I may have mentioned before that I am a keen tennis fan and play at a couple of clubs. Unfortunately I injured myself in May and have not been able to get back on court for a long time.
As it was my main form of exercise, I did pile on the pounds somewhat, and I resorted to wearing looser and looser clothes in a vain attempt to disguise it. By September, I felt far too big and with no sign that I’d be back on court any time soon, I decided that it was time to do something about it.
When I was in primary school, I absolutely loved swimming and was pretty good at it too. We were fortunate that in 1975, the nearby private school installed a brand new indoor pool which, for a small fee, the locals were able to use.
I was a proper water baby, and in the summer holidays would go swimming nearly every day and, thanks to the amount of time it spent submerged in chlorinated water, my straight, shiny dark brown hair transformed into a blonde nest of dry straw.
As I grew older, I began to realise that larking about in the swimming pool was deeply uncool, and by the age of 15 I discovered there were far more interesting things to do with my spare time, such as lounge about looking trendy in stripey leg warmers and pastel mohair jumpers while listening to Duran Duran.
For the next four decades I avoided swimming as a form of exercise due to the fact that the thought of ploughing up and down the pool over and over again, grinding out monotonous length after length, just didn’t appeal. At heart, I still wanted to be running round the edge and dive bombing my mates but apparently it wasn’t seemly for middle-aged women to be doing that.
What drew me back to it was noticing how my body protests for days after doing other forms of vigorous exercise. I figured that the non-impact swimming might be a good idea after all, despite the anticipated tedium of doing it.
Well, let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, heading back to the pool has been a revelation. I swim up and down for about an hour at a time, and early in the morning so that it doesn’t impact on the rest of my working day. And guess what? I absolutely love it! I come out of the water feeling completely refreshed and ready to face the day ahead. Instead of finding it boring, it’s like a form of meditation, where I switch off from the noisy thoughts cluttering my mind and focus on the sound of the bubbles around my ears and the sensation of the water enveloping me.
Another bonus is that my body is changing shape. I have had to tighten my belt from the first notch to the last, and clothes that were clinging and tight now hang fairly loose. Yet I have not changed my diet in any way. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to be able to to look at my wardrobe and not feel depressed. To find a form of exercise that I enjoy and that sheds the weight without making sacrifices in the kitchen is a dream come true! I can pull clothes out of the wardrobe and know they are going to look OK. It is quite literally life-changing.
On the subject of clothing, in his column from 28th November 1981, Dad mentions some customs that used to be associated with what we wear. If you were putting on a new garment for the first time, you were meant to make a wish as you did so, and if it had a pocket then it was common to place a coin inside for good fortune.
When children had new clothes, their friends would give them a pinch on the arm and chant, “Nip for new, nip for new.” They might also sing “Health to wear it, strength to tear it, and money to buy another.”
If my weight loss continues, then I shall have to make a fair few wishes as I restock my wardrobe with new clothes. But every wish will be the same – that I don’t go and put it all back on again!
Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 26th and the Gazette & Herald on 24th November 2021