We all know how to swim fast in theory: we are always trying to find out new ways of going faster, perfecting our swim stroke and getting a better feel for the water, but what we often forget is simply how to enjoy swimming.
Before I joined a swim team, my days in the pool passed slowly; I used to make my way to the edge of the pool as slow as a tortoise, “dip” my toes in the water to test the temperature and then, as if relaxing at some local spa, faff around for about 30 minutes before lowering my shoulders beneath the surface of the water.
Nowadays, in contrast, I get to the pool five minutes before my training session is due to begin after leaving work late and then, quick as you like, I get on the starting block and when my coach tells me to get going, I force myself to dive into the freezing cold water in the pool!
Every training session I swim along behind my training mates in the same lane, struggling to keep up and rather enviously noting how smoothly the one-hour training session goes by for the person who is not the slowest in the lane but rather the fastest in the slow lane. I can imagine the relaxing feeling of your feet entering the water with every leg kick while you hold onto your board, the joy of swimming freestyle without worrying about pushing off hard again or recovering properly, and I can even sense the freedom experienced by all those who are not interested in competing and simply want to enjoy the pleasure of gliding through the water.
It would be great to lead out our training mates but, as the slowest in the lane, we desperately try to keep up with the feet in front of us. But in some sense, we actually enjoy this role: it encourages us to go faster and stops us from getting lazy.
Sometimes, though, it is nice to remember what swimming slowly is like, those lazy training sessions without worrying about times when you can really enjoy every single lap of the pool!
After all, so as long as there is still the so-called “tortoise” prize for the slowest swimmer in the race, we can allow ourselves to be the slowest in the lane!