Back in the Water Again

I went for my first swim in...ages...this morning. Enthusiastically, I put my suit on and dashed out to the YMCA. This workout wouldn't be pretty, however. I had done this before... gotten myself in great swimming shape, fell off the fitness wagon and stopped getting in the pool because I just didn't want to get wet. Getting back to it is really tough... and down right brutal for those of us who can call ourselves "a swimmer."

Growing up, I was one of those little sisters who had to do whatever her big sister was doing, and one of those things was swimming. Sensing my desire to follow in my sisters footsteps, my mom arranged for lessons and eventually I was on the swim team... my scrawny little body struggling to keep up with everyone else. However, over time, I grew to hate swimming with a passion. Yet my mom made me stay with it, telling me how important it was to support my summer swim team, and I was to do it until I had completed the last age group (of 18 years old).

While most kids looked forward to school-free summers, I looked to those three months with total dread: early morning practices in an unheated outdoor salt-water pool as early as May 30th, followed by two hours of diving practice (which I hated even more than swimming), and finishing the afternoon with tennis (which I liked... why couldn't I just do that??).

Weekends meant swimming and diving meets that made my stomach upset. I couldn't stand the competitive air. I rarely 'won' anything, taking home the yellow ribbon while my sister had a room full of blue's. At the annual swim dinner, my sister received the most treasured "Roger Dean" award for swimming excellence, while I got the usual "Most Improved" consolation prize.

Not that I was jealous. Quite the opposite... I wanted my sister to have all the swimming she wanted... mine and hers! I wanted to go to sleep away theatre camp!! I wanted to dance and sing and become a big star some day!! I wanted to sit on the beach all day with girlfriends, gossiping about boys while getting a tan and making my blonde hair even blonder.

My mom would have none of that. Swimming, diving and tennis would be my summer until 18. When I finally did recieve my highschool diploma, it was more than a right of passage to the next journey of my life, it also meant I NEVER HAD TO GET IN A GODDAMN POOL AS LONG AS I LIVED!

And for the next twelve years, I didn't.

As I got older, I found that I harbored anger with my mom for making me swim all those years. I confronted her with it once when I was in my mid-20's and her response was "It was good for you." My response, "Good for me?? Good for me?? I am still bitter about it and you say it was GOOD for me??" "Yes," she replied, "it was good for your health."

Cut to the age of 31, I hear about a swim called the Bridge To Bridge Swim Challenge, a 17 mile swim from the Tappan Zee to the GWB (yes folks, that would be the Hudson River), to raise funds for a after school program for low income kids. Don't ask me what it was (although I believe it was God, getting in a little laugh), but I suddenly felt the most overwhelming desire to be part of this swim. I can't even say it was for the charity... it was more like the need to make amends with what I had felt forced to do for 10 years of my youth.

I found a pool in the city and got swimming. After the first day, I couldn't even wash my hair. Picking up a pencil seemed like a mamoth task. Yet, I got back in the pool every other day and chipped off another yard or two, getting up to swimming 3,000 yards with in a month. I felt strong and accomplished. Most of all, and most surprising, I like it!

After that event, I continued to use swimming as a main source of fitness and cross training. I have even completed four different swim events in the Hudson. At one point during my training for one such event, I was in great swimming shape and would actually do a solid hour of sprints and drills. If only I could have been so enthusiastic as a teen! My body changed, my mind changed and I even referred to myself as "a swimmer". And, much to my mother's delight, I confessed to her that she was right. All those years of swimming were good for me after all.

Now, I am back after a year. Shame on me for letting the gift of being able to swim go by the wayside for too long. Yet, I did manage to pick off a pitiful 1,000 yards today. I will go back tomorrow for another 1,000. Pray for me folks... I will need all of your energy to get my butt in the water again. When I get to the point where 3,000 yards is no big deal, I will consider it a success and rejoice the day I waddled after my big sister to the pool, wanting to be swimmer just like her.