2020 is the year for our swimming community to get stronger together! We teamed up with Funkita to showcase some amazing swimmers who are getting stronger in and out of the water.
Our first feature is Noora Valkonen (@nooravalkonen), a journalist in Helsinki, Finland who has swum every day from June 2019 – March 2020. Unfortunately, pools in her community are closing down due to the coronavirus, but she plans to swim as long as she can. In this guest blog, the first in a 4-part series, Noora shares how swimming helped her heal from an eating disorder and touches on her swimming goals for 2020.
My name is Noora and I swim every day. This is how I like to introduce myself these days.
I’m a 43 year old journalist living in Helsinki, Finland.
I’ve always been fond of swimming, but I started to learn proper stroke technique when I was in my thirties. I fell in love with the sport so deeply that I started training for Finnish Masters Nationals and ended up winning a bronze medal in the 100 meter breastroke.
Related: 7 Things Swimming Has Taught Me
Overcoming an Eating Disorder
The biggest thing, though, was that swimming gave me back my health. Before I started training I had suffered from a debilitating eating disorder that made me very weak. Recovery started in the pool one day when I suddenly realized what had happened to me: I could barely swim without fins supporting me.
It made me realize just how unhealthy I was. I did not want to lose swimming to my illness. So I started to fight back. I started to eat more, slowly worked my way out of the fins and focused on building strength in the pool and at the gym.
Recovery started in the pool one day when I suddenly realized what had happened to me: I could barely swim without fins supporting me.
Eating disorders typically come with a lot of anxiety and swimming can truly help calm the mind – it can be like therapy and mediation. The water does not judge anybody, and swimming as a sport is not related to how you look.
The pool gave me a safe place where I could be alone and process whatever was going through my mind. Slowly it gave me a new, healthier identity.
Finding Happiness in Daily Swims
In the water I’m happy, weightless and carefree. Swimming is like meditation.
Winning the medal felt amazing and somewhat surreal. I had gained back my health and was indeed “a real athlete.” I started to believe that anything was possible if I worked really hard at it. At the same time, I felt kind of empty, though, which I guess is not rare after achieving a big goal. I struggled to find a new goal but didn’t find it in racing anymore.
What I really cared about was simply getting into the pool. In the water I’m happy, weightless and carefree. Swimming is like meditation. Plus, having cute, functional suits makes my workouts even better!
Related: Why I Swim Every Day
Last summer I decided to try out swimming every day for a month. It felt so amazing that I just kept going. I have swum every day for over 280 days, and plan to keep swimming until my pool closes. It became a habit, a daily routine that I wanted to keep as long as possible. In addition, I’m building up my mileage for an open water 5/10 km swim event next summer.
You can follow my progress on the MySwimPro app, and keep up with me on Instagram using my hashtag #SwimStreak.
MySwimPro has been a very useful tool for me. I pick up technique tips and inspiring workouts (or just sets) to incorporate them into my swims. I also love reading stories about people who have overcome something challenging with the help of swimming. They are truly inspirational.
Related: How Journaling Helps Me Set “Swimtentions”
Coping with Pool Closures
When the pools started to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my feelings went on a rollercoaster. I was angry, sad and very disappointed, even panicky.
This swimstreak, the one thing that was my own, was going to end and I couldn’t do anything about it! I had swum through so much: an accident that injured my rib cage, Christmas, a trip abroad, even when my husband hurt his leg and could not move for days.
Think about how far you have come and accept that some things are beyond your control.
My heart also really went out to all swimmers who had been practicing for the Olympics and had to stop their training. When there are unexpected difficulties, it is very important that we control how we react to them. That is always in our control. I decided to swim as long as I could while preparing myself mentally for the end of my streak.
This is a tough time for many swimmers. My advice? Think about how far you have come and accept that some things are beyond your control. Do what you can to protect yourself and your loved ones. Try new things such as yoga, pilates classes, walking in nature or MySwimPro’s dryland workouts. Hang in there. This won’t last forever!
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