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Athletics for Beginners

I recently attended the World Aquatic Development Conference in Lund, Sweden. I said to Shane Gould* that I found the 'sacrifice' of elite athletes unfathomable. She immediately corrected me: "Commitment not sacrifice. It's a commitment."

I am not a natural athlete. I can walk, run and cut interesting shapes on the dancefloor. Intermittently, I force myself to go the gym. I follow fitness gurus like The Body Coach on Instagram for "inspiration" and "tips" for intense workouts I rarely sustain. I don't follow the football or rugby or cricket. I have problems with coordination, distinguishing left and right (always have, always will), hitting balls with sticks and catching. I do like swimming - albeit slowly and without goggles.

But I am a keen researcher. So I am becoming an armchair athlete, reading everything I can lay my hands on to understand the commitment, the motivation and the love. As well as swimming, I am also reading up on sports psychology, cutting edge sports science, wrestling and cycling, amongst other sports. (Theatre fans: If you haven't watched the Lance Armstrong documentary "The Armstrong Lie" directed by Alex Gibney do. Greek drama power complexes with extra blood transfusions.)

*Shane Gould is an Australian swimmer won three golds, a silver and a bronze medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics. She is the only person, male or female, to hold every world freestyle record from 100 metres to 1500 metres and the 200-metre individual medley world record simultaneously.

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