FOR almost two years, Polly Swann’s exercise regime consisted of a brisk cycle from her flat in Edinburgh to whichever hospital served as her educational base on that particular day.

It was a radical shift for someone who previously had tortured herself to expand her lung capacity to super-human volume, a necessary trait when rowing relentlessly for 2000 metres.

Such endeavours brought the reward of an Olympic silver medal in Rio three summers ago as part of the British eights crew. Two days later, Swann left the agony behind as she effectively retired to complete her degree in medicine.

“I got very unfit,” says the 31-year-old, without any serious regret.

Colleagues, her boyfriend, had skipped away and she appeared content.

“It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying my new life,” the Scot says. “But I’d been looking up results to see how everyone was getting on. I never properly switched off and I really couldn’t put it to bed.

“The frustration was that I know that in Rio, we had a great result. I was really happy with the process and the medal. But I thought I could still do better. I probably wasn’t in my peak state of fitness, or rowing as well as I can do. That’s maybe what spurred me on, knowing I could do better. You’ve only got your body once so I thought I should go for it now because I can’t make a comeback when I’m 45.”

So Swann is back in a boat again, with a degree in her bag, and an oar in her hand. The world championships begin in Poznan today and after a rapid re-integration into the fold, she has been thrown in at the deep end in the fours. It is a new group, with an old hand still feeling her way back.

She claimed a world title in 2013 and that set a benchmark.

“Once you’ve won one, you think that’s the level and that’s what you want,” she says. “I’m also realistic. Primarily, the goal is Olympic qualification.”

The addictive hunger for success has been reignited and ward rounds must wait while she soothes this itch.

“It’s quite a cool life and it’s quite exciting,” Swann says. “Sometimes as athletes, we take that for granted. It’s pressurised and it’s hard but it’s also a great privilege.”