Becoming a swimmer was difficult to avoid. Most of my childhood memories contain various public swimming pools, damp chlorine scented hair and beach towels hanging on the line to dry ready for use the following day.

My mother was a pre-school swimming instructor, so I spent a lot of hours splashing in the water while she taught other people’s children to swim. I was deep diving to the bottom of the deep end before I can recall starting school.

My older brother was a swim club captain. He was a more disciplined swimmer than me and much faster. Still, I followed him to club swimming and for a time both parents were our coaches. We could be at the pools for training by 5.30am before school, and again after school 4 times a week.

Although encouraging of our sport, our parents were not pushy. They did not force us to swim, but they did sacrifice many hours and weekends to trainings, time keeping, driving us around the state for competitions and endless days sitting poolside cheering.

I loved swimming. As a teenager it had the benefit of being a social outlet. Teammates were best friends, opposing clubs became friendly rivals. I trained as hard as I could and found a way to be comfortable in discomfort during particularly hard gut-busting sessions.

Swimming was not the only sport I enjoyed. There was netball, basketball, touch football, a longing to try Aussie rules football (at that time girls we not allowed to play), a short foray into cross country running. Team sports were a highlight on my teenage development years, but individual athletics event was not for me. A high school teacher once told me ‘You’re like a fish out of water’ as I attempted a low-bar high jump. He was not wrong.

The water has featured prominently in my life. My preferred holiday destinations are close to water, self-care usually involves water somehow – often as a long hot shower - both my children were water births. If I’m landlocked for too long, I get anxious. I need to see the sea.

For a long time I didn’t swim at all. Life had evolved and there wasn’t much time. There was a focus on having fun, being with friends and working, exercise really wasn’t a priority. Then there were little babies to look after, more studying as I changed careers and a general lack of time for anything. Two pregnancies and numerous unrelated health issues – including a giant cell tumor taking residence in my right femur bone under my kneecap – suddenly changed the way I could exercise. Impact was out. My knee surgery required lengthy physio and strength re-building exercises at the gym.

A feeling to be back in the water during this time of rehab came over me. I emerged myself into the local lap lanes and just started swimming. It felt so good, like freedom.

Although I have never completed a full triathlon, it is my spirit sport. About a year before my knee flared up, I completed the swim leg in a team triathlon at Maraetai, Auckland. The team aptly named Blame the Wine consisted of two girlfriends – both keen sportswoman who have completed full tri’s by themselves. I took my role as swimmer seriously, I wanted to be a strong member of the team. Training for this event felt fabulous. I’ve always been a pool swimmer - a keen surf beach body boarder, yes - but never much of a long-distance ocean swimmer. This was new to me.

At the start of the triathlon, I was so nervous I very nearly burst into tears and refused to swim. The beauty of being part of a team is you can’t let the other members down. So, I started at the very back of the pack in a borrowed wetsuit and just started swimming. My stroke felt strong, my breathing calm and kick consistent. This wasn’t so hard, my self belief grabbed hold and off I went. Blame the Wine finished third.

Taking my knee rehab to the water was natural. Since the surgery and my first team triathlon I have now completed numerous ocean swims. Bucket list before I turned 40 included the Auckland ‘Swim the Bridge’ 2km crossing. I was part of the inaugural pack in 2019 to do this swim. Covid put a stop to the 2020 event, but in 2021 I did the double crossing again. This swim was the most challenging of all. Conditions were horrible and my time ballooned way out. Battered and breathless I finished. It is the most rewarding swim I have ever done.

Teaming up with Laura and Shaun for my second team-triathlon in 2021 was super fun. Laura was the cyclist in Blame the Wine. This time, with Team Lush, she put her boots on for the run. Shaun cycled his heart out, his first ever Triathlon event. My swim was slightly slower than I was aiming for, but Team Lush still managed to claim third in its category.

We have our sights on the Tauranga Half now.

I don’t swim as regularly as I should. Some weeks are better than others. It’s not really training anymore either. I don’t do many drills or push myself too hard. Swimming is now about enjoyment. I’ll swim until I’m happy.

My life doesn’t give me much time for exercise, but I know it’s important. For my physical heart and my emotional heart. Beyond swimming I walk, although I’d like to do more. As my children get older, I know I’ll return to more physical exercise in my life, but I also know it will be different. What I’ve learned as my body changes is to adapt with those changes. I might not be able to run a marathon, leg press my way into the record books, but I can still move, stretch and of course, swim.

If this sounds a romantic gesture, it’s supposed to be. Find your fun in the physical and keep doing it. For some it will be running, cycling, gym work or social team sports. For people like my sister-in-law its pole dancing (she’s a two time national champ). It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you move and improve.

Team Lush is a perfect example. Tauranga, we’re coming for you!
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