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The sisterhood, swimming and turning 50

Roberta O'Brien, The Lismore Echo's Health and Fitness Guru.
Roberta O'Brien, The Lismore Echo's Health and Fitness Guru. Sophie Moeller

I CELEBRATED 20 years of swimming the Byron Bay Ocean Swim Classic this year with my good friend Annie.

We know it's been 20years because we started the Byron Bay Ocean Swim Classic when her daughter Conor was nine months old - this year Conor turns 21.

Also another milestone for Annie - she hit the 50-55 Female category.

We talk a lot about the 'fullness' (we refuse to say busyness) of our lives with family and work, and how important it is to keep active and healthy as we age.

The other day we also came to the realisation that as we age and continue this 'full' lifestyle, the competitive edge to be good at everything dulls a little.

We acknowledge that participation can sometimes be enough.

In the years of our swimming together, who beat who has gone to and fro.

When Annie had babies, I seemed to have the edge on her, and then when it was my time to have children, Annie grabbed the baton and swam me down big time.

Now we are on a level playing field. Children are bigger, we both work hard, we enjoy downtime walking our dogs together and ocean swimming is like our religion.

We swim every Sunday. It's a combination of the purity of the water, the challenging conditions (shark fear, big swell, mid-winter freezing water) and the cleansing of our minds and souls when we are so present swimming with people and yet alone.

But it's even more than that, too.

Sounds quite crazy, but it is about the coffee after the swim and the sitting down with friends - like we have done for 20-odd years - and celebrating that Sunday morning awakening like no other.

Exercising with women in my age group is such a humbling and positive experience.

We can do what 20-year-olds do, sometimes better and faster... and sometimes not.

Most of all, staying healthy together gives us a sense of worth.

It keeps our social bonds alive and there is nothing like the strength and support of the 'sisterhood' to get you out of bed on Sunday morning.

Topics:  byron bay ocean swim classic health and fitness roberta o'brien


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