Can you remember when or how you learned to swim?

I can’t really.

I guess it would have been in East Ham Baths back in the early 80s…an old red brick building which has long since been knocked down and turned into a snazzy something or other.

I can still remember the hot buttery toast in the cafe and the exhaustion afterwards. I can’t remember any of the swimming instructions though.

I would imagine I was a dare-devil back then and that it didn’t take much for me to learn…I was fearless as a kid, and looking at my daughter I see something similar in her.

When she was newborn we went to swimming lessons weekly and then we stopped after a year or so, but her confidence in water has always been great, she once fell into a pool headfirst after trying to battle me with a rubber ring, and while all the lifeguards freaked out, she calmly just floated to the top, held on to the side and carried on telling me off…she has total confidence but has very little skill…so this month she has started proper swimming lessons and is loving them.

Anyway back to me.

I’m an OK swimmer…I guess in part due to my insistence on signing up for endurance events which include swimming. I’ve had to force myself to get better so as to not totally embarrass myself. Back in 2006 in the lead up to the London Triathlon (my first major endurance race), I took 6 adult lessons to relearn how to swim front crawl.

Last year I had a brilliant 1 hour session with Keri Anne Payne and Duncan Goodhue as I prepared for Swimathon…a 1.5K swim which I really enjoyed strangely in the end.

But I would still say I’m not very confident, or strong…especially in open water….and I often admit this in my blogs. So when a follower of my blog picked up on this and offered to help me out, always up for the challenge (and for meeting awesome women) I said yes.

Sarah Hill is a Level 2 Total Immersion coach and a level 2 swimming teacher who is passionate about making the pleasure and benefits of Total Immersion swimming available to all regardless of age, background, aspiration or fitness levels.

We met at my local pool…the London Aquatic Centre…and we spent almost 90 minutes in the pool…although it flew by.

It was weird learning from scratch and re-understanding what my body was doing in the pool. Sarah was great fun, and made it really easy to understand.

Total Immersion is a special type of swim technique…which once you understand makes total sense….it was unlike anything I’d ever been taught in the pool before.

I work a lot in metaphor and in being able to visualise things, so I was able to pick things up relatively easy and implement them. There was a lot to learn…and I wanted to pack it all in…which meant my brain was kinda hurting more than my body come the end of the session.

I was dying to get back in the pool though and actually test myself.

But it has been a busy few weeks, and although I have had a couple of pool sessions, for various reasons I either didn’t have my googles, or hadn’t looked at the notes Sarah sent me, so could only half try it out.

Then on Saturday, I headed to the docks to do some open water swimming with my friend and fellow blogger Mollie Middleton…AKA PT Mollie. I had done CrossFit the night before and it was all overhead presses…so my shoulders were in pieces already.

Smart Julie, really smart.

It was only when I arrived in the rain, I asked myself “what the hell are you doing?” the water was so fucking cold…like seriously….I thought my heart was going to stop as I jumped in. I knew I had to swim otherwise I might actually freeze to death…so off I went trying to keep up with Mollie. (No chance)

I tried to put what I had learned into place back in the pool with Sarah…and it did feel different, but I was freaking myself out….and could only do 10 or so strokes at a time before having to come up and check where I was.

Because the summer season for swimmers/triathletes is kind of done, the dock was pretty empty…I think I only saw two other swimmers besides me and Mollie…so it felt weird to be in the water by ourselves….and I kept seeing shit in the water…not actual shit cos that would be minging, but my mind was playing tricks on me…I flinched at the sight of my own hands, which then made me laugh uncontrollably…which lead to me almost dying (OK slight exaggeration) and then I swear I thought I sore a seal.

I couldn’t wait to get out of the water in the end. I did manage 700 meters or so in around 33 minutes….so not to be sniffed at in those conditions.

Today, however, I headed back to the pool, determined to test out what I had learned. I reread the notes Sarah sent through, I even bought myself a new swimsuit and I made sure I had at least half an hour swim time.


Everything just clicked.

I felt like a torpedo in the water…it was easy. Where I normally would get to the end of a 50-meter length and need to take 30 seconds or so to recover before going again. I did 12 lengths no problem.

600 meters in 19 minutes.

I was doing 500 meters in the pool in 21 minutes back in June, and that was while I was Triathlon training.

Gosh…the power of having a good coach.

I really love what Sarah is doing with her company. Her approach is all about allowing anyone of any age, fitness and level of experience learn to swim really well and actually enjoy it.

I am committing to swimming weekly, even through the winter months. Rose is going to lessons every Monday, so I will swim during her lesson, and hopefully one other morning a week too.

Oh…and I promised PT Mollie that I would do open water swimming once a month with her, to improve on my stamina and confidence.

There is something quite thrilling about swimming open water, even though I’m not great at it right now. I could picture myself doing some swimming adventures in the future…but I want to have confidence in my swimming ability before I do that.

A massive thank you to Sarah for gifting me this swimming coaching, I will be forever grateful. And as you see me in future years becoming an ever more successful swimmer…you will know who to thank.

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