We are nearly at the four year anniversary of me tapping away on my phone describing my swimming miss-adventures. I have mentioned a few times that swimming is fairly boring. To be honest, I still can not believe that there has been enough things happened to write about with my head facing down in peaty dark water splashing my arms on the waters surface. In fact, my legs are that bored they don’t even help out anymore. Not even the odd kick. They stay stationary and the only time I am aware stuff is awake below my shoulders is when I pee in my wetsuit…….think we will stop that train of thought there.
Anyway boring as it is, I could never have thought there was enough going on with swimming to start writing one blog never mind 30 freaking 8 of them…..crickey! Granted, most of the blogs have been based loosely on a swim or things that happened to me because I have to swim every day pretty much addicted. 38 is a shed load, but not nearly as amazing on how much my life has altered since discovering swimming in cold water.
This last wee while I’ve loved being able to swim in my local loch which is now clean and free of nasties and at present has free access, although I have the uneasy feeling, come the warmer weather, it will be revoked and then folk will have to pay to use it. This saddens me as I feel all should have free access but I am also kind of glad. When I say kind of, it’s a fairly small kind of glad, in fact a really tiny kind of glad. At present, I think I might be the only one that braves that tiny wee suburban loch’s cold water. Just maybe, when it’s a more acceptable temperature and if paying for the privilege is introduced and a safe common sense approach to education is used, then more folk might be encouraged to use it. It won’t have the same fear factor as following some mad edjit into a stinky boggy loch for a swim. Just as long as they don’t kick the arse out of the lessons and privileges and it’s priced affordable for all and not just aimed at expensive GPS watch wearers…….. and they don’t forget their guinea pig and he gets a lifetime free pass for ensuring their business plan will not include the statement swimmers might not trust their farts.
Anyway, I have been enjoying increasing my cardiovascular activity by running up to the wee loch, swimming for a short time, then sprint-shuffling up the hill to the bottom of Scotland’s monument to Mel Gibson (I mean Billy Wallace).
The local run-swim has kept me away from the lochs in the Trossachs, but the physical high I get from a cold water swim-run is really hard to explain and I have spoken extensively about it in other blogs. These local trips stop me having to drive for 40 mins to swim, fully neoprened up. Instead I am content on a quick skins swims wearing shorts and runners. I get the same mental and physical reboot without using a big chunk of the day. I think and hope as the warmer weather returns longer swims are still required and I will return more regularly to the larger more interesting lochs up North.
The last couple of blog posts were about The Uni Loch and you can read about them here https://uncontrolablehands.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/airthrey-loch/ and here https://uncontrolablehands.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/loch-reed/
So the last time I was at home I discovered hot Yoga. Well, I had tried it once before and enjoyed it, but was never offered an “introductory unlimited hot yoga for 20 days for £20 before”. So, before I knew it, I was running up the Uni for a swim/sprint/shuffle past the Monument then hame, quick packet of beetroot for breakfast , then race down to the hot yoga studio for some Birkam sweaty, ( some kind of mad torture that makes you feel really good) every day apart from weekends, for the three weeks, I had between work trips.
Brilliant. I could see the difference and I could feel the difference. I was standing straighter and able to hold single leg poses. I was becoming more bendy. What’s not to like about that?
What I did notice though was that my cold water acclimatisation was not going to well. Normally after a few days of returning to cold water swimming when home from a work trip my ability to stay in cold water increases. The first couple of swims on arriving home from work are a mixture of agonizing torment and complete joy. As my time in the water slowly increases, my ability to handle the cold increases. I work on a boat and a few times whilst away, I get in the water that surrounds it. Its about 20-30 deg Centigrade. I then jump on a plane head home and head straight for a loch, depending on the season ranging from 0-18 deg. Yeah yeah, blah blah blah…….. I am not looking for sympathy or boasting, just trying to explain the physical chaos my body goes through swimming at home and work. When I first started this job, I nearly gave up cold water swimming, but soon became really miserable and just got on with it. I swam, I sweated more, and froze more severely.
With the experience of a few years of swimming my body’s ability to handle the cold increases rapidly although there is still intense, really mad shakes and uncontrollable hands. This ability to increase time in the water stopped as my hot yoga classes continued.
I slowly came to the conclusion that I would keep up the hot yoga and sacrifice minutes in the Lochs.
That’s a massive sacrifice and I must really be enjoying yoga. It was the fact that the cold water still had the ability to reboot my mental state, but that hopefully the hot yoga would give me the ability of handling the hot weather easier on my return to work (with a couple of days jet-lag added in). I was finding the reduced ability to handle the extreme hot temperatures was really draining and a struggle.
This is where your thinking, eh! Is that it? Hot yoga ruined yer ice mile chances but helped you concentrate at work? Big Woo, way to go big stuff….. but it did give a slightly boring read about a boring subject.
Awe naw naw naw….
That’s the back ground stuff for the real reason for me tapping away unable to sleep. By the way, in between run-swims and hot yoga, there was a couple of paddle board sessions. This is not an SUP blog but the photos from them help make this easier on the eye..
Anyway, I came home from a work trip a few days ago having managed some stretching on the boat. The waves and swell make single leg poses a struggle, and I did manage to lose a pair of sunglasses swimming 300 yards to a beach.
First cold swims on returning were hard and the first couple of Birkam yoga sessions were even tougher. Today I sacrificed the swim/run/yoga session routine for a swim at Loch Ard early doors, followed by a Ying Yang session later in the evening.
Loch Ard never fails to calm your soul.
But the whole reason for this blog was the Ying Yang session in a warm room.
Over the years I have participated in the odd yoga class. Nothing too serious. I think the most stretching I ever performed before now was when I was kick-boxing for a short period in my early 20’s. None of the moves were new to me during the Ying yang class, head down and head up dog repeatedly with loads of warrior poses. It was a full on session without many pauses and no savasana’s to relax and catch your breath. Near the end of this powerful Yang part of the class, I was feeling a wee bit tired, not massively, just a little bit. We had to do the reclining hero or Supta Virasana pose. This pose is near impossible for me with some carpet fitting history, my left knee is agony bent in this position. I was kneeling wide legged facing the mirror instead of at the ceiling, I noticed when I took breath, my lips went down into a frown, giving a glum, sad face. I checked myself and questioned “What was I frowning at? Life’s good.”
The “Life’s good” phrase repeated itself mentally during my breathing stopping the frown. My lips went horizontal and then turned into a smile with another couple breaths. By now I was nearly grinning “Awe yeah, LIFE IS GOOD”
The next pose was three variations of the camel pose or a mad back bending pose. My knees can just about handle this pose and we normally only do one for a short pose during the Birkam sessions.
The quiet meditative music transformed into Hero’s by Peter Gabriel during this set of poses……BOOOOM!…………..my back felt mental like electricity running up it and my inner head exploded with the feeling of “life is good.” This good feeling multiplied right off the chart. The rise in happiness increased by the song’s nearly incoherent words rushed into my head and I nearly started sobbing….with joy. It was as though my back was firing emotional fireworks and they were exploding in my big boulder nut, stain brain.
WTF……what is happening?
The last time I experienced an similar intense rush of euphoria was with disco biscuits and banging techno music and way before mobile phones and responsibilities arrived. But even that is a poor comparison. This was complete rapture. I was so glad we were instructed into the child’s pose before I turned into a sobbing wreck lying wailing on my yoga mat. Curled up my head was hidden against my knees and my lungs gasped for breath and control. I am sure a repeat of the words “swimming like dolphins” by Peter Gabriel I would have flooded my mat with tears.
Come on – get it together.
The relaxing Ying part of the session kind of passed me by after this. I was holding the poses but not mentally in the them, if you get what I mean. My head was in bits. We soon lay down in dead man’s pose. This is my favourite part of a yoga session when you concentrate on your breath and let go of your body and it leaves me mute, unable and unwilling to share my head space after the class. Not today though as I was unsure of my bodies emotional reaction. With swimming in cold water my favourite part is the hypothermic shakes, with the complete loss of control of muscles and limbs, I end up resembling a gibbering basket case and then the meditative calm that engulfs my body as the shakes dissipate.
This loss of control was different.
This was full on intense uncontrollable elation. Like receiving the feeling of every hug you have ever had. EVER EVER EVER HAD…. including the ones from your parents comforting you and the ones you give, comforting your own kids. The hugs from your first love and that confirming hug when you discovered your friend is your soul mate. All concentrated into one split back bending second. F#%k, wish we could bottle it and give it away for free and not just to the folk that would accept it, but to everyone.
Spoiler alert – It’s not a surprise to Clare anymore when my face starts leaking watching a weepy movie, in fact even the emotional bits on X factor when someone dedicates a really bad cover version to their dead budgie and there is teary music playing in the background has me rubbing my eyes hiding the truth. But this was different. It was not sad and needing my manpon adjusted, it was close to a full on hysterical breakdown in a room full of complete strangers because the powerful feeling of bliss.
I am at a loss for words and struggling to explain what happened in the mirrored room down the industrial estate that night. Yoga is good…right? Without swimming changing my life so dramatically maybe I would never have had the ability to get into that state, never mind lie awake at 3am writing about it.
This is normally where I try and pull all the loose ends of the blog together in a decent last sentence but my head is still in bits, still trying to figure out what happened. Will it happen again? And do I want it happen again?
Crickey! Think I need a swim.