Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thoughts on Learning to Swim

Everyone who knows me knows I work out. A lot. But what might surprise a few of you is I hate cardio machines. Stair climbers? No way. Elliptical? Errr, no thank you. Treadmill? Or shall we say, dreadmill? What's worse, is the most geographically convenient gym for me plays the worst, most mindless television ever invented (we'll leave my rant on the "real" housewives for another blog). Hence my quest for non-cardio machine forms of cardio outside of running began. And there's one place in the gym where the Kardashians can't invade my senses: the pool.

The only problem that existed with this new work out strategy was that I did not know how to swim. Well, I could flail around in water and not die, and I wasn't afraid of the water, I just had no clue how to make it from one end to other without a flotation device of some kind. So I decided to invest in some lessons at the local Y.

On the first day, I showed up to class ready to go. I was excited to learn something new, and I was confident I'd be swimming with just a few tips. Not so. The instructor gave me a kick board, and by the end of one length, I was panting like my German shepherd in August. I couldn't figure out what was wrong with me: how is it possible I can run, but not swim? Why was it so dang hard? I left feeling discouraged, miserable, and exhausted. The next two lessons followed in a similar way: drills with the kick board, a large floating barbell, and failed attempts at swimming one measly length. By my fourth lesson, I was very close to giving up. Each lesson felt like torture, like I was reaching for something I could never attain. I had to reach deep down for a piece of strength just to get in the car and get to the lesson.

As it turned out. that was the lesson in which I swam my first full length via front crawl. I left feeling exhilarated from knowing I had pushed myself physically to do something I was not able to do even the day before. From there, there has been slow and steady progression. I'm still not very fast or very good at the front crawl, but I can get a few laps in before I need to recover.

One thing I realized during the entire process is it had been quite a long time since I had learned to do something brand new and physical. Learning to swim challenged my coordination, my physical strength, and my heart and lungs to the point where I feel refreshingly tired yet accomplished when I'm done. It reminded me of how little our culture seems to value taking on something brand new and how we lull ourselves to some kind of hypnotic state by allowing others to entertain us. I encourage everyone to try something new, and really learn it. Don't be afraid of things that seem difficult or things that seem out of your reach. You will surprise yourself.