Monday, October 12, 2009


I'm swimming again. I don't know what has brought on my sudden surge of swimming, but I am.

For those of you who don't know, I spent most of my childhood in a pool. Sometimes I was in the pool to teach swim lessons, to life guard, or to just simply have fun with friends. But a good 95% of my time in a pool has been as a competitive swimmer. I swam summers on my neighborhood team with the best coach ever. I spent a couple years swimming year-round on a competitive team when it didn't conflict with basketball. And, of course, I swam for my high school swim team, lettered, and then eventually became captain of the team my senior year.

FACT: I was CONVINCED that we kept sharks in the deep end of the pool when I was really young and starting out (5-6 years old). The lanes of our pool were half shallow and half deep end so any time I had to swim in the deep end, I sprinted for dear life as I was sure I was going to get eaten by our team's mascot that only lived in the depths of the pool. I eventually realized that sharks don't live in chlorine!

Needless to say, swimming was my life. Unfortunately, in my senior year of high school, I sustained a serious injury to both of my shoulders. Given the choice of undergoing incredibly invasive corrective surgery that may not ever solve the problem or pain or simply stopping swimming, I stopped. The pain was unbearable - it hurt to drive, it hurt to sleep, it hurt to do any physical activity period. I knew that I had to stop in order to get better. It was, to that point, the worst thing that ever happened to me. Of course, stopping swimming meant that I could sing more (swim meets always conflicted with musicals, shows, etc.) so I threw myself into singing and pursued that into college instead.

I didn't swim for exercise until about two years ago when I joined a gym in Atlanta that had a pool. It was weird, the pool was hot, and I didn't keep it up. Plain and simple.

Now I live in Africa and belong to an incredibly nice gym with a pool that uses salt water (blech) instead of chlorine. They keep the pool cool and on a 90+ degree day, I can think of no better exercise than going to swim.

The pool is large with 6 25 yd. lanes. This means I have yet to share a lane when swimming - yay! Swimmers range from every ability - a woman next to me yesterday verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry slowly treaded water from one end of the pool to the other, all the while keeping her head out of the water. Most people swim at a slow pace, don't do flip turns, and usually only do freestyle (i.e. the crawl). In contrast, I swim all the strokes, always do flip turns (its ingrained in me the same way that boxing out when someone shoots a basketball is), and move a lot faster, without really trying.

While I swim, Will is usually somewhere watching me from a treadmill or the weights and he says he laughs as he sees me plow through the water just to swim faster than the guy a couple lanes down from me.

So I'm competitive. Its never gone away.

The thing about swimming is... I've missed it. Its comfortable to me. It really doesn't feel like exercise until I hoist myself out of the pool on arms that feel like spaghetti noodles. I can swim for 30 minutes and I just get to think about things. If I do breast stroke, I even hear the music playing in the gym, which is somewhat nice. Otherwise, its just relaxing and peaceful. Because I have a short attention span, most times I wind up swimming against the clock to give me something to do.

When you train as a swimmer, you'll have a minute clock on both ends of the pool. The dials are huge so you can easily see the minute hand tick by - the arm is black one end and red on the other so you can keep track of the time. Most often I sprint against the clock. I'll swim 8-10 laps, stop, wait for the clock to reach 60, and then push off, swimming as fast as I can to see what time I make it in. I have yet to enjoy the time I see on the clock - its about 20 seconds faster than what I used to swim. So this is what I do for at least thirty minutes - swim 8-10 laps at a moderately fast pace, then swim a 2 lap sprint (50 yds) as fast as I can, rest, swim 8-10 laps, sprint, rest.

I've decided that I miss having a kick board and a pull buoy, two things I never thought I'd miss. I really really REALLY miss my awesome purple speedo goggles - the ones I have with me fog up too fast. I'm really pleased that I wear a USA swim cap when I swim - just because I love swim caps with writing on them.

As I swim, my mind wanders... if I read a magazine article on the amount of calories you burn while swimming, would I be burning what the article says... or would the slow people moving along be burning that amount? Is there a website where I can get ideas for a swim plan so I'm doing more than swimming against the clock (my old coach has one here!)? What's better post-swim: steam room or sauna? etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, I'm happy, my arms are getting toned, and Lord knows while I'm not nearly as fast as I used to be (or as small), I'm happy to be in the pool again, pain-free.


Evelyn & Floyd said...

so your shoulders aren't hurting at all? that's amazing! and ps - if you ever move to Greenville, SC you could give RM swim lessons! I'm just saying... that'd be really cool. :)

Will and Valerie said...

I think it just took time to heal them. They bothered me a lot in college - probably because not enough time had passed. But now? No problems. I'm not swimming for 2.5 hours four times a week either though with swim meets every other weekend so I'm sure that makes a difference. But for now, it feels good and its so relaxing.

I love to teach swim lessons, especially the 5 and under crowd. I love the be the person that teaches kids how to blow bubbles, float, and of course, swim!