Originally published in the Australian Financial Review: Time Out Q&A:
Adviceline Injury Lawyers partner Michael Lombard has a simple tactic for not feeling guilty when he occasionally skips his early-morning swim. He answers the Financial Review Time Out Q&A.
Why swimming and how did you get into it?
I grew up in Brighton, near the beach. My father would swim at Melbourne's Brighton Baths each morning and sometimes I would go along with him. Other times, I would hide behind the couch if it was too cold.
Pool or the ocean
I have to swim regularly in Brighton Bay during winter as "once in a while" hurts too much, especially when the water temperature starts to descend towards eight degrees. Most of the year, I swim in the bay with the Brighton Icebergers, but when the open-water competition season comes around, I mix it up with pool swimming to increase my speed.
How often do you train?
I like the idea of swimming every day, but I've decided not to. That way, I can miss the odd morning without feeling guilty - who needs more guilt?
What distance do you usually swim?
Pool training sessions last 90 minutes and cover three to four kilometres. There are several different courses through Brighton Bay, ranging from 1500 metres to four kilometres.
Do you swim year-round or just in summer?
I swim in the bay year-round but do more pool swimming when the weather warms up and racing season approaches. I don't swim in a wetsuit except for open-water races - the advantage for someone like me, who can barely kick, is too great to give up. But I would be expelled from the Icebergers if I dared to wear a wetsuit during the early morning swims.
Do you race?
I am very keen on racing in open-water events. I enjoy the challenge and sometimes the tactics involved. Some less generous Icebergers have said, perhaps fairly, that I have "white line fever".
Breaststroke, particularly in the middle of winter as it allows me to get my breath back and keep my head out of the water while my body reacts to the cold. I can then work up to putting my face in and taking off from there. No brave plunges into the icy waters for me.
What do you think about when you're swimming?
I think about anything and everything, from sharks and jellyfish, to proper technique, to work problems. Sometimes I even come up with solutions.
The Lorne Pier to Pub [the largest ocean water swim in the world]. All the best open-water swimmers go in it, and most of my hard training is aimed at doing the best I can in that race. I have competed 24 times and sixth is the best I have been able to achieve in my age group.
Ever been frightened or in trouble in the water?
I have been involved with lifesaving and thought I was pretty secure in the water, until recently when I was caught in two flash rips in three days when swimming at Mooloolaba in Queensland. Thankfully, I was able to make my way back in before the lifesavers came paddling on their boards to rescue the others still out there.
Do you swim on your own?
Often swimming on my own in the bay is a result of me sleeping in and arriving at the beach just after the others have taken off. Thankfully, when squad swimming in a pool, my tardiness doesn't mean I'm left behind.
Which swimmer do you most admire?
Ian Thorpe. How can you not admire someone who seems to effortlessly slice through the water?
Who would you most like to go swimming with?
I wouldn't want to go swimming with any of the champions I admire - I wouldn't be able to keep up! I just want to swim with anyone who I can swim next to without getting that sinking feeling as they motor past me.
Do you use a swim watch?
I don't use a swim watch as I find pain is a good indication of how far or hard I have gone.
Tell us about your most memorable swimming experience
Swimming "The Rip" at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay in 2007 with a group of Icebergers was pretty memorable. I didn't know what to expect but at times felt like I was swimming downhill - apparently this was from swimming through whirlpools. I kept looking up to see the lighthouse, not realising we were being swept out and then in through the heads. Thankfully, we eventually ended up at the Point Lonsdale pier.
Any gripes about swimming?
Swimming fitness can be very cruel. It takes a long while to build up to a good level of fitness but if you take a week off, returning feels like you have been away for a year.
What do you like best about it?
No open-water swim is the same. No matter how regularly you swim, something is always different and it is usually a wonderful experience. Swimming in the pool is great as you are always trying to improve, which I find exhilarating.