Swimming ‘Up’ (Not Up And Down)

On Holiday Swim Slow and Find Your Flow!

We’ve just returned from a trip to Gibraltar. It’s difficult to find beaches as nice as the ones on our doorstep in Pembrokeshire but holidays are a great opportunity to sort your head out in the water.

The Rock Hotel has an excellent saltwater pool, long enough for a good stretch and empty in the morning. Enjoying the buoyancy of the saltwater and the sun on my back (wearing a rash guard to prevent sunburn) I wondered, as I often do, about the value of swimming up and down, for exercise.

My aim on holiday is to do in water what Alexander Technique fans call ‘going up’. Up is the direction we all really want to go. When we let go and go with the flow, the neck relaxes, the head goes out of the body (‘up’) so the back expands and the limbs become free. 20 minutes’ gentle breaststroke in the right environment, letting this happen, can be quite transforming. But it’s as much a mental as a physical thing.

In my experience, the aim to go up has to be clear. I need to give the water time to help me lengthen and widen my back. You could call this ‘swimming up‘ as opposed to ‘swimming up and down’, when you set out thinking something like, ‘Right, I’m going to do x number of lengths and get some of this fat off’. Swimming up and down often means swimming yourself ‘down’ if you’re not careful, tightening your neck, twisting your head into your body and fixing your ribs.

Cheryl and I filmed each other working on ‘swimming up’, attempting to ‘swim slow and go with the flow’.

We also did a bit of swimming down, in some secret caves. The water was deep and dark but pure and clear. We drank some and it was wonderfully refreshing. It isn’t easy to release and expand in an ice-cold underground lake but lowering myself in off a little bridge and taking what seemed like an age to surface was the best moment of my holiday.

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