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Helen Skelton: “I leapt into the unknown”

3 MIN READ • 27th August 2016

Your Fitness’ intrepid columnist stakes out the newest classes and takes on the latest challenges

With the Rio Olympic games on the horizon and Daley fever set to sweep the nation once again, I thought it would be only right to see what it’s like leaping from great heights into the unknown. And to fulfill my wish, I was lucky enough to enjoy a diving lesson with Olympic medallist and BBC colleague Leon Taylor (you’ll know his face from the TV show Splash).

Even as Mrs Gung Ho, I wasn’t allowed to jump straight from a high board. No, we literally went back to basics and learned to enter the water properly from the side of the pool. Thankfully I was saved the embarrassment of having to sit on the side and roll in, but it wasn’t much more advanced than that. A few belly flops later and I was able to progress onto the static three meter board. I soon learned it’s all about holding your nerve. Confidence is key and although it’s ‘only’ water you’re landing on, if you time it wrong you may as well be landing face first on a concrete car park. Leon explained the need to tilt forward, maintain composure, lock your arms and legs and point your toes. Even though I wasn’t pushing myself from the board in a way that meant I leapt into the air, I was pushing my body into an arrow-like shape. You have to breathe in, stand tall, tilt forward and at the optimum point (just when you want to scramble and kick and get yourself upright again), you have to hold your nerve and stretch/point yourself into the water. While it’s tricky at three meters, it’s scary at seven metres and even more so off the 10 metre board.

After being allowed to jump (not dive) off the 10 metre board, I spent the rest of my lesson on the seven metre board and although I had been feeling confident with my ability to dive off head first, it wasn’t anywhere near as easy as it looked. As in golf, I quickly learned to know if the dive was ok by the feeling I had when I hit the water. Basically if it hurt, I’d done it wrong. I also learned that I need to know when to stop. One dive too many and you can end up hurting yourself as I found out at the end of my afternoon! Heading off the seven metre board, I interlocked my hands to push the water away on impact, only to realise that they weren’t quite flush as the water smacked onto my face, leading to the biggest black eye I have had in years!

All in all, diving is heart racing in a non-aerobic way, exhilarating in an extreme sport way and definitely something worth trying. It’s certainly made me gain further appreciation of that dimple faced diver who has grown up in front of the nation.

This month Helen’s been…


Playground workouts

I spend a lot of time in parks and while my baby is clambering around I use the opportunity to work out with him. I do squats, bear crawls and planks while he plays alongside me. Of course you have to concentrate on your child but with a distraction like that you can easily do lots of exercise without even realising.


Bach Rescue Remedy

It may be a placebo or it may be a magic remedy but either way I have got in to the habit of always putting a few drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy on my tongue before I fly or travel with the baby. It restores a sense of calm and relaxation and is as much a part of our travel routine as packing the nappies.


The Olympics

This big event start on 6th August and I can’t wait. I may be biased but I think the sports to watch are swimming and diving. Our water-based athletes have been impressing all and are well placed to push for Olympic glory. Look out for Adam Peaty and Fran Hallsall and world champions James Guy and Jazz Carlin.


The DofE Diamond Challenge

You don’t have to be a royalist to celebrate 60 years of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme, and no one is expecting you to camp on a mountain with a load of teenagers. This year young and old are being encouraged to get involved by doing something they have never done, whether it’s learning a language or taking a salsa class.}

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