What a weird year – so far…

We are now well into March. Where has the time gone? With all the activity of the beginning of the year, I have been quietly sorting out stuff to do with my book and also look at starting out on the public speaking circuit. Recently, The Slimhippo and I took ourselves off to Africa to see my parents, get some much needed vitamin D and travel around a bit to big lakes – no swimming in these lakes due to the size of the crocodiles and the many hippos and take in some wild animals. We also took the opportunity to pop in and see her sister for her birthday.

This happened just as Corona virus was taking a grip on the world. As we were going to be away for two weeks, we cleaned out the fridge and most the pantry – and yes, we let the toilet roll run low (rookie error!). As we arrived in Africa, we were screened for high temperatures and required to fill in details of where we would be. We travelled around on holiday watching snippets of news via various news feeds at how swift this virus was taking hold. First China, then Italy, then USA, then Europe. We watched as the world shut down – at alarming speed. All the time Boris had his head shoved somewhere where the sun don’t shine and was choosing another option – if we ignore it, it might go away.

We travelled back from South Africa on a half full Airbus A380. Upon landing the signs were starting to show; our luggage took an age to get from the plane to the baggage hall – congestion at the loading area?! – presumably as there were a shortage of workers. Eventually it arrived, then we headed home to unpack, (although we popped into the loos in the airport beforehand, as we were worried about our stock of bog roll!), make ourselves presentable, then fetch the cat and finally to the shops to restock our house.

Life as we knew it had definitely changed. Queues at the major supermarkets were insane. Loo roll was not on sale anywhere until I finally found a Co-op that was in the midst of having a delivery – SAVED. We now have 9 rolls, and the tree leaves in our garden are safe – for now.

Monday -Work

It was now time to face reality. As we were about to leave for work, the Slimhippo got a call from her work asking if she was had any suspicious symptoms. While she had a mild cough and sore throat, she was unwilling to miss work as to do this was to risk not being paid (despite being in permanent employment!). If she was to self isolate for 14 days it would make her paycheck pretty small. Fortunately, her boss then let her know that she had to stay at home on full pay for 7 days.

I went into the office and was asked if I was okay to be there. I am, but due to my wife self isolating, I have now set up working from home for the foreseeable future. On my way home, I dropped into the shops to try get some of the things we were still low on. The last time I saw shops this empty was in Zimbabwe in 2009, at the height of hyperinflation. Quite surreal to see it and to see people at the checkout, buying mountains of anything (24 tins of tomatoes! 6 jars of pasta sauces! Thousands of nappies!) they classed essential, to ride this out. The Government had by now extracted its head from the sand and started the systematic shutdown of the country. This is going to be bad for many, and I am very grateful that I have a job, can work from home, and that we have the pantry and fridge stocked for a while.

Back to swimming

My book sales have been going well, and my first public speaking arrangement was a great success. Thanks to my mother’s organisational skills, I was invited to talk to 60 healthcare professionals while we were on holiday in Zimbabwe, about my book. The challenge was to get 1.5 hours of content down to 30 minutes! I did it and it was such good fun, and well received. However, with Britain self isolating, I have no idea when the next talk will be – but please let me know if any of you out there would be interested in me coming to do a talk for you.

So how do the people who have big swims train at the moment?

It seems that some of the swims have already been cancelled but others later in the year have not been affected – yet! However with some pool closures and this social distancing, keeping the training going, around the world is becoming a challenge. For me, I confess I have hardly done any swimming this year, choosing to keep training my mind. While I am known the world over for someone who does not do much physical training, I now find myself in a situation where I have done very little this year, probably about 150km shy of others that I know I will be competing against out in the water. Does it bother me? Not really – I think it bothers the Slimhippo much more! I console myself that I will at least arrive at the start injury free. As an experiment for my Lago D’Orta swim, I trained very little so I know I can do it by cranking up the distance later in the year, even if it won’t be pretty. However:


I am lucky to have 12 years of endurance stuff behind me and I know my capabilities so as the pools start to shut down, I will be heading to the lakes and placing more emphasis on my Pilates and cross training. I focus on the mental stuff every day as I always have. I might even dust off those running shoes to get out for a little waddle! (They tell me hippos run fast, ha!) One thing is for sure, this is going to be an extraordinary year for all of us as trying to keep focus with everything that is going on around us globally, with events cancelled, training camps cancelled, and training regimes and protocols being adapted to the NEW NORM. Not only will the chlorine and the salt play havoc with our skin and hair, we can add alcohol based sanitizers to the list.

More importantly, Keep Positive! I know in these worrying times that can be an immense challenge and I turn daily to my mantras and visualisation to get me through. Eat healthily. Again this is a challenge when you go looking for fresh fruit and vegetables in the shops but I try to eat hand prepared meals every day rather than search out the ready cooked meals. Relaxation is also a big part of my day where I try to just close my mind off from the world and focus on the positives I have in my life. My life, my wife, my health, my ability, my friends and family, my job, my ability to work from home. In this time of mental and physical turmoil it is always good to reflect on the things we have to be grateful for and – having just come back from a third world country – there are MANY.

I am not a huge fan of Social media when comparing yourself to others, but desperate times call for desperate measures so reaching out and discussing your dilemmas and training plans with others who are in the same boat is going to happen a lot more. Do not glue yourselves to Social media and follow all the negative things that come flying our way. Use this time constructively to reach out to others and discuss your training or your challengs. My phone is always on and should any of you want to Skype/Facebook messenger or contact me, I will be happy to chat and discuss your training plans with you. Swimhippo Coaching is here to help.

Coming soon – my new website! In the meantime, give me a call – I can be that sounding board and help you tune up that mental flexibility. In the mean time, take care out there.

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