention dried out skin and hair. Now in 2019 with hopefully better pool chlorine quality, shorter hair and a better moisturising routine, pools don’t feel so off putting anymore, well the nice ones anyway. Swimming in pools is wonderfully convenient, but I really do miss the vastness and freedom of outdoor swimming. I might not always get the chance to swim in beautiful locations like Guadeloupe twice a week but I’m looking forward to a few outdoor swimming spots in London like Hampstead Health Swimming Pond or one of London’s Lidos. It really has opening up a new world for me.
What started as a way for me to learn and submerge myself in Guadeloupean life has turn out to be an important aspect of my life even after a year. With Swimming, I get that social interaction, that mental and emotional respite and centring as well as those physical benefits which really complement the needs of my body. As a fitness trainer and yoga instructor, I’m always fascinated by how well our bodies adapt to new activities and how many different ways there are to keep fit and active no matter our condition or fitness level. We are truly spoilt for choice in London, it's easy to take it for granted and leave it until next time, but who knows the journey we could set ourselves on if we start today.