Saturday, January 12, 2019

A New and Better Old Thing

In my Quest for New-ness to keep from going stale, sometimes I end up with an Old Thing Renewed. Like swimming.

It started with a free upgraded month from the athletic club, an upgrade that would get me into the clubs with pools. So while this possibility existed all along, I always concentrated on “it’ll mess up my hair color” or “my skin won’t be able to handle both winter and chlorine” or “it’ll be too crowded.” Negativity can really take hold, but in this case, the mere extra of “winning” this free month sent me into the pool.

And when I took that first plunge and swam across the pool, I felt welcomed into the water. I don’t know how to describe it except that water is my element. It relieves me of the burdens of land.

Land is my klutzy place. Land is where tree roots and cracks in  the sidewalk lie in wait to grab me. Land is where I can fall on my head (and this includes ice because when it’s hard, I count it as land, not water). Yes, I know I run, but I run vigilantly, looking at my feet and the hazards awaiting them.

This is how I start a run: “Grunt, grunt, get going. Creak, creak, get a rhythm. Just go, it’ll get better,” and it does. Eventually. After a few miles.

This is how I enter the water: “Ahhhhhh….”

How did I forget this? I don’t know when I first learned to swim, because I seem to have always done it. When the town pool was built in our town, my family got season passes. We’d spend the day at the pool, go home to eat supper, and return to the pool afterwards with my father. I even did synchronized swimming for a while.

Yes, the same girl who suffered through calisthenics in high school. You know “calisthenics” – the ’60s version of Jazzercise or aerobics or Zumba – the thing that involves rights and lefts and choreography. The phys ed teacher would start by saying, “Let’s begin. Will someone take Barbara aside and work with her?”

This same land klutz did synchronized swimming!

So now I’m in the pool again, doing laps. I count odd numbers out and even numbers back in. Eventually, after a couple of trips to the pool, I reach my ¾ of a mile length: 54 lengths of the pool or 27 laps. I get out. It’s where I always stop, where I have always stopped. ¾ of a mile.

And then one day, I decide to do 56 lengths. I have finished 54 and another out-and-back doesn’t seem so earth-shaking, so I do it.

The next day, I do 60. Then I calculate that if I did 63, and that’s divisible by 9 (just like 72), it would mean I had done 7/8 of a mile. Someone said I must have an active imagination to be able to go back and forth over and over again, and I told her I do math problems. I calculate the percentages of my laps, so figuring out – by ninths – is just one of my little games.

And then it occurred to me: I could swim a mile. I could just keep on swimming past what-I-had-always-done-and-stopped-at, and I could swim a whole mile.

So I did.

I am in my Third Third, and I now swim a mile at a time. Three or four times a week.

My hair is fading terribly (but at least the color is no longer dripping down my neck as I get out of the pool). My body takes gallons of lotion so I don’t itch, and I’m pretty sure the dark circles under my eyes have gotten worse as the swim goggles dig in right there.

But I learned a Big New Thing: I learned that many of the things I carry around are self-imposed limits. I stopped myself at ¾ of a mile my whole life. I’m not sure why, but I think it had to do with having to be somewhere, not having enough time, or just habit. But now, in my Third Third, I have the time. I just had to break my head out of its no-time-to-do-it place and consider the option to … pass that barrier.

This is mildly earth-shaking for me: what other limits are self-imposed? I think of myself as someone who likes challenges, tackles tough things, but obviously, I never swam a mile. Before.

Now I do.


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    1. So obviously the beaches you grew up near weren't surrounded by 90 degree heat and humidity with the water being the best respite. I'm surprised you could boat and fish with this fear. Yikes!

  2. Good for you. I am very impressed. I don't think swimming is my thing. I need to find out what is.

    1. It's unclear how long a "my thing" lasts.... We'll see. At least this is immune to weather, but it doesn't solve the problem of getting outside.

  3. A mile swim is a great achievement. In a previous century, the UAA pool had a "Swim the Bering Sea" contest. You had a semester to do the 50 mile crossing, bit by bit. Part way through I realized that I had no idea if I had time to complete it at the rate I was going. Quick calculations meant I had to do some miles, even some miles and a quarter. But I did complete it.
    I'd never been in such good shape. And haven't since. A mile is a long swim. Congrats.


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