Rebecca Adlington OBE – who famously swam to a double Olympic gold in Beijing and a double bronze four years later at the London games – gives us the lowdown on swimming for fitness and fun.
life after professional swimming
Retiring at 23 was shocking to a lot of people, but it’s normal in the swimming world. I didn’t swim for six months after I retired – I just needed that time off – but when I was pregnant with my daughter, Summer [now 22 months] I swam all the time. I take her swimming twice a week and I swim once a week. It’s 30 minutes of total peace with no distractions. Swimming is still my life: I run Rebecca Adlington Swim Stars, I’m an Ambassador for Everyone Active, I attend events promoting the sport, I’m a patron of Women in Sport and I do the commentating for the swimming on the BBC, so I just feel like I’ve moved departments.
‘swimming is such a great, sociable sport ‘
I learned to swim when I was three and it was something I did socially with my family. I made my first junior team in 2002 when I was 13 and went to the Commonwealth Games in Manchester that same year, which was a real light bulb moment for me. I remember thinking, ‘I want to do that’. I never really thought I could win an Olympic gold medal – I only believed it once I’d done it!
workout of the month – yoga
Flexibility in the legs is key to good swimming. Yoga is really good for improving flexibility and I know so many swimmers who do it to relax as well. Plank exercises are also great for improving your core so you don’t end up sinking in the water!
perfect your stroke
Front crawl is the fastest and most efficient stroke for cardio and it’s not too hard on your joints. Don’t over think the breathing; you don’t have to hold your breath. I’d recommend using a kickboard and putting your face in and out of the water to get used to it. YouTube videos are also really good for seeing how to do a stroke, and your local swimming pool will probably have laminated programmes so you can mix up your swimming session and not just do the same 60 lengths each time.
get the kit – swimming costume, goggles and swim cap
I think the one thing that puts most women off swimming is putting a costume on. It’s daunting – I still feel like that now! Everyone thinks people are looking at them but they’re really not, they’ve got their head under the water and they’re concentrating on their swimming. Getting a nice costume that you feel good in, and a hat and goggles will make you feel ten times more confident.
Rebecca Adlington is an Ambassador for Everyone Active.