Swimming and Singing

Swimming doesn’t only get you fit. I love the feeling of having had a deep cleanse after swimming (inside & out as I’m sure a bit of pool water get through the dermis) and there’s the mental wellbeing/relaxing aspect of having your head and face in the water, the only sound being the swish swash of your strokes in the pool. Temporarily you can escape to being anywhere or nowhere, and forget any troubles.

Like anything it is of course more beneficial mentally if you concentrate on the physical job in hand rather than day dreaming or planning. The only thing I tend to think about when I’m swimming is swimming – whether my technique feels right, what stroke I’ll do next, how many lengths I’ll swim & how I’ll break them up.

Running & cycling are slightly different as whilst I’m still very aware of my body and how I feel physically, there’s more opportunity to look around and contemplate the view and the weather. While I’m running the regular rhythm of my footfall is  accompanied by a story in my head – a blog post, or a feature, or stream of consciousness thoughts about the world & life. Most of these never get written down: and after all a blogpost every time I went running would get pretty boring.

I’ve had a long break from swimming but last Thursday it was finally a good time to get back to the pool (swimming on holiday doesn’t count as ‘proper’ swimming, however fantastic the view of mountains covered in snow behind a pool is).  I love swimming – I was a late developer in terms of being a decent swimmer, and the joy of it hasn’t left me. Once upon a pre-children time I swam twice a week: and whilst I didn’t keep that up, I swam through all my pregnancies.  It had lapsed since having Edward due to work & children but recently David & I have re-arranged our childcare arrangements. This – joy! – means that I should be able to swim AND have a singing lesson on a Thursday before I fetch the children from David, or on a Monday.  I also realised that I shall be able to cycle to & from work on a Thursday if I want: at least as long as I work part-time. It won’t last  for ever but for now my weekly schedule feels very satisfactory.

This is due in part to my parents having generously given me a car, so David & I now have one each. It makes life so much easier: besides the fact that I’m enjoying driving a smooth, well-built Volvo rather than a rattly van-type Fiat!

Singing is not dissimilar in its benefits to swimming: the physical benefits aren’t as marked but certainly my breath control and lung capacity are good because of a combination of the two, and both have a feel-good factor.  Or at least singing normally does…

Singing solos, particularly in competition, is slightly different.  As with any competition there is the chance to become completely disheartened and for one’s confidence or belief in one’s ability to suffer.  With races I had never expected much of myself so it was a great pleasure to get a place or a good time; the last triathlon I did was disappointing but I knew I wasn’t very fit so I wasn’t surprised.  Somehow with singing I am far more self-critical and there is still – even all these years after having left University – a voice in my head that asks why on earth I think I’m standing up there singing solos: ‘who on earth would want to listen to me’.

The answers are complicated but Stephen Roberts, the lovely adjudicator for Carlisle Festival, hit the nail on the head in his assessment of one of my pieces: his words were along the lines of ‘your biggest problem is your lack of self-belief’.   He provided fantastic constructive criticism to all the entrants he judged and I think it would be fair to say that almost unanimously people agreed that he was an adjudicator we’d want back again.

So: my singing lessons start again soon.  And conquering that negative voice is one of the things I need to learn.

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