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Going South: Swimming

June 13th 2013 / Imogen Edwards-Jones


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The one exercise Imogen Edwards-Jones loves is swimming - and with Bodyism's help she's now even better at it than before

When it comes to exercise I'm the first person to put their hand up and admit I’m utterly useless at something. Star jumps? I’d rather eat my own armpit hair. Squats? I’d prefer to stand starkers on that spare plinth in Trafalgar Square for all to gawp at. The plank? You’ll find I’m stir-frying the cat, or the dog, or even the Goddamn hamster who disappeared under the garden decking three months ago, never to be seen again. Honestly I’d rather have that old, half rotten hairball with some coriander and a slice of ginger, than do a wretched plank and see ‘how long I can last.’

Swimming, however, is another story. I love it. And I mean I really love it. I can do it for hours. I find it therapeutic. I can slip slop, length after length, up and down a pool, thinking about other things, plotting books, thinking of biscuits, worrying through my latest problems. I have swum all my life and between you, me and the internet, I am quite good at it. I swam for my school, I did county trials, and I even dived competitively (very Princess Diana, I know.) So there you have it. Swimming and I are good friends.

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So when I shimmied into the Bodyism Gym in the basement of the Bulgari Hotel, Knightsbridge, I have to say I was brimming with confidence. “Tom,” they told me, “will look at your stroke, tweak it to help perfect it.” Yeah well, Tom can eat chlorine. Tom can take notes. Tom can look and learn. Tom can…. Oh Christ! Tom was ridiculously good-looking and about 12. Which would be fine, if I were the usual Rosie Huntington-Whiteley type that he trains. Not a 105 year old, poured in to an ageing Lycra suit, posting her pubic hair back into her costume, in goggles so tight my eyeballs were about to fall out. “Would you like one of these?” he said, handing me some pale pink rubber. Great, is all I can think as I snap it on, a Dutch cap on my head. That’ll complete ‘The Look’ nicely.

Anyway, finally I got into the water (God, it’s a nice pool by the way! All low lit and greeny blue = heaven) and I started to swim. Now there is nothing to make you more self-conscious about doing something than someone scrutinising your every move. To say I tried very hard to embrace my inner Rebecca Adlington is something of an understatement. By the time I had done my two demo lengths where I kicked and front crawled like a lunatic I was ready for a lie down, two fags and an oxygen tent. I was shattered!

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But Tom was nice! “I can tell you were a squad swimmer,” he said. I would have punched the air if I weren’t so knackered. “Your kick is good.” Yes! Yes! “We need to work on the arms. They are going flat into the water and you are not using them to push the water away under the water.”

And so for the next half hour Tom had me going up and down the pool. He changed my breathing (every three strokes – better for my neck, apparently) and my front crawl stroke (make an S with my arms). He also taught me a way to kick up and down the pool to strengthen my stomach muscles and stretch out my back. By the end my front crawl stroke was much improved and I was getting quicker through the water. I’d been tweaked.

Actually, I had been more than tweaked. I’d learnt something and improved a life skill, which is not an everyday occurrence when you are a grown up. I was delighted. I love swimming and now I am better at it, and unlike sodding star-jumps or the plank, it is something that I can take away with me and use in my real life. I only wish I could do that every week.

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