From Swallowing Water To Mermaid

I was swallowing water, choking and began to feel panicked...

This was me at my first swimming lesson (ever!) just six weeks ago. In a pool. With a pretty solid running and cycling background, but only the ability to doggy paddle, I decided to set myself a new challenge for 2019: Learn to swim and enter a triathlon!  

Entering races is my way to stay motivated to train and set myself new fitness goals. I never imagined myself as a swimmer. Treading water was previously reserved for holidays with glass of chardonnay in hand. After joining the amazing crew at Embark on the official #RoadToITU programme I’d soon swapped my vino for a lumo swimming cap and goggles. 

“Show us what you’ve got,” said coach STeve Atwell (from Embark Tri, and #Road2ITU Coach) as I lurked awkwardly in the shallow end of the Camps Bay Primary swimming pool. Two lengths nearly killed me: I was swallowing water, choking and began to feel panicked because I couldn’t get enough air in. I had no idea how to breathe and actually swim at the same time. 

Six weeks later and I’ve completed my first 2km canal swim – no reaching for the sides (although still swallowing some sea water). 

It’s incredible how much you can improve when you have the support system of a coach, a crew (my new triathlete friends) and some consistent training. Even though this is my first triathlon, I’m feeling confident enough to move up from the sprint and do the standard distance.

Four years ago – at the start of my journey into fitness – I did the running leg of the Discovery Triathlon World Cup Cape Town sprint distance triathlon. It makes me emotional to think that, back then, that was a big deal and to see how far I’ve come. Wish me luck on race day! 

Amy Hopkins is the Food and Managing Editor for Women’s Health Magazine. This is her first triathlon. You can follow her at @amy_hoppy on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.