In the Gym to Swim

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It’s common to stick with what you know – comfortable surroundings, familiar processes, and same schedules. But for two AUT Millennium members, challenging themselves and trying something new is all in the aim of supporting their summer goals.

John Porter and Scott Woolf are passionate ocean swimmers who find themselves in the pool during the winter months to maintain their conditioning for summer events. As members of the Adult Swim Squad, they are in the water regularly working on technique and maintaining fitness, but they both know the added value of stepping into the gym – they’ve just had different journeys getting there.

John has been a member of AUT Millennium for so long he doesn’t actually remember when he started. “It’s been a long time,” he laughs. While his main use of the facility has been the pool, he’s always used the gym to complement his swimming. “Swimming is my passion, especially in the ocean, but if that’s all I did, I think I would get a little tired of it,” he says. “Coming to the gym breaks the routine. It allows me to work other parts of the body which are important in swimming. It keeps me from getting stale or plateauing.”

It was an email reminder from the AUT Millennium team which prompted Scott to realise he wasn’t utilising the Gym as well as he could. “The email essentially said ‘You’ve not been to the gym in ages!’ and offered a few incentives to get back into it,” he recalls. “One of them was a Six Week Challenge, and I knew that would be good for me. You have Gym Instructors with you for six weeks, which was important to me. I’ve joined gyms in the past and had one intro session and not felt comfortable. This gave me the chance to learn, and to allow all their knowledge to stick.”

Quarterly Six Week Challenges are an opportunity for Gym members to boost their fitness, lose weight, learn new exercises and techniques, and try things they ordinarily would pass by. Motivated by the challenge aspect, Scott found himself requesting things he wasn’t comfortable with. “The team were flexible enough to change the programme for me, because I requested more weight work. I hated that the most, so I wanted to do more of that while I had the instructors to guide me.” The challenge notion certainly worked – he not only won the Six Week Challenge by losing the highest percentage of body fat, but also the Gym’s rowing challenge for the month of July.

For John, his most recent change up has been Spin class, after being encouraged to give it a shot by a fellow gym-goer. “He saw me warming up on a bike, and told me there was a Spin class starting in ten minutes,” he recalls. “So he roped me in, and it was 45 minutes of hell, but I loved it!” While out of his comfort zone, John did identify similarities between Spin and Swim Squad. “There’s an instructor leading you all, and there are people around you, you’re all suffering together. There’s not a lot of chance for talking, but you’re in it together.”

That pull of the social aspect helps motivate John to come to the pool or head to the gym. “I turn up because I know other people are going to turn up,” he tells. “Whether it’s squad swimming or cycling, it helps because I’m with like-minded people.” This extends to Bay2Bay, a group of keen open water swimmers, including John and Scott, who meet weekly to head out into the water around the East Coast Bays. “We’re a group of all ages, males and females, who enjoy swimming out in the ocean,” John says. “We’ll swim from one bay to another, and then grab a coffee or brunch and enjoy each other’s company.” The only pre-requisites to joining the Bay2Bay group is the ability to swim at least 2km. “Your pace doesn’t matter,” John encourages. “If you make the effort to turn up, we’ll make you feel welcome, and we’ll stay with you if you’re not comfortable in the ocean.”

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Give it a go!

Both Scott and John would encourage any AUT Millennium members to step outside their comfort zone, whether that’s pool members hitting the gym, or gym members taking the plunge in the pool. “Encouragement is the most important thing in getting someone to change their routine,” says John, “and I know, because that’s what happened to me. If I hadn’t have been encouraged to try Spin, I probably wouldn’t have really thought about it.”

To his fellow Swim Squadders, Scott assures that the Gym community is just as warm and welcoming as the aquatics family. “There’s the same environment between the gym members and staff as there is between the coach and a squad,” he shares. “There’s that respect and a real community feel, and I’ve not had that in other gyms.” John reiterates that every swimmer should give the gym a shot, to add variety and cross training into their weekly routine. “You could turn up and just swim 1km a few times a week, but you’re not really improving,” he says. “You can improve your swimming with another form of fitness, get stronger and find something which works for you.” Scott adds, “Every swimmer I know is trying to get a little bit better, be it fitness or technique wise, and the Gym is going to support both of those.”

AUT Millennium Gym members have access to both pools on site, and John implores people to get outside their comfort zone. “Obviously it depends on your swimming ability, but in the Swim Squad there’s lanes for different speeds and abilities,” he says. “Improving your swimming, or even learning to swim, is a great challenge. For both body and mind, it’s use it or lose it, so don’t limit yourself.” For those intimidated by joining a squad, Scott says there’s no reason to stay away. “It’s a comfortable environment at the National Aquatic Centre, and there’s a raft of options, like Deep Water Running, for something different. The key is to remember, you’re not there to win – you’re there to get better and fitter.”

Gym manager Maria Calderon is thrilled to see John trying other forms of group fitness, and how Scott’s taken to being back in the gym environment. “Whenever any member varies their workout and steps out of their comfort zone, it’s great,” she says. “It’s great for our Gym staff to get to know our aquatics members and vice versa! The Gym team are on hand to help in any way, and introduce you to a service you’re not familiar with.”

With summer approaching, both Scott and John are looking forward to new events. The popular Ocean Swim Series has rejigged their lineup, and includes an inaugural event at Omaha which both men are keen on. “Different swims and longer swims are my focus,” says Scott. “I want to do more marathon swims, and events I’ve not completed before.” For John, the ocean is his happy place, and the nature of the open water season brings together multiple motivations. “I’m all about keeping myself fit and healthy, and doing it in a way which suits me. I have my health, an opportunity to compete against myself and a great camaraderie. The ocean is never the same, it’s a lot of fun!”

If you’re interested in joining John and Scott in the sea this summer, check out http://bay2bay.club

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