Swimming Progress – Time to Get Outdoors

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For the last three months I have been swimming a lot more than I ever have in my life this far. I swam once a week till I was about 12 years old, and only intermittently from then onwards – like twice a year when on holiday or at the beach.

I could still swim, quite well I thought, but it turns out, I had an awful lot to relearn. But after 3 months of gradual training my stroke and fitness have improved vastly and I feel a lot more fluid in the water. I have been swimming around 3 to 5 times a week, gradually building from 30 – 45 minute sessions to 1hr – 2hr sessions.

There’s a handy gadget at at pool called a swimtag which records your stroke and lengths. My stats so far:

Total Swims: 45

Total Distance: 82km

Average Distance: 1819m

Average Swim Duration: 47m

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What Does Adventure Mean to Me?

IMG_7222As part of a recent grant application I was asked to describe What Does Adventure Mean to You? Unfortunately my application was unsuccessful, but by answering the question it allowed me to express something I have often only thought about. So, here in a few paragraphs is my go at an explanation.


Adventure to me is a life choice, a state of mind, one where you choose to challenge yourself, scare yourself, try new things, make new friends, visit new places and get outdoors.

At a personal level the word adventure haunts my every being, I associate it with my greatest fear, a fear of getting old and regretting what I have not done, a fear of lying on my deathbed longing for a richer life. One where I chased adventure rather than money and memories rather than mortgages.

It is a medium in which you can do things that seem crazy in the modern world, where experiences are your friends, long distances underfoot are your meditations, and random encounters and acts of kindness are your lifeblood. They are pure moments devoid of modern day money worries about the bills you have to pay.

In its purest form it is a pining desire to return to a more primitive way. A yearning to be more connected with the world, the landscapes and its people. A deep primitive force that flows through me, begging my body to take a step off the beaten track and explore.


A question like this is so different for each individual, and I wonder what are the universal aspects of adventure that everyone can agree on…?

Most days I am thinking about my upcoming endurance challenge and in many respects it is scaring the hell out of me. But, this is one of the reasons I decided to do it. This post was going to be about what scares me, but I thought my feelings on adventure would act as a good start, before going into detail on my fears about swimming the Thames in a later post.

 

Swimming Lessons Learnt So Far

IMG-20160303-WA0001I used to think I was quite good at swimming. Turns out I was basically cleaving my way through the pool with the grace and efficiency of a breezeblock.

I only found this out after joining a local club around 7 weeks ago, just after I had started training. After seeing me swim, Kevin, the coach, said something along the lines of:

“We’ve got a lot of work to do here. But to start with, try this…”

And with each new session, he has given me something to focus on for the upcoming week, a change here, an alteration there, sometimes something small, sometimes something big. With each tip I have been amazed at the difference it has made to my swimming. Although there is still lots to learn with each passing week I am feeling more fluid in the water.


LESSONS LEARNT SO FAR

Lesson 01: Slow stroke rate, make legs higher in the water, rotate shoulders less when breathing, breath alternate sides with each breath to encourage better form.

Lesson 02: Keep bum and legs higher up in the water, relax feet and legs when kicking.

Lesson 03: Angle head up more in the water.

Lesson 04: Keep head raised more in water, practice touching armpit with thumb during over stroke to encourage better arm form.

Lesson 05: Make elbows higher on the overstroke and glide hands into the water, rotate hand slightly at the start of the pull back, and focus on pulling back till exiting the water.

Lesson 06: Keep legs closer together when kicking.

Lesson 07: Scoop even more with hands at start of the pullback, keep hand perpendicular to body throughout the whole pull back till exiting the water.

 

 

IWG Exped 05: Conservation Trip – Jungfruskär Island, Finnish Archipelago

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This is one of two trip reports that I did not get round to publishing from my time training in Finland. In May 2015, we spent a week on Jungfruskär Island, which is situated in the archipelagos to the south west of Finland. We were here to do some conservation work and study the local flora and fauna. The college has a deal with the Forest and Parks service that allows the class to stay on the island and use the facilities in return for doing some conservation work.

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A Brief Encounter with A Swimming Legend

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About a month ago I went to the Adventure Travel Show and saw Sean Conway talk about his swim from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.

I thought it was a perfect opportunity to ask for some advice for my upcoming Thames Swim, so after his talk I popped down to the front to say hello. I asked if I could ask him a few quick questions. He shook my hand and said of course. He was shorter than I thought and had a pixie like face with small features and glinting eyes, which were surrounded by a wild thicket of ginger hair and a huge bushy beard, he listened attentively as I told him my plans. His response was positive and encouraging, and his main bits of advice were to eat everything, improve my stroke & train lots and start cold water training immediately – as the Thames water is 13 degrees, 2 degrees colder than the channel, brilliant!

I thanked him for his time, shook his hand and walked back to my seat smiling to myself. It was good to have some positive encouragement, rather than people saying you’re completely mad. So, some immediate things I needed to act on:

Cold Water Training – Helping my body get used to water temp of the Thames.
Swim Training – Improving my stroke, fitness and stamina
Eating Everything – To put on weight and to provide more insulation against the cold.

Updates to come.

Learning When to Take a Step/Stroke Back

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It was just before Christmas 2015, and I was applying for some product sponsorship to help with upcoming adventures, the thing is, I didn’t have an adventure planned. So, on a bit of a whim I decided my next challenge would be to swim the Thames River. The thought of it scared me, and I fancied doing something other than running for a change.

I thought I was pretty good at swimming, I mean, I could swim breast stroke, crawl and backstroke confidently. I had swam at a local level till I was about 12, but not much on a regular basis since then, other than holidays or the odd trip to the pool.

Turns out I’m not as good at swimming as I thought. I have been training for over a month now, between 2 to 5 times a week. Each Thursday I also attend the Cranleigh swimming club, where Kevin is helping me to improve my stroke. Since having the lessons I have learnt that I have a long way to go at improving my stroke before swimming the Thames.

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Next Challenge: Thames Swim 2016

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Thames Swim 2016 is a personal challenge where I aim to swim 140 miles along the Thames river with the hope of raising £5000 for Helen & Douglas House and The Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Where, When, How?

Starting on Saturday 13th August, I will meander 140miles from Thames Head, at the river’s source near Trewsbury arriving at Putney Bridge / Central London on Saturday 27th August. Hopefully if all goes to plan I will be able to swim into central London. But, to swim any further than Putney bridge requires the Port of London Authorities permission (which apparently is notoriously hard to get).

The first 17 or so miles will be on foot till I get to Lechlade on Thames. From here I will start swimming/wading the in the River. From then on I aim to swim approximately 10 miles a day and complete the journey over a 2 week period. I purposely want to keep the daily distance as an approximation, and if I feel stronger I will swim longer, and if I am struggling I will swim less. So, the finish date is just approximate.

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How I Funded My Studies as a Wilderness Guide in Finland

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Something that often interests me when reading other blogs about adventure or travel is the money. Quite simply I often wonder how people fund their expeditions and travels.

I will give a rough overview of how much it cost me to study for 10 months as a Wilderness Guide in Finland. In short it roughly cost me around £3500 (approx €4775) in total, including fees, travel, food equipment – EVERYTHING. I saved this money whilst working at an architectural firm when I was living in London. Initially I was saving and training to join a team that would be rowing the Atlantic – if I made it into the team it would cost 5k.

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IWG Exped 03: The Bear Ski – 9 Day Solo Skiing Trip – Finnish Lapland

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The Bear Ski was a 9 day solo skiing trip through the Hammastunturin Wilderness area in Finnish Lapland. It was the trip that had intrigued me the most before heading out to Finland. The thought of spending so much time completely alone, in the middle of nowhere and pulling all your gear and food was an exciting yet daunting prospect. It felt like it was going to be the true test of what I had learnt over the previous 7 months training as a wilderness guide. Whilst on the 930km drive up to Hammastunturin I wrote an Intro to the bear ski. The post didn’t actually upload as my signal suddenly cut out when we were nearing our destination. I thought nothing of this at the time. But later that day the trip was about to change quite dramatically for three of us in the group.

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To The Far North: An Introduction to the Bear Ski

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Update: This post was meant to send last week, but the signal on my phone cut out. I actually ended up having no phone signal for the whole trip which meant my solo ski had to be altered slightly, but will explain all in an up coming post.

Starting this morning we embarked on the 930km drive to Hammastunturin wilderness area in the far north of Finland. We will drive through the night and should arrive in the early hours tomorrow. From here we will start an 8 day solo skiing trip – The Bear Ski.

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