Sporting Declaration: Life in the slow lane

THE revelation that there was a "toxic culture" in the Australian swimming team at last year's London Olympics does not surprise Sporting Declaration in the least.

Let's face it, swimming is a relaxing pastime if you are cooling off at the beach during a mid-summer scorcher, luxuriating in a resort pool or having a splash with the kids in the backyard before firing up the barbie.

As for this business of churning out lap after lap in a quest for health and fitness, anyone who is so inclined must be certifiable.

And I should know. Somehow I have become one of them.

It all started four or five months ago while my kids were doing diving training at Lambton Pool.

I had read the papers cover to cover.

My iPhone battery had run dead.

As I sat there, pondering another mind-numbing hour of paternal devotion, it dawned on me that I could perhaps spend this time more productively.

I resolved that for their next training session I would bring my swimmers and a pair of goggles.

Thus began my descent into madness.

From memory, I started with maybe eight or 10 laps at approximately the pace of a crippled jellyfish.

Pleasantly surprised that I had not drowned, in ensuing weeks I increased my output to 12 laps, then 16, and up to 20.

Next I made the quantum leap to 30 laps. And then, bursting with pent-up energy after a long, tedious drive to Wagga, I produced a new PB of 40 laps.

Soon I was taking the plunge three or four times a week.

And not just to kill time during diving training. I even started ducking in for a pre-work fix after dropping the kids at school.

Last week I astounded myself by racking up a half-century - 2.5 kilometres, to be precise - a feat that was even more remarkable because I hit the water at 6.10am, before the sun had risen.

The funny thing about swimming is that it is not so much a physical challenge as internal psychological warfare.

Each day it is an arm-wrestle between two arch-enemies of my personality: the maniacal masochist and the slovenly sofa sloth.

And more often than not it is the masochist who prevails.

To be honest, other than the last few strokes of my final lap, I hate every second in the pool.

But for some unknown reason I've come to hate myself more if I don't do it.

And this is where my inner masochist is a cunning bugger.

If I pulled up in the carpark with the intention of swimming 40 laps, I would no doubt turn around and go to the pub.

So instead the masochist convinces me to punch out a leisurely 20 laps, at the end of which he cajoles me into an extra 10 and then 10 more.

It is motivation by stealth.

Meanwhile, as this daily battle of wills rages inside my head, there are other sources of frustration tipping me towards full-blown psychosis.

Water in the eardrum, for starters. Or personal space invaders who invite themselves to share your lane.

Or slowcoaches with their silly kickboards causing traffic congestion. Or poseurs with flippers and webbed gloves who are cheating nobody but themselves. Or school carnivals.

All of which combine to gradually drive you bonkers.

So imagine, just imagine, being one of these Olympians, and having to not just do this day in, day out, for a quid, but race against other nutbags hell-bent on sabotaging your life's work.

No wonder they've become a bunch of antisocial weirdos.

As for this columnist, I'm still clinging to one last shred of sanity.

I haven't yet resorted to wearing budgie smugglers.


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