Swimming again after 22 years helped Sara lose six stone and gave her a fresh outlook

When Sara Hindry realised she needed to make adjustments to her way of life 12 months ago, she decided to take up swimming again after 22 years out of the pool.

Now, Sara shares how she coped with the highs of being back in the water, the lows of lockdown and how swimming has helped her lose six stone and given her a fresh determination to succeed.

Here is Sara’s #LoveSwimming story…

A year ago, I woke up with an overwhelming feeling that I needed to change my life.

I have a wonderful husband and two fabulous children but, at 45 years old, I had totally lost control of who I was and dealt with that by managing my emotions with food.

Over the years, I had gradually got to a point where I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror.

Friends always said how lovely I looked as I always took pride in what I wore but, deep down, I was desperately unhappy and hated the way I looked and felt about myself and life in general.

I decided that I would go back to my childhood passion of swimming.

As a youngster, I swam competitively with some reasonable success but stopped swimming at the age of 23 altogether due to a back injury.

When I got to the pool and put my swimsuit on, I felt so embarrassed – I hated my body fully clothed so to be so exposed felt so much worse!

However, the pool didn’t fall silent and nobody stopped swimming to stare when I stepped onto the poolside – result!!

I’d been out of the pool 22 years but I managed 12 lengths that day.

I got out feeling quite proud that I had taken the first steps but also very daunted as I knew I could do far better than that so I had a very long way to go.

I saw signs for the Swimathon on my way out and thought what better way to push myself than to sign up for the 5k, which I did that very day as soon as I got home.

Completing 200 lengths seemed so far from being achievable – but I am competitive by nature and knew I would push myself to do this.

Missed it so much

Over the coming weeks, I was in the water nearly every day and absolutely loving it – the feeling of weightlessness and the calm swoosh of the water followed by the surge of adrenaline as you take your first stroke – I had missed it so much.

So much so that I contacted my local swimming club to see if they had space for me in their Masters squad.

In January 2020, I had my trial and I was accepted – I was very emotional.

Never in a million years did I think I would be training with a squad again and setting my alarm for 5.30am to get up and train – but the buzz it gives me is beyond words.

Then Covid-19 struck and talk of a lockdown started and Swimathon 2020 was cancelled .

But on 17 March, I thought either I can postpone my swim or I can just do it anyway.

So I swam the 5k on my own – during my lunch break thanks to my fabulous boss who allowed me extra time to do it – and was delighted to finish the 200 lengths in a time of 1 hour 26 minutes.

I had set myself a goal of 1 hour 45 minutes so was delighted with my time!

Then lockdown happened and I can honestly say I cried – I really thought that was it, that I would go back to my old ways as I couldn’t swim.

But my mind was stronger than I gave it credit for and I started walking and doing workouts at home on YouTube.

My coach – the brilliant Doug Kerr from Biggleswade Swimming Club – put on weekly Zoom workouts which I joined in with. He kept me going and it was so good to still be part of the team, even if it was virtually.

Then, back in May, I heard that open water swimming could restart and whilst I had never even thought of this as an option before, I was desperate to get back in the water.

Powerful nature of swimming

I contacted my locally-managed lake – Box End Park in Bedford.  I turned up on my first day with my surfing wetsuit, hat and goggles but I got in and swam – and boy did it feel good.

It’s very, very different to pool swimming though – you can’t see anything and you don’t go in a straight line.

But after that day, I had the bug so armed with a proper swimming wetsuit I kept returning and found my stamina increasing hugely each time I swam.

Swimming has reconnected me with my great friend – and ex-Commonwealth Games swimmer – Cate Jackson.

Cate has been hugely successful in the pool in recent years and is a massive inspiration to me.

We started to swim together twice a week which soon turned competitive.

We have now completed two open water races – the first at Milton Keynes where I won my age group in three individual 1k races averaging just over 15 minutes for each swim.

The second was at Box End, where I finished the 3.8k swim  fourth – Cate finished second – in a time of 1 hour 54 seconds. I had no idea what time I would do but to get under the hour mark will be my aim for next time.

I am now back in the pool and training twice a week with the squad which has been such a joy as I love to push myself, to feel the burn in my lungs and to know that I have put 110 per cent into each session.

But as the open water season is now coming to a close and I have decided that my final lake swim will be this weekend, it is a time to reflect on one of the most incredible if not challenging years of my life.

I have to date lost six stone but, more importantly, gained strength, determination and a passion to succeed like no other and all of this in one of the strangest years the world has ever seen.

It just goes to show the powerful nature of swimming and I sincerely hope our pools can remain open to see others like me through this tough time.