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Monday Morning Motivation: In the swim

23 Apr

This weekend is Swimathon, so I thought I’d theme my Monday Morning Motivation around it. Enjoy!

Are you taking part in Swimathon? Good luck if you are!

Monday Morning Motivation: Yusra Mardini

12 Mar Yusra Mardini

This week’s motivation is provided by the inspirational swimmer Yusra Mardini.

From refugee to Olympian – Yusra Mardini’s incredible journey

Yusra Mardini

Yusra Mardini competes in the Women’s 100m Butterfly heats on the first day of the Rio Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on 6 August in Brazil. Photograph: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Yusra Mardini represented Team Refugee as a swimmer at the Rio Olympics in 2016; less than a year beforehand she had fled war-torn Syria and made the 25-day journey to Europe.

During the sea crossing from Turkey to Lesbos her dinghy got into trouble and Mardini and others jumped into the open water to help guide the boat to safety.

Yusra Mardini now lives in Berlin. On 27th April 2017, she was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

Film to follow teenager who crossed the Mediterranean and competed at Rio

Monday Morning Motivation: Sarah Thomas

5 Mar Sarah Thomas

Most people will never swim a mile (64 lengths), so the thought of swimming 100 consecutive miles is incomprehensible, but that’s exactly what Sarah Thomas did in August last year. She swam further than anyone has ever swum before without the aid of currents.

Sarah Thomas

A Colorado athlete was the first person to swim at least 100 consecutive miles

What kind of dedication and training does it take to accomplish an incredible feat like this? Most days, Sarah Thomas gets up at 5am to train and swims 5-6000m before going to work. I’m not a competitive swimmer, but I swim quite a lot and I’ve only ever swum 5000m three times. However, even a strong swimmer will take over an hour to complete 5000m swimming at race pace. It took Thomas three days and nights to cover 104 miles, nonstop. She had to stay awake for 67 hours. “Not sleeping was the hardest part,” she admits.

Another part of the challenge that cannot be overlooked is the need to stay fuelled and hydrated. The crew used a long pole to pass her caffeinated energy drinks at the twice-hourly feed stops — Marathon Swimming Federation rules forbid swimmers from touching the support boat. When Thomas had had enough of sports drinks they substituted her favourite food, risotto.

Thomas is a surprisingly modest swimmer. She doesn’t seek out publicity and many of her amazing feats of endurance swim(such as 2016’s 82 mile swim) have received little press coverage. She doesn’t even have a sponsor.

The longest ever open water swim was 139.8 miles in the Adriatic by Veljko Rogosic, but his swim was current-assisted. There are currently only three swimmers who have completed “current-neutral” swims of 63 miles or more. Interesting they are all female – possibly because women have a higher percentage of body fat which helps with buoyancy and insulation. (Official open water swims do not allow wetsuits). An alternative theory is that women have increased confidence and mental strength when it comes to open water swimming and have learnt that they are able to beat men.

Thomas did so well in her challenge that she caused herself a problem – she ended up so far ahead of schedule that she finished at night instead of in daylight. This meant that strip lights had to be set up to guide her into the slipway!

When asked about her future goals, Thomas responded, “I don’t think I’ll try to swim further… there are a lot of fun and challenging swims to do between one and 104 miles.”

Sarah Thomas – 104-mile Lake Champlain Swim (raw footage) from MSF on Vimeo.

A week where I managed to swim, cycle and run (at last!)

11 Feb

Wow – what a week!

On Monday, I wasn’t feeling motivated to get in the pool. I think M knew that Stu was out with his friends watching the Superbowl on Sunday night, so she decided that she’d also like to be up partying. I got very little sleep and did not feel like going swimming, but I know that ‘you only regret the workouts you didn’t do’, so I agreed with myself that I would go to the pool and then see how I felt.

Don't mistake my cutness for weakness. I will terrorise you and turn this house upside down like the tiny tornado that I am.

This perfectly describes M!

When I got in the pool, I decided to do a 20 minute time trial. I swam at a steady pace and was pleased to see that I covered 850m in that time. As long as I can sustain that pace then I should meet my goal of 2.5k in an hour 🙂

Strive for progress, not perfection

This sign on the gym wall seemed perfect

On Wednesday, I was going to run with a work colleague, but we both had a lot of meetings on, so it just didn’t work out in the end.

I’m so excited to have learnt that I’ve got a place in RideLondon again this year. It should tie in nicely with the other challenges that I’ve got lined up.

RideLondon 2018

I’ve also been trying out a few new products, so there will be some reviews posted soon.

I’ve received a couple of products from New Wave Swim Buoy – a supersoft towel and a ‘launchpad’ – a neoprene mat that can be used for triathlons and on pool changing room floors.

New wave products

I’ve also been trying to squeeze in some reading around the training that I’ve been doing…

This Girl Ran Run Mummy Run book

Plus I’ve been trying out some gorgeous new leggings from GearBunch

Gearbox leggings

On Friday, I went out for a run with Rachel and her baby. It was great to have a full day to myself. Whenever I get a day without M, I start getting on top of things, but she’s been ill so often that I never seem to catch up.

Trying out my new Gearbox leggings

I ran from my house to The Common and was disappointed by my pace, but I decided to ignore it as I know I’m not as fit as I’d like to be. My training for Reading Half definitely isn’t going the way that I’d planned. This time last year, I was so much fitter. I had originally hoped to be aiming for a PB (sub 1:52:19), but now I’m desperately hoping I’ll be fit enough to run sub 2:00.

I ran around The Common with Rachel and F. We went down every side path to try to make the distance as much as possible. When we stopped, I was horrified to find that I’d only run 5.5km in 55 minutes. I’ve never been that slow before. It just didn’t seem right as I’ve walked parkrun (5km) in 40 minutes.

I then ran home. When I got back, the final distance was 12.5km, which is the longest I’ve run for many months. I had a look at my Garmin data online and was relieved to find that somehow my watch settings had changed and the distance shown was miles, not km. Phew!

I’m now starting to feel like I can get myself back on track and can at least finish Reading Half.  Have you entered yet?

reading fc comp

There is currently a fantastic competition on:

Enter Reading Half before 13 Feb to win a great hospitality package for one of Reading FC’s remaining games this season:

Prize includes:

  • VIP match seating on the North West corner
  • One course gourmet burger menu
  • Cash bar facility available
  • Matchday programme and team sheet
  • Place at a shared table
  • Matchday entertainment

I didn’t manage to get a run in this weekend as I was Run Directing at parkrun again. It’s a role that I really enjoy, but I wish that I could be in two places at once as I also love running.

If you’ve ever wondered how difficult your nearest parkrun is, you might be interested to have a look at the Run Britain Rankings. Southampton is a relatively easy run at #38 and Penrose (my local run when I go home to Cornwall) is at #340. How does your local parkrun compare?

Stu and M watching the ducks

As I wasn’t able to go running today, I figured that time on my feet would be a good compromise. I had the most amazing lie in this morning (after several nights of very poor sleep), which has helped me to feel much better. In the afternoon, Stu, M and I went for a walk down to the university and around the campus. M was fascinated by the ducks.

Overall, this week started off badly, but I managed to turn it around an am now feeling totally inspired ready for a new week 🙂

Planning for 2018

6 Feb Planner with the words 'Make it happen'

Planner with the words 'Make it happen'

I usually spend some time on New Year’s Eve planning my races for the following season, but of course I start thinking about what I want to achieve before then. This year was no different, but I’ve been so busy that it’s taken until now for me to write down my plans…


  • Swimathon – swim 2.5km in under an hour.
  • Get in the pool at least once a week for the whole year and to make it to some open water swimming sessions.
  • Take Baby M swimming once a week


  • I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get a place in RideLondon again this year
  • Get involved in cyclocross this year


  • Reading Half
  • London Landmarks Half
  • Southampton Half
  • Do my 250th parkrun


  • Long Course Weekend – do the full event


  • Qualify as a Personal Trainer


I’m trying to be realistic about what I can achieve as I’m really busy at work and M is a high-maintenance tiny human. I’m sure there will be some other B & C goals that will come along throughout the season, so watch this space!


The pox, parkrun, Swimathon and cancer

4 Feb Swimathon 2018 logo

I had such great plans for the last couple of weeks, with intentions of getting my training for Reading Half Marathon and Swimathon back on track, but chicken pox (combined with teething, because one lot of pain isn’t enough for my tiny masochist!) decided that was not to be. Poor M has been off nursery for over a week and she hasn’t been sleeping at all well.

I agreed with Stu that I would take M for parkrun on 27th January as I had left him to Run Direct alone the previous week. I’d been under the weather with sinusitis and figured that running with M would make me go slowly. I also chose to start at the back, knowing that the congestion of a thousand or so runners would ensure that I didn’t start too quickly.

Southampton parkrun 27 Jan 18

After the run, we headed to the Bellemoor for a hot drink as the usual post-parkrun hangout is currently closed.

I had hoped to swim on Monday, but I was exhausted after being awake with M for most of the night, so I thought that it would be better to rest. I was conflicted about whether this was the right thing to do, but I knew that I had a lot to catch up on as I had spent most of the weekend holding M and I needed to reply to some emails.

On Wednesday, I went out running with Sarah. We did just over 5km. I had hoped that we would run further as I feel that I’m really falling behind with my half marathon training, but I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling the love for running and it was threatening to pour down.

Yesterday, I was Run Director at parkrun. It’s really nice getting to interact with so many runners, but with the size of Southampton parkrun (over 1000 runners), there are invariably lots of trivial incidents to be dealt with (have you seen my keys; I think I’ve dropped my barcode; where should I leave my jacket etc etc etc) so it can be quite hectic.

Volunteer Soton parkrun 03 Feb 2018

I’m gradually closing in on my 250th parkrun – just 8 to go. Next week, I’ll be Run Directing again, so (all being well), I should hit my 250th just before Easter (early April). I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to persuade lots of friends to come along and to join me for a hot drink afterwards.

We’ve been planning to take M swimming every weekend since we got back from Australia. She’s still spotty because of chicken pox, so we thought we’d better not take her this weekend. As a consequence, I spent a lot of the weekend at home doing housework and cuddling a grumpy tiny human. I also went outside and did some vigorous raking for an hour or so, which I guess counts as exercise.

Rake against a shed

Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash

Did you know that it’s World Cancer Day today? Swimathon is raising money for two charities: Cancer Research and Marie Curie (who provide care and support through terminal illness). These are great charities, so why not sign up to Swimathon and help raise money?

Swimathon 2018 – #SwimForAll

25 Jan Swimathon ambassadors

After my morning at Tilgate parkrun, I took a train to London Bridge and then got on the underground to Stratford – destination: the London Aquatics Centre in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park!

ArcelorMittal Orbit day time

I was going to meet most of the other Swimathon Ambassadors and some very special guests.

London Aquatic Centre

The London Aquatics Centre is an amazing place to swim – I just wish it were my local pool!

I arrived just in time for the start of the ambassadors session and was introduced to the host team, which consisted of staff from Limelight Sports, Freestak and Marie Curie as well as the media team and some special guests. The different agencies explained their roles and then we had some time to mingle before being taken off with the media team in pairs.

Each of us recorded some short pieces to camera about why we wanted to be involved in Swimathon. I think that swimming is a great form of exercise for everyone as well as being a potentially life-saving skill. Swimathon is a great organisation and I’m committed to the charities which it is supporting: Marie Curie and Cancer Research… my father passed away from oesophageal cancer when I was 24, so it is something that made a great mark on my life.

Selfie at Aquatic Centre

A quick selfie… I wish I’d had time to do my hair properly after parkrun!!!

Swimathon ambassadors

Posing with Fiona and Wanda.

After my interview, there was a bit more time for chatting and learning about each others’ stories over a cuppa. We also got to see Duncan’s Olympic medal… it might be nearly 38 years old but neither the achievement nor the medal are tarnished!

Duncan Goodhew's gold medal

Next up was a master class on swimming technique with legendary open water swimmer Keri-anne Payne. Keri-anne and her husband teach what they call ‘straight line swimming‘.

Masterclass with Kerianne Payne 1

The first point that Keri-anne discussed is the importance of avoiding drag/resistance. One of the main ways to achieve this is to look directly down in the pool. Human instinct is to see where you are going, so you need to resist this. Duncan acknowledged that this is a swimming technique that has changed since the 1970s/80s. He said he thinks he would have gone faster if he had been looking down instead of at the end of the pool!

Masterclass with Kerianne Payne 2

Keri-anne also explained that the pivot point of your body is your lungs, not your hips. I had never thought of this before, but it makes sense.

Masterclass with Kerianne Payne 3

Keri-anne explained that the session would focus on front crawl as it is the quickest and most efficient stroke. There are three aspects to work on:

  • breathing
  • body position
  • propulsion

We did an exercise that involved jogging on the spot. We had to take a deep breath and hold it before exhaling. It makes you feel light-headed as you are hyperventilating. This is the most common problem that people have when swimming. In no other sport do you hold your breath in this way, except for maybe yoga or kabaddi. We were advised to try to breathe as normally as possible. I remember that this was the biggest challenge when I was learning to swim. I had a real fear that I would be unable to get enough oxygen in, so I used to gasp for air; as soon as I relaxed, I was able to breathe more comfortably.

Keri-anne recommended breathing out through your nose to stop water going in. Breathing out underwater gives you a bit more time to exhale and therefore increases the amount of time that you have to inhale as well.

An important message was not to panic about swallowing water. I think that’s one of the hardest things for a novice swimmer. I remember panicking when I first started learning and it makes everything worse, so that you end up choking and spluttering in the middle of the pool. Now if I accidentally inhale some water, I might have a slight cough, but I can usually continue with my length and I know that I will be able to breathe again. It was reassuring to learn that breathing and swimming simultaneously is something that many people find hard.

The next thing that we discussed is the importance of whole body rotation (rather than just rotating your shoulders). I think this is something that I’ve always struggled with and definitely needs more work. I worry that if I rotate my hips too much then I’ll end up with flappy corkscrew legs (like some people that I see at the pool).

Keri-anne explained that to achieve your goal, your training schedule should have three elements:

  • speed
  • distance
  • strength endurance

My goal is to complete the 2.5km swim in under an hour. This should be possible, but with the amount of swimming that I’ve been doing recently, it will require commitment and dedication.

These were the 3-4 sessions a week that Keri-anne recommended for me:

  1. Speed. 2-4 x 25m at maximum effort. Time yourself.
  2. Distance – build it up over the 14 weeks. This will depend on your starting point. Plan for 4 week cycles where every 4th week is a rest week.
  3. Strength endurance. Get used to swimming at the pace you need to maintain. For me this is 2:20/100m.
  4. If you have time for a 4th session, just enjoy it 🙂

Swimathon Training Plan

Duncan Goodhew

Duncan’s tip was to have a specific aspect of your technique to think about each length. This is important for me as after I’ve been swimming for a while, my mind starts wandering. Last year towards the end of my 5km, I felt so bored. I was playing all sort of mind games to try to keep me going.

Duncan also pointed out that tightness in your body shows in your technique – that’s all the excuse I need to book in for a massage!

Zoggs swimming costume

It was on to a pool session with Keri-anne and Duncan.

Swimathon Ambassadors with Keri-anne

The first exercises were about breathing. Apparently the correct technique is to take a gentle breath in through your mouth and then to exhale through your nose. It took me a long time to learn not to gasp in a huge lungful of air, but I don’t recall being told to exhale through my nose, so that’s something I’m getting wrong and am struggling to correct.

How do I stop feeling out of breath when swimming front crawl

We then worked on our rotation and did alternate lengths focusing on breathing or rotation.

In the pool with Kerianne Payne

Keri-anne then worked with us in pairs. I was told that I’m crossing my arms over, so I needed to practice swimming up and down on the line ensuring that my hands stayed either side of it.

We spent some time giving our partner feedback on what we thought they could do to improve which was a useful exercise.

Then we finished with a bit of fun… Keri-anne and Duncan took part in a handstand competition, so we all had a go. Some members of the group were really good. I know that my handstands on dry land are OK thanks to doing gymnastics for years, but in a pool, I’m terrible. It took me lots of attempts before I even managed to get my hands on the bottom of the pool, let alone get my legs out of the water. I think there might be video evidence of my attempt!

Swimathon ambassadors group pose

In the pool with Duncan Goodhew

Overall, it was an absolutely fantastic day. I learnt so much and was shattered by the time I left. I’m definitely much more inspired to get on with my training.

ArcelorMittal Orbit

Have you entered Swimathon yet?

Swimathon 25% discount

If you enjoyed reading this, why not check out some of the other ambassadors’ posts:

A fortnight of exercising

19 Jan Running track

After the Reading Half Marathon workshop, I was determined to start my training for this year’s races. I still need to sort out a proper half marathon training schedule, but at least I’m making a move in the right direction.

I’ve been out running with Sarah for the past two Wednesdays. We did just over 5km the first week and 6.5km this week. I’m starting to feel a bit more comfortable again, but I definitely need to start doing some speedwork.

Running track

Photo by Austris Augusts on Unsplash

I’ve also been out running with Rachel and Felix, then on Saturday I took part in Southampton parkrun, so I ran three times in a week for the first time in a long time. I found parkrun really challenging, partly because of my fitness levels, but also because it was so busy. I had M in her buggy, so it was really hard for me to pass slower runners. I started off with Inez who was doing her 100th parkrun, but I couldn’t run alongside her, so I slowed down a bit. Then Linda and her baby caught up with me, so we had a lovely chatty run. There are a lot of stressful things going on for me at the moment, so I’m really enjoying the chance to clear my head either by running on my own or by chatting to friends whilst running. I also loved seeing Tuba Libres at parkrun, there to celebrate Laura’s 250th parkrun.

Southampton parkrun Jan 13 2018

Of course the other big challenge that I’m training for is Swimathon. I’m so excited to be an ambassador again this year – check out my profile. Last week I swam with Stuart on Monday. My arms were aching in the first few hundred metres, but  kept going and managed 1000m. I would have swum more, but I didn’t have enough time. Then this week, I swam on Tuesday and did 1200m. I’m determined to keep building up my strength, speed and distance until I’m back to comfortably doing 2km in an hour… by which  stage I should be ready to start my proper training programme.

Swimmers doing front crawl during Swimathon

Swimmers doing front crawl during Swimathon

I’ve been cycling to work (as usual), but I don’t have any cycling challenges at the moment, which is probably just as well as I’m still getting to grips with balancing work, training and family life.

I’ve also been doing a lot of gardening as it’s finally a bit drier. I spent 2.5 hours raking my garden two weeks ago and last week I spent another 2.5 hours raking. I would have continued with the theme, but there’s no room left in my garden waste bin and it’s wet and cold here. Hopefully, I’ll manage to do some more gardening next week.

Have you got a detailed training schedule for this year?



Bubble, bubble, breathe – Swimathon 2018

12 Jan Swimathon 2018 logo

I’m so excited to be an ambassador for Swimathon 2018. I had a great time last year and it really pushed me to get back in the pool after having M. I had big plans for swimming more when I went back to work, but as M has been ill for most of the last 4 months, that didn’t really work out. She’s now seeming better, so I’m hoping to take her to the pool with me this weekend. She’s not really swimming yet, but who knows, maybe she’ll be ready to take part in the 400m challenge next year!

Last year I entered the 5km challenge, but that was a lot to take on, so I’ve entered the 2.5km Swimathon challenge this year. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to improve my speed this year. I want to do a 2.5km time trial as soon as possible, so that I know what time I’ve got to beat. 2.5km is 100 lengths, so it will still be hard work! By concentrating on a shorter distance than last year, I’ll be able to focus a bit more on my technique rather than just focusing on getting the distance in.

There are venues all over the country that are taking part in Swimathon. I’ve decided to swim at David Lloyd at Ringwood because I can do my swim there on a Friday morning. I no longer work on Fridays, so it will help to keep my weekend free so that I can spend more time with M.

If you’d like to join me, there’s a 50% discount until 21st January, so what are you waiting for?!

Did you know that Swimathon is the world’s biggest annual fundraising swim? So far it has raised £48 million which has benefitted 36 charities. It really doesn’t matter what your age or swimming ability is, there’s a challenge for everyone, including a new 400m event this year.

My motivation for taking part in this event is two-fold. Firstly, I need an event that will push me to get in the pool and train. I enjoy swimming, but as I’m so time-pressed that unless I have a reason to be in the pool, it is sometimes squeezed out of my schedule. Secondly, the charities associated with Swimathon (Marie Curie and Cancer Research) are ones that are meaningful for me as my father died of oesophageal cancer nearly 16 years ago.


I got in my first swim of 2018 yesterday. I could only fit in half an hour, which was a bit frustrating. I had hoped that I would be able to swim for an hour and that I would be able to see how far I could swim in that time. I managed to swim 1000m. I could tell that I haven’t swum for a while as it felt like so much hard work. My speed has definitely dropped and my arms were tired by 200m. If I can maintain yesterday’s pace then 2.5km will take me 90 minutes; if I were at my best, I know that I could do it in an hour, so that is my goal.

First swim of 2018

Have you entered Swimathon? Which distance?

Monday Morning Motivation: Schuyler Bailar

11 Dec Schuyler Bailar

Schuyler Bailar’s story is inspirational – he gave up the opportunity to be an Olympic medalist to be true to himself. He was recruited to Harvard as a female, but has found peace after transitioning to male. I hope that over the next few years he achieves success in all areas of his life.

In 2016, the International Olympic Committee ruled that transgender athletes could compete without undergoing surgery. This policy made history in the sports world, welcoming a new generation of athletes into the Olympic family.

Schuyler Bailar is an athlete on the men’s swimming and diving team at Harvard University. This is his story.

Schuyler: I’ve just always loved being underwater.

Schuyler: When I jump in, the water’s always cold, and it kind of shocks my system into, like, being quiet for a second. Sometimes I just kind of stay underwater for like a second too long, and it’s always that kind of moment of, “This is the only thing I’m supposed to be doing right now. This is the only place I need to be.” That brings me a lot of peace, I think, that I don’t have in my daily life.

Baltimore, Maryland

Terry Hong, Schuyler’s mother: OK, who wants tea?

Schuler and Gregor Bailar, Schuyler’s father: Tea, I want tea. I’ll have some, please.

Terry: OK.

Gregor: What kind of tea?

Terry: It’s green tea.

Schuyler: That’s when you took my braids out, right?

Terry: That was in West Virginia.

Gregor: Schuyler’s swimming started in the bathtub.

Terry: He was just always so comfortable in the water, and before he learned to walk he was swimming on his own.

Video footage: Go Schuyler!

Schuyler: I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of myself as a talented swimmer. When I was younger, I wasn’t very good. There were a lot of people who were bigger and stronger than me, but I’ve always worked hard.

Schuyler on video, age 12: This is my bird Chico. I’m Schuyler, this is Jinwon…

Gregor: Schuyler was a tomboy. He was much more comfortable in cargo pants and a T-shirt than anything else.

Schuyler: People handed me skirts, and I would throw on basketball shorts. Or, like, people handed me the word “girl”, and I would hand them back “tomboy”. It wasn’t like I thought about it a whole lot, until it became a thing that people said, “Oh, like Schuyler’s different,” or, “Schuyler doesn’t do other things other girls do,” and then it became conscious to me because I was like, “If I do these things, people are going to see me as a boy. OK, I’m going to keep doing them.”

Schuyler: When I was younger and my coach told me I could be good, and my mom and I were watching the Olympics that same year, I watched all of the women swimmers at that point, and their chests were really flat, and this was the point where my breasts had started growing, and I remember being like, “Mom, how come they don’t have any boobs?” and Mom was like, “Well, when you exercise that hard, like a lot of female Olympians don’t have boobs, because they don’t have enough fat in their body,” and I was like, “Oh, my God. This is incredible!”

Schuyler: At that point, that was a huge fear of mine because I knew that my body was about to be kind of taken from me in a way that I didn’t want it to, and so there was definitely a huge point in my thought process where I was like, “OK, I’m going to be good at swimming.”

Gregor: Schuyler’s swimming career kind of took off in high school… and he started breaking records both in the local area as well as at the national level on a relay team.

Schuyler: I think when I was younger I was intent on doing things because I liked them, but I got lost in high school, and started just doing things because I wanted to do well in them.

Gregor: Schuyler broke his back the summer before his junior year, and junior year is recruiting year for swimming, and so it was actually quite emotional.

Schuyler: Up until that point, I had used swimming as my everything. It was my release. It was my pleasure. It was my social life. It was my motivation. It was my… my day. It was definitely a way to block everything else out. Breaking my back broke me. I fell so far into depression, eventually an eating disorder, um, and a lot of it was because I didn’t have another way to release anything, and I didn’t know how to deal with my own feelings. I had never had to sit down and really think about who I was or what I wanted out of the world. I didn’t have any words to explain why I felt so uncomfortable with my body, and the biggest thing was that I did have everything I needed. I was doing really well in school. I had just gotten recruited to swim at Harvard, and I had gotten accepted into Harvard. I had made the National Age Group record. I was swimming fast, and I was like, “What is wrong with me?”

Gregor: There was no gender discussion, by the way, at that time. It was just all about, um, getting to know who he was and getting to fix some of these issues, and we found a facility that seemed to be a match with that.

Terry: He graduated, and then the day after, we went to Florida where we took Schuyler into the facility where he would spend 131 days, and he did a lot of really difficult work there and… started the process of becoming whole.

Schuyler: At treatment you’re not allowed to do any behaviours. They keep a very close watch on you, so I literally had zero ways to cope, and had to talk about my feelings, and had to talk about how I felt and my identity, and that was the first place that I was finally able to say that I was transgender.

Schuyler on video, aged 18: Hey, guys. Um, so I’m Schuyler. I’m about to start my physical transition. Um, FTM, female to male. Er, and I thought that it would be good to document it.

Schuyler: It took me another year until I told most of my friends, and asked them to call me male pronouns, and refer to me as a boy, and kind of solidify the idea of like, “Oh, this has actually always been me, and I’m not actually, you know, changing myself. I’m just presenting the truest part of myself.”

Schuyler on video, aged 18: I’m going to be swimming next year in college. Um, so that makes it complicated because I want to transition as soon as possible, but you can’t swim competitively and take hormones. So what I’m gonna do…, is get top surgery. So I…

Schuyler: When I was allowed to have top surgery, it was probably one of the best days of my life.

Schuyler on video, aged 18: You kind of see that, you know, they’re there. I hate that.

Surgeon: Let’s take a look in the mirror, OK? So, big difference.

Schuyler: Yeah.

Surgeon: You can see…

Schuyler: I thought that it was going to be me transitioning, and being true to being trans, or me being true to me being a swimmer, and that was really hard because I thought, you know, “Both of these are me.”

Terry: It was an agonising decision for Schuyler to consider giving up everything he had worked for his whole life, in terms of his swimming. It was really hard to realise, “Oh, I’m not maybe going to be this champion swimmer that I thought I was going to be, that everyone told me I was going to be.”

Coach Kevin, Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving: I first heard of Schuyler through Stephanie Morawski. She’s our women’s head coach of swimming and diving. Stephanie and I had been talking about Schuyler, and some of the issues that Schuyler had outside of swimming. Once we got to a point where Schuyler was thinking of transitioning from female to male, Steph kept me in the loop as far as that was concerned. I did work to educate myself as far as NCAA rules. We found out that it was perfectly acceptable for Schuyler to compete for Harvard Men’s Swimming and Diving. I had conversations with the young men on the team, and everybody was open to the idea.

Schuyler: The men’s coach was like, “Well, if Schuyler identifies as male, and I have a men’s team, and he wants to swim, why doesn’t he swim for me?” But I almost said no because I was so scared of the possibility of losing everything, because, yeah, I’d be able to swim, but I would transition, and my body would be different, and I would lose all of my accolades as a female athlete, and all the potential I had as a female athlete. That was really scary to me because I had worked really hard to be successful at swimming. At that point, I decided, “OK, I’ve got to take this risk. I’ve got to try to be myself because maybe that will make me happy.”

Coach: On your mark, go!

Coach: You’re doing a better job not slowing down in your turns, but let’s get a bit wider in the foot placement for both you guys.

Coach: Schuyler is one of the most determined athletes I’ve ever met in my life.

Schuyler: Hey, Matt, will you start me?

Coach: Not only as a swimmer but, more importantly, he’s an exceptional human being and a really good team-mate. The grit and determination that he’s shown is remarkable, and it’s helped me not only become a better coach, but a better parent and hopefully a better educator at Harvard.

Coach: Your best swimmers have that feeling that this is something they can’t live without, and I think Schuyler can’t live without being in the water.

Schuyler: Five years ago, swimming meant 100%, unequivocally, everything to me. I think over time, I’ve learned to have a bit more balance than that. My family has never shown me a lack of love, and that has been what’s kind of kept me alive. When I ended up biting the bullet and telling my very conservative Korean grandma, she said, “Schuyler, you can be a son. You can be a brother. You can be a husband. You can be a boy, a man, but Korean daughters take care of their mothers, and now your mom doesn’t have any daughters so you have to take care of your mother and your parents,” and I was like, “OK. I can definitely do that.” I have those words – take care of your parents – tattooed on my side, under my scar, next to my heart in my grandmother’s handwriting. She wrote it for me for the tattoo, and she was very excited about it. “Thank you for taking this eternal vow for your parents.”

Terry: I don’t remember the Baltimore harbour like this.

Gregor: Let’s get a picture over here.

Schuyler: Picture?

Gregor: Of us three.

Schuyler: Got it.

Gregor: OK, let’s keep walking.

Terry: Let’s keep walking.

Gregor: Keep walking before we freeze.

Schuyler: When I came out as trans, and when I decided to swim for the men’s team, I told people around me, my coaches, my parents, my friends, that I was going to be open about it. When I was younger, I had no role models or people to look up to and say, “Oh, I can do this.”

National Association of Independent Schools Congress

Schuyler: I love motivational speaking because I’m really invested in sharing my story, and sharing the possibility for this kind of happiness and this kind of peace with yourself, especially with something so complicated as being transgender, but also so simple as just wanting to be happy.

Administrator: Hello.

Host: Yeah, um, Schuyler Bailar. He’s a speaker.

Host: In so many ways, Schuyler’s story represents the stories of the remarkable young people whom we all teach on our campuses, but his story has a unique distinction. As the first openly transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA division one team, he has been willing to share his story globally. His willingness to share his insights are why we are so pleased he is with us today, and I ask you to join me in welcoming Schuyler Bailar.

Schuyler: Thank you so much, everybody. I’m so happy to be here. I’ve spoken at high schools and middle schools, elementary schools, and colleges, but I’ve never actually spoken with just administrators before so this is really cool. Allowing me to be myself at every step of the way from my coaches, my teachers, my parents, has saved my life, and it’s why I’m here today. I want to just take you back to when I was a kid. I was always a water baby. I’ve swum since the time I could walk.

Schuyler: Swimming has been the hugest part of my life since before I can remember, and being true to myself as a trans person is also hugely important to me. When I used to interact with somebody, it was always, “Who are they going to think I am?” And now I just walk into the room, and I’m just myself. If I can be naked in a Speedo and expose my trans-ness to everybody, you can do your thing too.

The Guardian: Schuyler Bailar, Harvard’s transgender swim star: ‘I’m really proud of who I am’