As part of this adventure, we Girls who Can Swim were offered some free sports nutrition advice. I signed up for this right away. After a lifetime of dieting and then reverting to my default position of greediness , my relationship with food is an odd one. I love to cook and to eat, but will usually stick to ‘diet food’ of low fat, low carb meals, filling up the plate with fruit and veg at home, to allow leeway for mad baking sessions, eating out, entertaining and the occasional bottle of wine. So the idea of actually eating more carbs on purpose and structuring the day around the needs of exercise rather than eating lettuce and dreaming of chocolate was a difficult one to get my head round. I filled in a five day food diary and sent it off to Alex Cook, a specialist in dietary management for sports performance. And a few days later I had a telephone consultation with her (which my boss kindly classified as a medical appointment so I could take an hour yaway from my desk) and she said I was not eating enough! Hallelujah! More carbs, she said, and protein too, at every meal.
Alex’s advice is to follow the three Rs after exercise, Rehydrate (right away), Refuel (carbs) and then Rebuild (protein in the next meal, ideally soon after exercise). So now instead of swimming before breakfast and running out of steam quite soon, I have half my breakfast before, and the other half sitting by the poolside in the sun (or in the car in the rain). I have taken to squashing an avocado on my breakfast toast and throwing seeds into my mixed salad. I carry oatcakes to snack on if I am going to the pool from work, and try to buy slow release carbs rather than quick fix chocolate when I am hungry. It takes some planning and I am feeling very naughty, but have a little more energy I think. Time will tell whether this is an eating pattern I can stick with, but I am hopeful. I have another week or so of free access to Alex’s advice through her natty little DUPLfit app which allows the client to build an online profile, track progress and goals and message the nutrition coach from within the app. I don’t yet know if I am going to take this swimming lark more seriously in the future, but I can see that if I were to do so, this kind of planning would be essential.
Swimming training continues, and this weekend I have done some proper distance in Open Water, the proud owner of my very own wetsuit. (The thirteenth one I tried on….) On Saturday morning I went back to the Heron Lake, and swam 1400 m comfortably in my nice new Orca wetsuit, then 50m frantically splashing about without it! 14.5 degrees, really? Absolutely blinking freezing out of the suit! I met the resident scrounge hound who sat sadly beside the cafe where she had been tied up so that she could not eat all the bacon sandwiches!
On Sunday I tried out the OW swimming at Shepperton, which is a pretty venue and really busy, with queues to register and pay and lots of people in the water. I was afraid it would feel crowded, but once in, my field of vision was pretty small, so I was not conscious of lots of others alongside me. I think I only got in the way of two people, and only lost my bearings completely twice (sighting on a red swim hat instead of the red buoy both times). The sun shone, I swam 3 laps of the 750m course happily and rather enjoyed being overtaken by a moorhen and stared at haughtily by a swan and her cygnets. Then I did the splashing about in just a swimsuit bit again, and I think I might rather take to this Open Water thing in a week or so! By the time I was out and dry, the session was all but over, so my photos show a blissfully empty sunny lake.