Swimming is hard

Lately, when I think about doing a big, pounding workout, my back (and hips and feet) hurt just thinking about it. It’s hard to have to be so damn careful, when a lot of your identity (not to mention livelihood, or lack of), is wrapped up in an image of yourself as tough and strong, and maybe a little bit intense. At least as far as workouts go. I’m no Wonder Woman, but I like to think I’m up for a challenge.

I’d started to feel a little discouraged, a little depressed, and frankly, a lot bored of myself and my aches and pains. So instead of curling up on the couch and eating my way through a big bag of jelly beans, never to see the inside of the gym again, I decided to approach things a little differently. So I’m swimming again.

What, did you think I was going to include a photo of me in the swimsuit?

A little background on this topic: Me and the water? We don’t get along so great. I have never been much of a water baby, and in fact, I remember dreading swimming lessons as a kid. I can float my way around a backyard pool, and I enjoy the smell of chlorine on a hot summer day, but actual strokes–not so much. The ocean? FORGET IT! (I used all caps so you can imagine me yelling those words). Let’s just say I’ve had a couple of bad experience with fast water.

But last year, I resolved to learn to swim. Maybe it was a premonition that my body might not always put up with pounding the pavement. Enter my swim angel, Kris Beirne. Kris was a co-worker at Tri-City Wellness Center, and a former college swimmer. She has tons of swimming and coaching experience, and more importantly, the kindness and patience to teach me.

For several months, Kris met me once a week for lessons (and gave me lots of pep talks in between). She put me through drills, taught me some basic strokes, and encouraged me to stick with it. In short, she was awesome.

Through those lessons, I developed a love/hate relationship with swimming. Maybe hate is too strong a word. Love/dislike. Swimming is hard. But not in the way a long run or a cycling class is hard. You don’t grit your teeth and push until you collapse in a sweaty heap, because in swimming, if you grit your teeth, water gets in your mouth, and there is no sweat. I consider sweat an important part of the workout process, so to me, the no sweat thing is weird. And for some reason, I feel like I’m not really working out while I’m swimming, even though when I get out of the water my whole body is rubber.

The love part comes from learning something new and seeing improvement, and conquering a fear. Plus, when you get in a groove, it can feel pretty cool. And then there is my favorite part; the steam room.

I haven’t been in the pool for a workout since we moved (sorry Kris), and one day, after hearing me complain one too many times about my back, Mike said, “why don’t you start swimming again?” So I did. And you know what? It’s still hard.

How about you, faithful readers? Do you like to swim? I think swimming is like a cult–people who love it are slavishly devoted to it. It’s almost like an insult to suggest they try an exercise on dry land. And there are definitely rules and etiquette to using the pool. If you’re not a swimmer and you think you’d like to try, check back tomorrow. I’m working on a post on the benefits of swim workouts, and some suggestions for getting started.

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