Omne trium perfectum. Translation: all things that come in threes are perfect. There are notable exceptions to this, for example, deaths and nipples. Some people obsess over the belief that bad things always come in threes, known as triaphilia. But whether you believe in the number as a force for good or bad (or neither), the number has importance throughout maths, culture, religion, science, and pretty much everything. Even advertising. Three is the optimum number of times that messages should be repeated so as to be transferred into our brains. Ask any political speechwriter and they will tell you the same.
In the latest lockdown rules, two is fine, but three is bad. There’s no point ranting about the latest developments, as it won’t change a thing. It would seem that being around people is fine when a cash till is involved, otherwise no. As before, single people continue to feel the hits more than others and it’s hard not to feel depressed and anxious about the future.
That’s a digression though. The power of three is what I’m here for. Years ago when I started writing this blog, my coach at the gym was always saying that to get the full benefit of any exercise programme, you should do it at least three times a week. Part of me thought that was about him making money, as it was more expensive to have a three session per week membership than my two sessions. But even if I believed it, I didn’t have the time to go more often, with work and a young kid keeping me too busy.
When I did the Spartan Race, it was with others from the gym who did go three or four times a week. And they were so much fitter than me, not just in speed but in strength. Whiletraining, I had pretended to myself that I would make up for their extra sessions by going running or doing some Jillian Michaels videos, but of course, that was a big fat lie. I made it through the race due to sheer stubbornness, while my fitter gym-mates left me standing in the dust. Sorry, not dust, mud.
All of this has been in the back of my mind in recent weeks. It’s been a slump of a time in some ways, as I’ve barely written a thing since July. Creative urges have been lackingand instead I started to focus on my physical health and wellbeing. Lockdown had left me feeling and looking like a fat lump. And while it’s horrible and annoying when all your clothes feel tight and you’re reduced to constantly recyclingthe last two flab-accommodating outfits you have left, the mental effect of fatness is even worse. In a nutshell, I just felt rubbish.
Action was needed, so in July, I used some of the money I’d saved from doing fuck all over lockdown to get a block of sessions with a personal trainer. For the last two months she has been coming to my back garden on a Thursday morning, to hurt me with physical exercise. My trainer is small, pretty and young, which would be sickening if she wasn’t so nice,and knowledgeable about what she does. We do boxing regularly and I had forgotten how brutally effective and satisfying it is as a workout. Obviously I am a peace-loving non-violent type, but I can always think of someone I’d like to punch.
By then, I had already started swimming again, in a small reservoir not far from me, just about within the five mile driving limit. I wrote about discovering outdoor swimming in a post last year, but although I swam in Loch Lomond once or twice over the winter, I was not a regular. The world was still a semi-normal place then, and there were more enjoyable things to do over the cold months, like tango, or go out and get sweaty dancing to northern soul with my friends.
This year, swimming has become a different thing. Maybe it’s the contrast with being cooped up in a flat in a city. Whatever it is, this time I am addicted. For the last six weeks I have been swimming two or three times a week, in the sea, in lochs and in reservoirs. Towels, swim suits and shoes are constantly draped over my radiators to dry. Last payday, I spent £90 on a ginormous, waterproof fleecy robe for changing by the waterside and I’ve just made an appointment to get prescription goggles. I like seeking out new places to swim, then writing reviews on my Facebook swimming group, as though it’s a wee adventure.
There are worse things to be addicted to, so I’m letting it go. A friend commented on a social media post that this might be a displacement activity for tango. It’s true that where I once might have seen a wooden floor and thought about its dancing potential, I now look at bodies of water and wonder what they are like to swim in. What they have in common is the feeling of bliss. In an ideal world, I’ll take both. We need all the bliss we can get these days.
Perhaps that’s what I am addicted to. Because when you come out of the water after a cold water swim, your body tingles all over with a feeling of immense wellbeing, often for hours afterwards. Swimming in water that’s 21 degrees is lovely, especially if the air temperature is even warmer, but it’s not the same. You don’t get the buzz that you get when the cold water has done something magical to your body. And you just feel so alive…
The picture at the top sums it up. My friend took it after a swim the other day. The two of us had a huge reservoir all to ourselves, and it’s much easier to get changed without wriggling about under a robe, so for practical reasons I threw caution (and the baps) to the wind after swimming. But as soon as I had, a wonderful, carefree feeling of joy come over me, coupled with an irresistible urge to flash my tits at the sky. Thinking about it now makes me laugh out loud. And that is some potent shit right there, an antidote to the never ending anxiety of 2020.
Anyway, why the hell was I talking about the power of threeat the start of this? Simply because I have discovered it formyself. Some weeks the weather is bad because it’s Scotland. You’re advised not to swim immediately after heavy rain, as sheep shit and other unpleasant things slide into the water. As a result, some weeks I’ve only managed two swims and when that happens, I feel the lack of it. Three is the sweet spot: on the three swim weeks, the difference in my energy and mood is palpable. I feel stronger, I sleep better and I feel happier.
So there you have it: my completely non-scientific application of the power of three. Somehow I intend to carry this right through the autumn and winter, and swim my way to proper fitness. Because there’s another number looming in my life: fifty. The birthday, less than eighteen months away. I’m not afraid of it, just afraid to face it feeling like I do just now.
As we get older, we need to do more to fight the wear and tear we put on our bodies. Trust me: once is better than nothing, two isnae bad, but three will make the big difference. It’s the magic number.
Until next time,