Woodside, CA

The faith healer I saw last weekend said, ‘You have to love yourself, love your body. It’s all you’ve got.’

Yet I constantly bemoan my size. How can I love this body, when to me it looks and feels all wrong? I’m not just talking about how I look compared with supermodels (as my blog the other day showed, even supermodels don’t look like supermodels) – I’m just talking about how I look compared with how I looked 6 months ago post-row, or even 12 months ago pre-row.

Last night I found a different perspective. I was deeply immersed in my current book – ‘Swimming to Antarctica’ by Lynne Cox. She’d been describing how physiological studies had shown that her body type was uniquely suited to doing what she does, i.e. swimming enormous distances in open water that would make 99% of humans hypothermic within minutes.

Her fat is well distributed around her body, which keeps her well insulated in the coldest of waters, especially as her superb fitness and endurance mean that she keeps on generating warmth from within when others would be slowing down and getting chilled as a result.

Plus, she is blessed with neutral buoyancy, which means that she does not have to expend effort in swimming upwards (as most men have to) nor in swimming downwards (as most women have to) – she naturally floats at the ideal depth in relation to the water, so all her energy goes into swimming FORWARDS.

These attributes helped her set a new record (for both men and women) across the English Channel when she was just fifteen. And swim from Chile to Tierra del Fuego. And across the Bering Strait.

After reading about her punishing training schedule and incredible feats of endurance, I was astounded to come across several pages of black and white photos in the middle of the book, showing a tubby-looking woman in a swimsuit.

‘She’s bigger than me!’ I thought. ‘But she’s amazing, and fit, and strong’. It was a revelation.

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