In the swim.

I have been going swimming for a month now, I won’t blame you for thinking I’m wildly exaggerating but honestly, it’s been life changing.

A month ago I hadn’t swam for probably a year, and when I did go swimming it was always with the kids, because my main focus then was watching the kids and keeping them safe in the water I didn’t actually do much swimming so I had no real idea of how well I could or couldn’t swim. I also didn’t really worry too much about how I looked in my swimming costume because I was with the kids. My mum tum felt somehow acceptable because I was obviously a mum. If that makes ANY real sense.

I decided a month ago that swimming was something I wanted to do properly. I was looking for an exercise that I would be capable of with my arthritis. Swimming seemed the obvious answer as it’s low impact.

I bought myself a swimming costume, opting for one with padded boobs and a tiny skirt to cover my bum. As much as I’d like to be I’m never going to be one who can just say fuck what anyone thinks.

The day after it arrived I knew I had to take the plunge because I know I’m a champion procrastinator and so I set off, alone, full of nerves. What if I looked hideous? What if I was a terrible swimmer?

That first time I planned to swim for half an hour, which felt like it would be a very long time.

I had to give myself a good talking to when I got there, and when I left the changing room I was tightly wrapped in my big towel.

The walk from the towel hooks at the side of the pool to the actual pool felt like a hundred miles. I felt like I was under a spotlight with big arrows pointing at me “new person in swimsuit alert 🚨” (in reality I’m sure, now, that nobody even noticed me).

But once I was in the water it was like magic. I swam. I swam for an hour. And I swam well.

I decided to go 2 or 3 times a week and each time I enjoyed it more and became more confident.

My boys, 23, 21, and 19 started to come with me, half the time I go alone, half the time they come, and 12 has been coming too.

I’m so proud about this because 21 and 12 both have autism, it’s not easy for them to go anywhere where there are potentially a lot of people, but each time they grow more confident.

Swimming is having such a positive effect on my arthritis, in the water I have no pain at all and after swimming I feel much less stiff and sore.

Overall I feel fitter and stronger already. I am swimming better, and for longer each time I go. I leave the pool feeling exhilarated and that’s a good feeling.

I feel like I’m achieving something because my swimming is imporoving, I’m very proud of that.

Mentally, swimming is doing wonders for me. While I’m in the pool I’m able to completely switch off, and afterwards I really do feel like my head is clearer. It’s very uplifting. Just being able to shut the world out for an hour or two is a wonderful thing.

As for my confidence, not only am I walking into the leisure centre without any nerves, and feeling much more confident in my abilities, I’m so confident being in my swimsuit that I can hardly believe it. I mean, I don’t look particularly good but I’m ok with that and as no one has run screaming I think other people are too. Gone are the days of walking out to the pool with my towel around me. I just don’t bother anymore.

Everyone else at the pool is having exactly the same anxieties about how they look and just don’t have the time to notice or worry about other people’s shapes and sizes. I can honestly say that I just don’t notice how people look.

I realised today that I’m striding out to the pool with my towel just slung over my shoulder, I even got out of the pool, walked to the changing room and into the loo without thinking to grab my towel.

This is quite a big thing for me. I have always felt that my body was not so much a temple as an old ruin, definitely not something the general public should ever have to look at.

After just one month swimming has made me happier, less stressed, eased my pain, made me stronger and fitter and ramped my confidence up to levels I didn’t know existed.

I wholeheartedly recommend swimming if you’re thinking of taking up a new exercise, especially if you have arthritis like me.

If you’re thinking about it but putting it off because you worry you might not be very good you really needn’t worry at all – easier said than done, I know, but if you tell yourself enough you just might start to believe it. I see people of all different levels of ability in the pool. Some are strong, fast swimmers, some are there for a little splash around and some are just like me, not the best swimmers but giving it their best shot.

If you’re worried about how you’ll look, shop around for a swimsuit you’ll feel comfy in. You can buy body shaping ones with tummy control panels, high cut, low cut, padded, with skirts like mine, there’s so much choice out there that your bound to find the right one for you, and I promise that nobody is actually looking, they are all feeling exactly the same way as you.

I promise you that if you take the plunge it will absolutely be worth it.

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