#138 Swimming – ‘Even With Depression, Anything Is Possible’

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As is so often the case in my life I’d over estimated my abilities dramatically, but how did I do it again? My 50 meter swimming badge was in the bag before my 7th birthday and I’d picked a brick up from the bottom of the pool* before anyone else in my class. It was just a fact, I was a good swimmer.

In fairness I never really validated that fact much more thereafter but I never needed to, the badge was sewn onto my Speedos, I’d been there and got the trunks t-shirt.

So when I signed up for the Ironman triathlon, I knew I could do the marathon because I’d already done a couple and, although difficult, I knew it was possible. The 112 miles of cycling was ‘meh’, I mean I didn’t have a bike and I hadn’t ever ridden a road bike but I could almost do a wheelie on my BMX when I was kid – plus when you go downhill you don’t even have to pedal, so no worries there. And like I said, I was confident on the 2.4 mile swim too, swimming badge and all.

When I began training I learned two things immediately, 1) it was 20 years since I had got my 50 meter swimming badge and I will freely admit I had lost a bit of the fitness I had at that time, I was well rested shall we say. And 2) 50 meters is not 2.4 miles.

Not to worry it is just fitness. I clearly had the mechanics down from an early age and swimming is like riding a bike, except giving your mate a backie is a little more challenging. I’d seen how fitness can develop as my first ever run for marathon training was 1 mile and I had to stop twice. So no problem, keep swimming, keep the faith and it will come.

It didn’t.

So I asked a friend of a friend who was a swimming teacher if he could help me. I’d show him my flawless technique and he would realise he just needs to draw me up a training plan to hit the distances and we are golden. He later commented however that I reminded him of a documentary he saw when an octopus suddenly attack a particularly feisty crab.

A bit of work to do then.

Work we did, and 6 months later I finished the Ironman swim in 1 hour 33 minutes, which is about how fast a standard issue house brick would float around Lake Zürich if dropped in the water… but I did it. The erratic octopus with a 50m badge did it.

It is for this reason that on days like today I had the opportunity to swim at work and took it with both fins. It wasn’t two miles of lengths but more; throwing a kid around a pool, pretending to be a shark and noodle jousting*. Doing the training and figuring out my technique though gives me confidence, it is quite liberating, like being conscious of the exact moment you learned to walk as a child. The surroundings are the same but so much more is possible. That is how I feel.

Everyone and their grandmother will tell you exercise is good for depression and I can say that during Ironman training, which lasted a total of 7 months, I never had a bout of depression, or mania, or anxiety. Since I stopped exercising due to injury a couple of years ago I haven’t had the same mental health since, so I am currently looking at and beginning to organise the next big challenge, this time with the involvement of a mental health charity. I can’t reveal too many details at the moment but watch this space*.


*which I later came to surmise that given the demographics of my home town was in fact just to help the cleaners

*Not a euphemism 

*Well not this space exactly, I won’t go back and edit this post, I’ll write a new one. Look at the as yet not finished future posts I post.

P.S credit to the little known but wonderful artist David Hockney, I’d encourage you to go check out some of his other stuff – he’s really one to watch. 

P.P.S oh, and I added in the octopus, not sure why David didn’t put one in originally. Saved his piece really. 




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  1. unironedman

    Dang! The swimming badge. I had totally forgotten about the swimming badge. I’m pretty sure I had an impressive 200 metre one, but I concede my memory might be playing tricks on me… Either way, I suspect it was my Mum who had to sew it on to the togs…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SalAA

    I never got a swimming badge! Didn’t realise it still rankled til I read this 🙂 I can fairly confidently not drown in deep water, but never had the coordination to do any proper swimming strokes. I’m curious now what sea creature attack I look like in the water.
    I am finding exercise is helping my mental health, but at the moment only while I’m exercising. I’m starting slow after many years of inactivity, so the very idea of the feats you’ve accomplished boggles my mind. I did a 5k earlier this year, walking. Good luck with the new project.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul Green

      well done on the not dying in water badge, should be on its way to you. Also a big well done on your 5k, you will be surprised how much you are capable of. Keep it up! I think you should sign up to something and then tell everyone you’re doing it, you’ll have no option but to motivate yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Liza Lou

    I love swimming! It’s possibly the only thing I still manage to drag myself too weekly even in my deepest depths of despair.

    Also totally unrelated but why did I have it in my mindseye that you were a girl


    Liked by 1 person

  4. catbonny

    I love this. I have been training for 5k and 10k races for the last 7 months, and will start half marathon training. The funny thing is that before this I never exercised, and now exercising it one of my primary forms of stress relief, and also one of my biggest senses of accomplishment. I love your blog. I love that you share your struggles, and that there is another authentic voice in the world. Thanks for the inspiration.


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