Friday, July 29, 2016

Swim Social: Lorraine Hepburn "I'm Going to Swim Before 40"

"We’ve booked a holiday this year and the resort is next to a water park. The kids are really excited about it and I thought, ‘I have to beat this’, so I booked some lessons and jumped in”

Novice swimmer Lorraine Hepburn has been getting quite a bit of attention from her blog “I’m Going to Swim Before 40!” ( The Scottish Water employee has only just ventured back into the pool in the last six months after an incident in her youth that put her off swimming for decades. 

Lorraine explained, “I was the tall kid at school and when we did a block of swimming at primary school the teacher lined us up at the side of the pool in order of height.  That meant I was at the deep end of the pool and when I got into the water I swam out, lost the plot, kind of fell to the bottom and didn’t know what to do.  That’s when the best looking boy in the water swam over to rescue me.  I remember feeling mortified, feeling ill and feeling absolutely terrified of the water.  So I didn’t get back in the pool for nearly three decades.”

If it was a formative moment that kept Lorraine out of the pool, it seems fitting that it was an approaching formative moment that pulled her back into the water.  Lorraine is 40 this year and says, “The fear of being forty and not being able to swim made me want to do something.  We’ve also booked a holiday this year and the resort is next to a water park.  The kids are really excited about it and I thought, ‘I have to beat this’, so I booked some lessons and jumped in.” 

For many adult non-swimmers, it’s difficult to realise when avoidance turns to fear of swimming, something Lorraine noticed at her first lesson.  She says, “There were lots of times when I could have gone in the water when my kids were small, but I always came up with an excuse.  On the day of my first lesson I was terrified.  I nearly cancelled it before even getting to the pool. There was the smell of chlorine and that we all associate with swimming pools and that made me feel sick.  I didn’t know what to expect and I still don’t know how I managed it, but I walked out to the poolside.  The teacher was sitting at the side and was really friendly and very welcoming.  She gave me a real boost by saying that not everybody made it out of the changing room. I got into the water and we just walked up the side and she kept asking me if I was comfortable. When the water came up to my chest I said I wasn’t, so we went back.  We kept going back and forward, getting deeper each time.  Then by the end of the lesson I put my face into the water and was blowing bubbles.  That was amazing and I came away absolutely buzzing.  It made me think, ‘if I can do that, I can keep going.”

Lorraine started blogging about her experiences after the first few lessons.  She says, “I was quite hard on myself about my progress.  Everybody else said I was doing well and so I started the blog to track my progress.  Now I can look back at the first few weeks and see what I couldn’t do that I can do now.  The blog definitely started as a self-motivation tool but then I tweeted TV presenter Angellica Bell who was in a similar situation to me – she couldn’t swim.  She retweeted it and all of a sudden I was getting tweets from people who thought they were too old to learn to swim.  A lot of people think lessons for adults are for those who want to improve their swimming technique, not get over a fear of getting into the water.  But as I’ve found, if you go looking for them, you can find adult beginner lessons and they’re great.”

Other than that they are both inspiring and entertaining to read, what strikes you about Lorraine’s blog is the speed of her progress. From feeling sick at the sight of a swimming pool, in just six months Lorraine has done away with the need for a teacher.  Almost.  Lorraine explains, “That was a strange day.  My teacher’s dad had been taken ill and so the lesson was cancelled.  I could have turned around and gone home, but I wanted to get into the pool and so I did what we’d done the week before at the lesson.  It was the first time I’d been swimming on my own.”

While Lorraine hopes her story helps motivate others, she’s keen to point out that she is by no means a perfect swimmer or is anywhere near at the end of her journey. She says, “At the start I just wanted to learn to swim, but I don’t think I really knew what swimming was.  I still don’t like getting out of my depth in the water and I really want to get to the stage where I can jump into water confidently and swim about in water that is deeper than me.  I’d love to get to the stage where I can use swimming for exercise – at the moment I’m just trying to make it more fun.  Once I’m completely over my fear, I want to work on technique and really learn to swim.  I need to build up stamina because I’m always out of puff.”

Lorraine’s six month journey is as remarkable as it is inspirational.  I wonder what Lorraine would say to anybody else in her position six months ago.  She says, “It’s never too late and I wish I had done it sooner.  You need to find a teacher and a lesson style that works for you.  I would definitely say that if you are quite nervous, you should look for a one to one lesson – I don’t know if group lessons would have worked for me.  But I’m delighted I did it.”

Lorraine continues to blog at (  We're really looking forward to reading how she gets on at that water park on holiday.  

(Lorraine was speaking to Anne Kane)

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