The new workout plan

I’ve been swimming laps since I got back to Australia in early December, one to two kilometres at a time, but since Christmas I’ve been doing a more structured 2km session. Ironically enough, it was put together by the woman who taught me to swim as a baby! Now it’s being quietly passed around the ladies of the town like a prize recipe.

  • 200m freestyle, breathing every three arms (helps fitness)
  • 200m freestyle kick, no flippers (helps define legs)
  • 200m breastroke (help inter legs and upper arms)
  • 200m breastroke kick on board (helps inter legs)
  • 200m backstroke kick (works legs)
  • 200m freestyle kick with breastroke arms (helps “tuckshop arms” AKA bingo wings)
  • 200m freestyle pull, no kick, with pull buoy and paddles if you have them… one arm only for 5om then other arm for 50m, repeat. This is killer – I have to do 25m on each single arm then a lap of both arms together (works arms)
  • 200m fly kick with flippers, breastroke arms (works legs and arms)
  • 200m reverse fly kick with flippers (works lower tummy)
  • 200m warm down any stroke

It’s long enough on paper to leave you feeling nice and smug for completing it; but it’s actually quite easy, though you can feel it working your muscles. The 200m blocks make it slip away quickly.

The meditative joys of lap swimming are something I’ve written about before (one of my favourite posts). But it’s quite a change from the ladies’ ocean pool in Coogee to the St George town pool. Replace salt water with electric blue chlorine. Replace submarine fish and crabs with swarms of sandflies above the surface, zooming at your eyes and nostrils and leaving itchy bites on your skin. And replace nannas baring their boobs with ragamuffin children getting in your way. Lap swimming in the George is less a spiritual commune with nature, than a lateral thinking exercise and an obstacle course.

Still, it’s an oddly beautiful prospect – the chlorinated water almost fluorescently bright in the afternoon sun, black lane lines running up and down like seven spines. I’d love to take some photos there, but I think that kind of behaviour can get you arrested these days.

There’s a nice symmetry to being back in that pool, where I learned to swim and hammered out countless kilometres in primary school squad training. It’s had a facelift since then – some new tiles, lifeguard towers, a lot more safety signs. They put in fancy new diving blocks for the swim club, but unfortunately then realised that due to the unconventional design of the pool – two shallow ends deepening to six foot in the middle – the end was too shallow for people to safely dive from the blocks. So now there’s a permanent row of fuck-off orange witches hats perched atop the blocks.

After a day of working in the sun, slipping into the pool seems more like a luxury than a chore. And the daily sessions seem to be working – today I swam hundreds of metres of freestyle without stopping. My usual panting breaks at each lap end were replaced with rusty but triumphant tumble-turns. Touching the wall at the end nearly felt as good as the old club days. All that was missing was someone’s mum leaning over the end with a stopwatch, cheering you to the finish, and then a little paper bag of mixed lollies to eat on the way home.

For anyone contemplating that new-year-bikini-body bollocks, this song is a good start for keeping things in perspective.
Kanye West – The New Workout Plan

That’s right, put in work
Move your ass, go berserk
Eat your salad, no dessert

[Girl] Thanks to Kanye’s workout plan
I’m the envy of all my friends
See I pulled me a baller man
And I don’t gotta work at the mall again