Swimming For Your Life

(I’m recycling this from my writing somewhere else because I’m starting to feel under the weather. It is a story I have been thinking about a lot though as I have had to make giant leaps of faith in my own abilities to learn new stuff.)

When I was about 4 or 5 there was a commercial running on television. I remember it as a commercial for the Olympics which would have made it the 1972 Olympics. (When I realized which Olympics it was it shook me up a little. Putting our memories in a larger context can be strange.) This commercial featured slow motion footage of a swimmer doing the butterfly. I couldn’t find the commercial online anywhere and knowing how popular Mark Spitz was at the time it could have been a commercial for anything featuring him.


photo courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

Anyway, what I’m leading up to is this was the year I was going to get to take swimming lessons at the YMCA. I remember watching those commercials intently. I took in every detail and memorized the movement. When I finally got into the pool with my class and new swimming teacher, I announced to the teacher that I could swim. The teacher asked me to demonstrate so I made a valiant attempt at the butterfly. If anyone has ever done the butterfly they know it is a brutal swim stroke that taxes most everyone let alone a 4-year-old kid who can’t actually swim. So I sunk.

I remember being under the water, still trying to butterfly, thinking, “hmm, this isn’t going the way I thought it would.” The teacher pulled me up, placed me with the rest of the class and proceeded with the lesson. I didn’t say anything about what I had just done or cry or even be afraid. Actually I wasn’t afraid at all. Even after that. It seems odd. We’ll not explore it…

I ended up being a very good swimmer and have spent most of my life in the pool. I grew up with pools in the backyard and even swam on a swim team in high school.

I haven’t swum in a few years. You don’t really want to prance around in a bathing suit when you are overweight and since I don’t have a pool anymore I have to swim in *gasp* public pools.

Now I have lousy knees. I am fairly young but with really bad arthritis, no cartilage and a torn meniscus, I’m finding my workout routine very painful. My doctor said I should swim. Swimming, my old friend! I wondered why that never occurred to me? So I joined a health club that has a nice pool (as well as swimming coaches).

It was important to me that I get a really good workout so I researched swimming workouts and swimming drills. I found a core workout from a tri-athlete that looked pretty good. I knew the tri-athlete was likely at a different fitness level than me (said tongue-in-cheek!) but I figured I could get through it if I went much slower and took breaks. Also I figured that even if I didn’t finish it I would still get a great workout which was the goal. So I wrote out this workout (in giant letters so I could read it without my glasses) and slipped it into a plastic sandwich bag (so it could get wet) and trooped over to the pool early this morning.

As soon as I set off I felt it. By the time I was halfway across the pool I thought I might be having an asthma attack and then realized I was just breathless because I was exerted already! I powered through and on the return lap I realized I wasn’t even going to finish the warm up. I was just repeating history 40 years later! Actually that first swimming lesson was pretty indicative of how I would run the rest of my life. I’m just not afraid to try new things and I’m often in over my head (figuratively and literally).

Some things never change. The moral of the story here is that when you work out, go big and fail big. No one is looking.

For a wonderful workout that will get you up to the level of that tri-athlete swim workout, try the Zero to One Mile program. It is a great measured program that will truly take the novice who can’t complete 25 yards and work them up to a mile.


Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Swimming For Your Life

  1. Amy D. says:

    I definitely need to get back to the pool . . . my knees would thank me! Thank you for the reminder that I need to remember while I am there, everyone else is concerned about what they are doing, not with what I am doing.

Talk to me!