swimming (or, trying not to drown myself)

This morning, I went lap swimming for the first time in six years. I tried to go on Tuesday, but the lifeguard was late, and I had to get to work. I was too tired/busy to go on Wednesday, and I knew that if I didn’t go today, it would be that much harder to get up and out of the apartment tomorrow morning.

When I arrived, lap swimming had been open for nearly 20 minutes already, and all but the one lane with the stairs were full. I knew I wasn’t going to be doing flip turns on my first day back, so I didn’t mind not having the wall on that end of the pool. I deposited my stuff on a bench near the stairs, and boldly stepped into the water, which was cool but not as frigid as I feared.

I dunked myself to wet down my hair, and then pulled on my goggles, making sure that I emptied as much water from them as I could. Then, I launched myself in to a freestyle stroke.

And floundered.

They say that you never forget how to ride a bike, but apparently, you can forget how to breathe when swimming. I could feel my lungs constricting as I panicked, and I quickly put my feet down and held my head above the water.

Thinking it was just a fluke, I tried again, with similar results. Resolved to do at least a lap before giving up entirely, I set off again with a modified breast stroke that left my mouth above the water so I could breathe normally.

It took me a lap and a half before I was willing to try freestyle again. Maybe it was because I’d gotten more comfortable with being in the water and my lizard brain calmed down, but I was much more successful after that point. I did a few more laps, pausing to catch my breath at the end of each length.

It’s a start. When I was at my peak swimming, I could freestyle a mile, pausing only infrequently. I know it will take me some time to get back to that condition, but I’m excited to do it. Swimming is by far my favorite athletic activity, but because I’ve been uncomfortable displaying my body in a swim suit, I’ve let myself make excuses.

No more excuses. I’m ready to get back in the pool.


Tomorrow, I’m getting up early and going to the city pool to swim laps until I wear out or for a half an hour, which ever comes first.

I just dug my swimming gear bag out from where I stashed it under the bed a couple of years ago. I haven’t really swam on a regular basis since 2001/02-ish. Amazingly, I still fit in my Speedo. This is a good thing, since the fat girl one-pieces all have sparklies or other design flaws that make them difficult to use for lap swimming. In going through everything (soap, shampoo for swimmers, swimmer’s ear drops, etc.), I thought to check the expiration dates. Most of them expired even before I moved out here. D’oh.

A couple of weeks ago while on vacation, I borrowed a friend’s swimsuit and did some pool jogging for about an hour. Then I tried swimming a lap and barely made it across the length of the small-ish hotel pool. I remember this stage of the swimming fitness training. When I started swimming several times a week in 2000, I had to stop and catch my breath after swimming each length. Within two months I had progressed to the point of being able to swim a mile with stopping only once or twice.

The great thing about swimming is that I’ve always had an affinity for water. I distinctly remember the first time I was in a swimming pool and figured out how to push myself under the water without having to tread on the top. I was probably six or seven years old. From that point on, summers were spent trying to talk my mother into letting me go to the city pool or finding reasons to hang out with friends who had pools. So, unlike most of the other things I do for exercise and fitness, swimming is actually a fun activity I look forward to.

You might be wondering why I haven’t kept up with it, since I enjoy it so much. Well, the down side to swimming is timing and access to inexpensive facilities. The city pool here costs $3.30 per visit, which is more than twice what I was paying when I swam regularly at a city pool in 2000. On the other hand, their hours suit me (open at 5:30am, well before work starts). The less expensive option ($20/quarter) at the university is available only over the noon hour, and until this year, I did not choose to give up my lunch break in order to work out. Also, it’s not available in the summer or during breaks. However, I will not allow myself to make excuses any longer.

Tomorrow, I’m getting up early and going to the city pool to swim laps until I wear out or for a half an hour, which ever comes first.