Sitting beside a pool, chewing the fat with fellow mothers while we watch our youngsters swim up and down, it all sounds so effortless being a swim mum, surely?
Well just to clarify … Competitive swimming, as with any sport at performance level requires a team effort. While I leave all the swim training and competitiveness to my two sons, aged 13 and 15 (who between them do a total of 25 hours per week) the role of a swim mum is anything but hands off. Apart from my dual duties as chief chauffeur and wardrobe mistress, I think the primary task has to be that of food provider.
Keeping young boys fit and healthy (and hopefully winning some races!) means providing regular, nutritious and energy-giving meals. If you think anything goes as far as food is concerned, due to the fact that they swim it all off anyway, well you can just take a running dive off the nearest starting block. Food is fuel for swimmers and it needs to be the right balance, the right amount and the right kind, often corresponding with various training and competition timetables. What this means so far as my sons are concerned is lots of (hopefully) good food, lots of times a day. The 15-year-old, for example, eats five Weetabix with milk before his early morning swim (5.30am in the pool) followed by beans and egg/bacon on toast when he returns. After a decent-sized mid-morning snack, he’ll then tuck into lunch at school, followed by another healthy snack before the afternoon swim session. He then eats his “proper” dinner when he comes back afterwards!
Of course, we are dealing with teenagers and keeping their hands out of the cookie jar is both unrealistic and, I think, a little unfair, so you have to balance the good stuff with a sprinkling of their favourites (my 13-year-old would happily gnaw his way through a packet of chocolate teacakes). Food is one of the hot topics of conversation when any group of swim mums are huddled together on a pool viewing gallery and we regularly swap recipes, fast meal options (and moans about finicky kids, obviously). It’s this kind of camaraderie that keeps us going, particularly as some of the more observant of you will have noticed that I mentioned a certain 5.30am swim session. But, let’s leave that one for another time!
Do you have a son who plays a competitive sport? How does it affect the way you run your life/household/other kids? And do you have any suggestions for healthy, energy-rich food for active kids? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll share them with readers.