Last week on Amazon I found a really great deal for a swimsuit. Not a bikini (I already have one that I hope I can get away with wearing ’til I’m 40), but one in which you swim laps for exercise. Function over style, you know?
Lately I’ve (somewhat reluctantly) entertained the idea of swimming laps for cross-training (“Swimming is sooooo good for you” -Runner’s World), and eventually doing a triathlon, so that cheap-o swimsuit deal was the final kick-in-the-pants to get me in the pool. I ordered the suit and it came three days later, as if to say: Yes, you’re doing this. Yes, it’ll be funny. Yes, that’s what life is about. GO!
Three days went by with the new suit hanging in my bathroom, facing me with questions and circumstances and insecurities, like: You will look like a fool. You don’t even know how to do a turn! Where is your swimcap and goggles, newb? What if I forget how to breathe? And so on.
Finally on Wednesday morning, I jerked the swimsuit over my butt and pulled straps up and around my shoulders. It was so tight it squished back fat I didn’t think I had. My butt looked non-existent, but my thighs looked alright. I’ll settle for 1/3, but I prefer sports bras and shorts.
When I went to the pool at my Y, I saw the morning swimmers in their lanes. I probably had “Newb” written all over me. I’m a marathon runner, I swear I am physically fit enough to swim! Of course the only lane open was right next to the lifeguard who I’m sure was scoffing at my bad form and lack of proper gear (See: missing swimcap, goggles). I told myself I’d get through 10 laps (for the non-lap swimmers, one lap equals to the other wall and back, so like 20 for real). I would switch up strokes, but this would be a trial workout just to get my feet wet (see what I did there?!).
I started out with a vigorous breast stroke. By the end of one lap I was breathing so hard, I felt like I had just sprinted up one of my trail hills. One minute had passed. Um, seriously?
I alternated between breast, freestyle, and backstroke, trying so hard to focus on my breathing and where my arms went in relation to hitting the water, and how fast to kick my legs, and where is a teacher like Michael Phelps when you need him? Chicken-airplane-soldier-chicken-airplane-soldier….Talk to the fish, listen to the fish…Think about being aerodynamic! Is it aerodynamic even if you’re in water?…Hydrodynamic? I was never good at science…
All throughout my time in the pool, I thought about my sister. Kara is 14-years-old. She is a talented swimmer, and has been at it essentially her whole life. She gets up for swim team practice on Saturday mornings no later than 5:30am, and swims hard for two hours. She spends more hours in the pool each week than I do in my running shoes. She has competed in Hawaii, California, Florida, and all over Colorado. She has competed in the same meets as Olympian Missy Franklin. I swear every time I hug her, I smell just a little bit of chlorine, and I love that about her.
As I swam, I started thinking: What Would Kara Do? WWKD became my mantra. Stroke, WWKD, stroke, WWKD, stroke, WWKD.
Fact is, Kara probably would have laughed a little bit. And that’s okay. I was less than stellar. But she would have encouraged me and helped me along because that’s what people do when they have a passion for something and see another person trying it out.
The pool did not defeat me. Yes, I felt completely and totally humbled and I probably gave the old woman swimming in the lane next to me an ego boost, but that’s totally okay. Beyond my naivety, I felt inspired that there is more out there to learn and practice and that I have the freedom and ability to TRY it at all. To know how far I’ve come in running only to find that I’m just at the beginning of so many other things is not discouraging, but the total opposite.
Next pool day? Eleven humbling laps with a side of old-lady-ego-boosting. I welcome the workout.