Swimming with Duncan Goodhew

Last December, as a member of the official Swimathon 2016 #BlogSquad, I was lucky to be invited to take part in a training session with Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew.

As I walked towards Cally Pool in Islington I felt really, really nervous. I worked out that I hadn’t been near a swimming pool for 10 years. What would happen if I couldn’t remember how to swim? Would I understand Duncan’s tuition? Would I make a complete idiot out of myself?

Sometimes I worry far too much!

I successfully located Cally Pool and met up with some of the #BlogSquad team: Adele, Lucy  and Victoria. Unfortunately Tess was unable to come to the session. Hopefully I’ll get to meet you at an event in the future Tess. We were handed our Zoggs swimming costumes and goggles, and got ready to start the training session.

After having a few photographs taken with Duncan and his Olympic gold medal, it was time to enter the water. By this stage I was feeling really nervous.


The session started with some warm-up lengths, this allowed Duncan to observe and to give us some initial feedback on our technique. We were then given some drills to work on. Duncan was great at identifying our individual strengths and weaknesses. I was reminded to relax while I was swimming and to not be afraid to put my head in the water.

I found the drills really enjoyable and could feel my technique improving as my confidence in the water increased. Duncan’s passion and enthusiasm for swimming was infectious and I found myself really enjoying myself. Towards the end of the training session I was even brave enough to progress from breaststroke to front crawl.


Duncan then demonstrated his Olympic gold medal winning breaststroke. Wow! So that’s what breaststroke should look like!

We then did some filming as a group and posed for some more photographs.


The hour session flew by and I was actually quite reluctant to leave the water. After our training session we filmed a short video and discussed our proudest swimming moment, our inspiration and our personal motivation for completing the Swimathon 2016 challenge.

With apologies for my Brummie accent!

I would like to thank Duncan for giving up his time and for being so patient with a nervous swimmer. I would also like to thank Sam and his team for organising the training session and for taking what felt like dozens of photographs during the evening. I don’t think that as a runner I ever expected to be given the opportunity to swim with an Olympic gold medallist. Getting to hold the gold medal Duncan won in Moscow 1980 was a slightly surreal experience.

I can confirm that Olympic gold medals are heavy!


10 things swimming has taught me

As it’s now less than a month *panic* until the Swimathon #BlogSquad team take on the Swimathon 2016 challenge, I’ve decided it’s time for an update. Personally, I have found training for Swimathon 2016 a positive experience. Swimming on a regular basis has improved my fitness levels and stamina. I now have the confidence to tackle a triathlon. Training for Swimathon 2016 has also taught me some new skills and has had a number of other benefits.

1. Improved time management. Although I successfully completed my PhD, I have never been very good at planning what I should be doing on a day-to-day basis. In addition, my time management skills have been pretty non-existent. As I don’t have access to my own private swimming pool (wishful thinking), my training for Swimathon 2016 has involved me looking at the timetable for the local swimming baths, and working out when I can safely complete my swimming sessions.

2. Organisational skills. Running is easy. I get up, put on my running kit, go through my warm-up routine, head out the front door and then run. Simple! Swimming, however, takes a lot more planning and preparation. After forgetting vital pieces of kit including my swimming costume (it’s generally impossible to swim without one!) and goggles, I’m now far more organised. My swimming kit checklist has been a lifesaver.

3. It’s never too late to learn a new skill. After a couple of lessons with a very patient instructor (I’m a slow learner), I’ve now progressed from breaststroke to front crawl. I’ve also overcome my fear of putting my face in the water. This has enabled me to more or less master the art of breathing correctly. My 50p charity bookshop find Swimming without stress: Lessons for Land Lovers has been invaluable. Next on the swimming skills list are

4. Technique matters. Although I was taught how to swim as a young child, after years of not swimming I was aware that my technique was poor. Since signing up for Swimathon 2016 I’ve had swimming lessons, read some really useful books, and spent far too much time watching swimming videos on YouTube. I’ll never be a fast swimmer but I’m now feeling more confident that I can swim 1,500m.

Not a natural swimmerHopefully I’ve improved since December!

5. It’s important to relax. To start with, I found going swimming quite a stressful experience. Whenever I got into the water I immediately felt tense and found it hard to relax. As a result my swimming suffered. Now that I’m more confident in the water, I feel more relaxed and my swimming has improved. Now I just need to learn to stay relaxed when I start to feel fatigued.

6. I’m not very good at multitasking. Keeping track of how far I have run is easy. I have a GPS watch that does all of the hard work for me. Simple! I’ve found that keeping track of the number of lengths (laps) I’ve covered during my swimming sessions slightly more challenging. I thought I was quite good at counting but it turns out that I’m not. I’ve added a swimming lap counter to my list of things I need to buy.

7. It’s okay to be slow. I have accepted that I’m a slow swimmer. A really slow swimmer. To start with, as I found myself being overtaken by everyone I got really frustrated and stopped enjoying my swimming sessions. Why wasn’t my swimming improving? Why was I so slow? Why wasn’t getting faster? After a while I realised that it is okay to be slow and enjoyed my swimming again.

8. Swimming pool etiquette. I could write a blog post dedicated to the initially confusing (to a runner) world of swimming pool etiquette. There are designated lanes for “slow”, “medium” and “fast” swimmers at my local pool. Swim in the wrong lane at your peril. If someone taps your foot it means that they want to overtake you, let them. Don’t freak out if someone accidentally touches you, it happens.

9. The smell of chlorine lingers. Chlorine is used to keep swimming pools free of bacteria that can be hazardous to humans. This is a good thing. Chlorine has a very distinctive smell that a lot of people on public transport seem to find unpleasant. This is also a good thing. Unfortunately, the smell of chlorine seems to linger with intent with each swimming session topping up the smell.

10. Post swimming hunger. I’m always really hungry after I’ve been swimming and have to eat something within an hour of going swimming. Apparently although no one knows why swimming makes people feel so hungry, it is completely normal.

*You can find out more about the other members of the Swimathon #BlogSquad here and can follow their progress on their blogs over the next couple of months. If you would like to take part in Swimathon 2016, please visit the Swimathon website to find your nearest participating swimming baths*

Rediscovering my love of swimming thanks to Swimathon 2016


After posting about my Swimathon 2016 challenge towards the end of last year, I was lucky enough to be invited to join the official Swimathon 2016 #BlogSquad. This means that there will be more swimming than running related content on my blog over the next couple of months. Perhaps I should consider changing the name of my blog!

Taking place between March 18th and 20th 2016, Swimathon is a nationwide swimming challenge that has been encouraging swimmers to swim a distance challenge since its first event back in 1986. Swimathon accounts for all levels of fitness, all abilities and all ages. Participants can choose to take on the individual 1.5k, 2.5k or 5k challenges, team 1.5k and 5k, or the SimplySwim for those who are unable to attend an organised session.

I personally will be tackling the 1.5k distance at Wyndley swimming baths in Sutton Coldfield on Sunday March 20th. As a relatively inexperienced swimmer this will be a huge personal challenge. Luckily I love challenges!

My training for Swimathon has been slightly sporadic. Last month I downloaded the 10 week beginner 1.5k training plan from the Swimathon website and managed to complete a number of swimming sessions. Once I learnt how to relax in the water (and that swimming is easier if you are willing to put your face in the water!), I was really starting to enjoy my swimming again. This month, due to illness, I’ve only made it to my local swimming baths once. With less than 10 weeks to go I’m aware that I need to increase my training.

There are no excuses! As a member of the #BlogSquad I was lucky enough to be kitted out by the official Swimathon brand partner Zoggs with some amazing swimming gear. The Zoggs Native Chic Scoopback swimsuit I selected fits well and is really flattering. I’ve been provided with all of the swimming gear I need, the rest is down to me!

It’s time for me to get my face and hair wet! Please stay tuned for updates and to follow my progress!

*You can find out more about the other members of the Swimathon #BlogSquad here and can follow their progress on their blogs over the next couple of months. If you would like to take part in Swimathon 2016, please visit the Swimathon website to find your nearest participating swimming baths*