It was a huge surprise to find out I was 2nd place in fundraising
I signed up for the January Aspire Channel Swim because I was looking for a personal challenge, something positive to start the year off with. I was already booked in to give blood and I had a lot of difficult things coming up. I knew I needed positive stuff to balance it out or to tip the balance in my favour.
I swam the 22 miles in just 10 sessions. I was concerned that I wouldn't find time to do all the lengths, so my plan was to go for fewer, bigger swims. Because it takes time to get to the pool, get changed and dressed again, I wanted to reduce this time and swim as much as I could in each session. Plus, at my pool you can buy 12 sessions for the price of 10, so I could have stretched it to 12 swims, ha! With big swims, for me, it’s a case of coercing myself to carry on, such as “just another 20 lengths, that’s only 10 times up and back.” I like to find ways to make it sound easier!
Swimming also got me out of the house. During the period of the whole swim I had problems in my house (water leak, insurance fixing), so I really was avoiding being home. The mess, dehumidifiers and a massive hole in the floor was all forgotten in the pool. I was also dealing with family ill health and various hospital appointments.
In the water I found a moment for myself, to regroup, to think. I had time to think about my college studies and I would compose lyrics as I swam. In the pool I was pretty much uncontactable, and I couldn’t waste time on my phone, play games or watch TV; it's just me and my thoughts.
It's very good quality time to think as the rhythm of the strokes slows your breathing. I'm a breaststroker, a pretty swift one. That symmetrical, gentle fluid stroke helps you create a positive mental environment, a peaceful little thought bubble.
Swimming did get easier but that first swim, oh! I did get to 76 lengths, but it felt impossible on the way. That's when the "in 10 sessions" target seemed utterly unobtainable. But my second swim was easier; getting ‘in the zone’ happened quicker and I started to feel like I was flying along. As soon as my brain started thinking about lunch, I knew I was nearly done, but pushed through to hit my swim target for the day.
Getting to do the last 100 lengths in a brand-new pool, the Littlehampton Wave, was the highest point. It's a proper swimming pool and sports centre. I'd managed the previous 1,316 lengths in the old pool, so it was a bright shiny joy to complete my challenge on the very first morning that it opened to the public.
To anyone unsure about signing up to the Aspire Channel Swim, be assured that 12 weeks is a lot of time to swim the 22 miles. It gets easier every time and you can go a bit further with each swim. You can start small and finish big.
The support of family and friends will spur you on and give you the energy to push harder. It's a very positive thing to do, it makes you feel good.
It was a huge surprise to find out I was 2nd place in terms of fundraising. I couldn't believe that my supporters had got me so far! One night I hit first place on the leader board. I knew it would be fleeting, so I enjoyed its joyous briefness. It feels really good that my efforts, coupled with my supporters’ donations, will help others, we've made a great team effort.
I'm very aware of how important my mobility is, as my jobs as an artist and a singer require a lot from me physically and I do not take it for granted. Having previously had a back injury, that was remedied with Pilates and other exercise, I know just how lucky I am to be fit now. A friend of mine had an accident and broke her back. She is well on the road to recovery now, but I know how much help she needed to get to this position, which is why charities such as Aspire are so important for that moment that you were not expecting. A simple fall can be catastrophic, that's when you need them.