The joys of upright swimming

Dr Nigel Mellor

Let’s face it: swimming on holiday is a pain. If you do breast stroke your neck aches keeping your face out of the water, unless you’re one of those anti-social, uber-healthy types who can do it properly. The James Bond crawl thing is knackering and you can never get the breathing right – you always end up a gasping, blubbering heap with water up your nose. And as for the backstroke, well, relaxing it may be, but how boring – you just can’t see where you’re going.

This is the problem: If you’re a lazy idle slob like me, you’ll go back to being a lazy idle slob the minute your holiday is over. The pretend healthy programme you do in Magaluf just won’t stick. Be honest – Olympic athletes we ain’t. Time for a rethink.

Here’s the trick. Quit all this nonsense about fitness, get back to what you really want to do: have fun in the briny. And that’s where upright swimming comes in. You need a warm sea – best in the Med or on the South coast. Choose a day when it’s calm, no choppy waves. Wander out till you’re about chest deep, then lift your feet and start to ever so gently bicycle. Stay upright. Move your arms in a slow, totally wimpy, kind-of-breast-stroke. Follow the shore line and don’t get out of your depth. And don’t aim to get anywhere. Not even an inch.

The magic thing is, in the big salty you naturally float with your head clear, the water just lapping round your throat – it never gets up your schnozzle. You can scope out the scene. You can talk to your mates. If you’re too puffed to sing Sweet Caroline you’re doing it all wrong. The idea is to drift along like a seahorse. One mile an hour is way too fast. If your arms and legs are aching you’re trying too hard. Your limbs should feel like they’re stroking silk.

And the best bit is you can stay in the water for ages. And feel great! Leave all the calorie burning stuff to the speed freaks – anyway, however hard you try you never burn off more than one stick of patatas fritas. Liberate yourself from all that cardiac workout hang-up. Look around you. Chat. Yodel. Dream. And, strangely enough, by not trying, you actually do more! Get with the joys of upright swimming.

Dr Nigel Mellor is author of   Buddhism#now: Big Questions. Inner Peace. LOL


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