When I was in college, I had these short-lived dreams of playing basketball for Webster University, a Division III university where anyone could essentially try to play a sport if they wanted. But after a summer of keeping to a strict workout regime, courtesy of a friend who was probably the most in shape person I had ever met, my dream died a quick death in the preseason despite probably being in the best shape of my life.
The basketball coach made the entire team and perspective players join the cross country team for conditioning. And for me, the whole idea of long periods of running is what I equate to bathing in hot tar or any other type of unimaginable type of torture I would never want to endure. But I did try at least. And even before the first meet, I had horribly painful shin splints in both legs because I was still a little overweight, never learned how to really properly run and had extremely bad knees no matter what I did.
As a suggestion to get rid of the shin splints, the coach told me to walk in the pool. So every morning when the team got up to run, I got up to walk in the pool. Eventually the walking got boring, so I started swimming. While I wasn’t much of a swimmer, I started loving the water. Then something happened and I really don’t remember what — college, boyfriends, friends, drinking, too many excuses too count, but I just stopped swimming.
About a year after I graduated, I had gained too much weight for my own liking and the photographer at the newspaper where I was working suggested I start swimming. So I got a membership at my local YMCA and started swimming like a fish.
When I got overly stressed, I swam. When I was bored, I swam. And when I just felt like I was not doing enough exercise, I swam more. Swimming was my go to when I just needed a release. I figured the pool didn’t care about how much I weighed, how fast I swam or even how well I swam.
And as time went on, I even became a lifeguard to help feed my swimming obsession since the job came with a free membership. Over time, I even learned how to swim properly from a kindhearted swimmer who had watched me struggle probably too many times to count and started giving me pointers every time we swam at the same time. Then somehow I actually became an actual swimmer.
Throughout my life, I have always come back to swimming as a way to relieve stress and anxiety, or just a way to feel better about myself.
When I was pregnant with both boys, I swam at different points of the pregnancy. With Sweet Pea, it was during the second and third trimester because I could not stand the smell of chlorine during the first three months. And with Pooh Bear, it was the first two trimesters because the summer of 2011 was too insanely hot, making it unbearable to move most of the time.
I can never really find a reason why I can’t swim. It’s been more of too many excuses of things I need to do instead of going to the pool. But each time that I find my way back to the pool, gliding through the water, my SWIMP3 player attached to my goggles filling my head with music, for that moment in time, there is literally no other place I’d rather be than in that water. And in the water, it seems like my stress, anxiety, problems, pain and hurt just simply wash off more and more as my entire body becomes a little more sore with every stroke as I find my stride. I truly could swim for hours at a time. But at the risk of looking a little too OCD, I limit myself to an hour most days when I actually get up to go.
I’ll probably never be a runner, a cyclist or a crossfit trainer because of the gift from my birth parents of bad knees. And that’s okay for me because I’ll take the water any day over those things because, as an athlete knows, there is a certain sense of accomplishment that washes over your body every time you finish working out. And as I’ve said before and I’ll say over and over again, I may not like the smell of chlorine, but I do love how it smells after a great workout.
So thank you to the Coach at Webster that helped give me the swimming bug, to the photographer at the newspaper, who helped me find my way back to the pool and to my husband, who always knows when its been too long since I’ve seen the water and when it’s time to just stop what I’m doing and visit my old friend.