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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Sunday, 14 June 2015


I woke yesterday morning feeling mildly over-indulged from the previous night's dinner. With what the Afrikaners describe as lang tande (lit. long teeth, or general reluctance), decided to go for a swim at our local gym. The motivation was largely to neutralise the effects of the big meal the previous night which, with hindsight, may not have been the greatest motivator.

There was no part of me that especially wanted that swim, and the performance in the water for my first couple of hundred metres suggested that my body's willingness was equal to my mind's: pretty low on the willingness scale. Tired shoulders from the outset, no rhythm, bored and just wanting to get it over with.

After 10 lengths I stopped and questioned whether this was the way I wanted it or indeed whether it was doing me much good. I could think of other times where I had exercised out of obligation rather than out of willingness and how little satisfaction I had got at the time. So what was the opportunity on offer here? What would transform a lang tande swim into an outing that I could and would enjoy?

The strategy I chose was to forget about how far I still had to swim and simply to focus on each stroke and the sensations on my body in the water. I immediately started seeing the bubbles around each hand every time it entered the water and the shape of my hands and arms in the water. I felt the cool flow of water down my flanks, and the way my body rotated with each breath to the left and right. Within a length or two I could feel my rhythm was back, any muscular discomfort was minimal and I was swimming with purpose again. 

So then I started feeling grateful for the opportunity to swim, thinking about people who were injured, those who didn't know how to swim and those who simply had no access to a pool.

All of a sudden I was swimming beautifully (well, in my own estimation anyway) and loving the experience. The lengths passed by quickly and then it was time to get out.

The possibility which Life had offered me (or perhaps which I had offered myself) was the opportunity to transform and enhance my physical performance simply by changing the way I was approaching the exercise. The wonderful thing is that that is on offer to all of us, whether we're battling with exercise, weight loss or any other particular undertaking.

So, move over, Michael Phelps: your secret is out!

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