I find myself making excuses for why I think I am not doing well in the pool. I did it today, probably unnecessarily. I was asked to share a lane and I said, “of course – but I’m not that good, so hopefully, I’ll stay on my side!”
“Actually, I’m a runner…” I continued, as if she cared, and “I’m just doing this so I don’t pound the hell out of my joints between half marathons… you know, to recover”, as though my poor form and swimming all over the lane required a good excuse.
Truth of the matter is: I’m getting better at swimming. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not ready for an open water swim or to take on an Iron Man or anything, but when I sit down and really think about what it was like for me when I started and where I am now, I’m kind of proud of the hard work I’ve put into it, especially when I have a good day like today. I’m going at it with the same kind of tenacity I espoused when I first started running. I hit it and hit it and hit it and I don’t give up until I get it right. It was like the mud wall at the Warrior Dash: I made a little bit of progress, I fell back in, and I kicked like hell to get out. Eventually, I got out.
Eventually, I got running.
Eventually, I’ll be good at swimming.
I write this post because I had a pretty remarkable swim today, relative to my history with swimming. I did 1600m in 58:32 – my fastest yet. I wasn’t going for time – I honestly just wanted to have good form. I’ve struggled for a long time with my form and getting comfortable in the water, and to be honest, the most recent swim was a pretty terrible one (in fairness, I ran that day and did my swim at 10 PM, so I was pretty tired when I got into the pool). Today, I finally got to a point where I felt comfortable after a 50m interval and could finally start to reduce my rest times. When I really concentrated on it, I could feel the difference in my form when I was implementing all the advice I’d been given or seen on videos. And, I could feel it when I didn’t. That was remarkable to me because it was probably the first time it was that clear to me.
But… I remember what it was like at the beginning and I guess there is some left over anxiety about it… Honestly, swimming intimidates me. My mother was a competitive swimmer and taught me fundamentals when I was very, very young, but after years of not practicing – nor getting coaching – I forgot it all and am having to re-teach it to myself. I sit and watch other swimmers while I wait for lanes or while my boys are taking their lessons. I watch videos. I seek advice from friends of mine and I get frustrated about the fact that I can’t go farther than 50 meters at a time without needing a break.
And then I remember where I was when I decided that I really needed swimming as a regular part of my fitness routine. I couldn’t even make it 12.5 meters. I was winded less than 1/2 way down a short. My behind was sinking into the water and my kicks took me backward instead of propelling me forward. My arms were like jelly and I found myself giving up after only about 15 minutes in the water. What was wrong with me!?!?! I could run 13 miles but I can’t even swim 1/8 of a mile?!!?
I decided that I wasn’t going to be defeated by water and already decided that I wanted to do a Tri – it seemed more my style… so I had to learn how to swim. I grabbed kick boards and I annoyed all my swimmer friends with questions and requests of advice. I learned how to kick and I spent many a boring hour going up and down the pool -music-less – with that kick board until I was able to make my booty float and my legs propel me forward. I watched videos. I watched other swimmers. I got into the pool and made a giant fool of myself more times than I care to think about, but eventually, I started to make forward progress and I was able to swim unassisted 25 meters. I’m up to 50 and, with any luck, will be able to start swimming 75m intervals without rests by the end of the spring.
I have a long way to go still and I know I have some crappy swims ahead of me, but hopefully I won’t let those crappy swims defeat me, just as I didn’t let the crappy runs defeat me with running.
At least I’m making progress, and at least I still like it.
Oh… and I didn’t veer into her side of the lane 🙂