Swimming in retirement...

I was lucky enough to be born in Australia in a time when learning to swim was considered an essential skill, as important as learning to read and write. And certainly over the decades I have met and worked with people from many different cultures where the ability to swim was either deemed unimportant or more usually something that was taught to the privileged or to the idle. With the indifference of youth I had taken my own ability to swim for granted and it is only with my coming retirement that swimming has become more important. With this page I will look back over the long years and try to see how this change came about and in what manner swimming will be important in my retiring years.

A swimming timeline...

A part of retirement is looking back at where you have come from and in periods of reflection working on what should be kept and what should be simply discarded. This is true of something as simple as swimming and so I am spending some time looking back at how swimming and the water has been involved in my life by constructing a sort of pre-retirement timeline. From there is is only a matter of planning forward for the new beginning that retirement surely brings. Perhaps, Gentle Reader, a similar process might be useful in your own retiring years or perhaps as a strategy for the inevitable reassessment of goals at an 'end of decade' birthday?

Swimming in the 60s...

My younger years were spent in a small country town with a population of about 30,000 people in a humid sub-tropical climate. There were long hot summers and shorter winters and with a local swimming pool, a river and the beach nearby there was ample opportunity to learn to swim and be involved in water activities. So I went to swimming lessons at the local pool and became a proficient but weak swimmer of freestyle, breastroke and backstroke. I also qualified for the base level life saving qualification which I did not take too seriously at the time as I knew that I was physically quite a weak swimmer; how could I ever save anybody from the water? I would not know at that time that I would be called upon in the distant years to save one of my own children from the surf where this training proved its worth. It would be a great gift indeed to know the path that you are set upon and thus appreciate the importance of your daily steps and tasks?

Up until my later teenage years claimed me I also spent some time swimming in the surf on family holidays and this sort of swimming I look back upon with great affection. I always remember many decades ago being pummeled by the waves, spun upside down and churned under the water before eventually coming up for air with salt water up my nose and a considerable deposit of sand up my swimmers! There was not such a great appreciation of the effects of the sun back then and I also have memories of sunburn: cracked lips and scabby noses, vast swathes of peeling skin. But great memories of the beach, the sand, the boom of the surf, scrabbling across rocky headlands...

Swimming in the long years...

But like many people with this exposure to swimming much of this dried up when the later teenage years claimed me and after this there was the arrival of responsibility in all of its varied forms. I had to work, I married and had children of my own; there seemed little time for swimming for myself and I confess, Gentle Reader, that for several decades my own swimming efforts were slight. Anybody reading this who has assumed the role of true adult in this modern world will know of the sacrifices that need to be made; these sacrifices are well worthwhile. And thus the long years passed...

On rereading the paragraph above I suspect it looks a little gloomier than it actually was! Throughout this time I did actually swim in lakes and pools with my wife (a former world record holding swimmer) and I went to swimming lessons with my children and took them to the beach as my parents had done for me. In later times I have also done the same with my grandchildren, the joyful reward for having children. And I should definitely not forget that the ability to swim allowed me to rescue one of my young children who was swept out to sea in a rip! So though my focus on swimming did indeed fade somewhat swimming was never entirely out of the picture. It did however take a series of unplanned for events for me to start swimming more seriously toward the end of my middle years.

Squad swimming...

In my workplace I was temporarily involved in a project to make my workplace a healthier place to work in. A by-product of this process was a scheme whereby staff could make a small payment per fortnight and then have 'free' access to multiple fitness facilities throughout the state. After I signed up for this I visited a quite flashy gym that ordinarily I could not have afforded or to tell the truth even been interested in frequenting. It may come as no surprise to you, Gentle Reader, to hear that this gym had a 6 lane, 50 metre indoor, heated pool.

After a few months building up skill and strength in swimming at this gym I landed in a squad group of mostly triathletes who were truly an incredibly fit, focussed and hard-working bunch of people. 0500hrs to 0630hrs three times a week throughout the year with sessions of 4 to 4.8 kilometres. I remember that Monday was usually distance, Wednesday strength and Fridays were sprints although the crafty coach would mix this up a little to keep swimmers on their toes. I enjoyed this immensely for about three years before COVID-19 closed the gyms and eventually lead to the end of squad swimming at the gym. Many, many great memories of this time!

Swimming in retirement...

And so finally to the actual purpose of this page, to show how swimming has become a part of my retirement plan. I have been slow to the point because in my mind I needed to see the full picture of my involvement with swimming over the past years to grasp properly how swimming would fit in with the new beginning that retirement will bring to me. I have no plans to return to squad swimming although looking at the way that serendipity has kept me to my path over the years I would not rule that out at all.

I plan to swim three times a week at the local pool which offers all year outdoor swimming in an 8 lane, 50 metre heated pool. In fact, Gentle Reader, I was there this morning. It is winter here as I write and the air temperature was a cool 3°C (37.4°F) and there was frost across my front lawn. The water temperature was a balmy 27°C (80.6°F); there was steam blowing off the water and it was a beautiful, beautiful swim! The special joy of retirement is that I have many, many such swims avalable to me over the upcoming, long years...

I have access to several other pools in the local area and perhaps at some stage I will look at some ocean swims, I certainly have the fitness and strength for such swims if not the skills for open water swimming. So I feel that one way or the other I seem to have by chance laid down the foundation to make swimming a solid part of my retirement plan, it remains to continue with the implementation of this plan and also to keep on simply enjoying swimming during the long years of my retirement.