2.03.2010

Trying Something Old

I was born a Pisces; I always loved water. Bath time was my favorite time of day (aside from dinnertime and bedtime, of course). We rarely went to the beach or to swimming pools when I was quite young, so to swim in a hotel pool, to go to the beach in Delaware on an excursion from my grandma's house near D.C., to go to the Riviera Swim Club with my piano teacher, or to spend a few days at Dad's friend's lake house riding the pontoon boat was a treat. I loved sliding, sandcastling, sailing, snorkeling, and especially swimming. I motored around underwater looking for treasure, underwater civilizations, lost puppies, China, etc.

I started swimming competitively in fourth grade during summertime at my parents' swim club, which incidentally also had a few tennis courts. I first swam year-round my eighth-grade year, and this continued throughout high school.

I quit swimming when the coach started making us run during dry-land practice. After all, I thought that the reason I had stuck with swim team for so long after I abandoned all other sports was because I didn't have to run. In the pool, I never got side stitches, never felt my inner organs jostling about, never came down funny on my foot and embarrassed myself in a faceplant.


I did not manage to get very good. I was at about the median skill and speed level on whatever team I joined. I'm not sure if it was a lack of commitment, an inability to build muscle (nutrition and weightlifting were not exactly pursuits of mine at that age), or just not starting early enough. But I liked the feeling of propelling my body through the water. I enjoyed the sudden grace I would acquire in the pool. I was grateful that the water rinsed away my sweat before I could feel it. I appreciated our symbiotic relationship in which we both wanted to get past each other as quickly and smoothly as possible.

When I went to college, I wanted to stave off that freshman 15. So I tried varied exercise approaches: cardio salsa, elliptical machine, bicycling to work and to class. Little did I remember that swimming was where it's at. Sure, I tried the lap pools every once in a while, but the crowds, restrictive open lap swim times, and my general annoyance with amateurs (just because I wasn't Olympics material doesn't mean I wasn't a snob) did not exactly excite me.

Nearly five years and dozens of exercise plans and programs that didn't stick later, I'm back in the water, and I realize how much I've missed it. Sure, I'm a shadow of my former self as far as speed in most strokes, but my technique is still okay, and it's still an excellent workout if I remember to plan a routine and push myself instead of complacently roboting through 50 laps. I also discovered that in all my off time from the dreaded butterfly, what used to be my slowest and most embarrassing stroke is now suddenly -- miraculously -- a breeze and even a little bit fun!

And fun is the key to sticking with anything.

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