Friday, April 20, 2012

Lessons in Not Drowning

Hey! Look. I have a blog. I totally forgot.

I didn't actually forget. I have been training for a triathlon.

I had a lot of misconceptions about swimming, biking, running, and the process of learning them all when I started on this adventure.

 I thought the hardest part of swimming would be appearing in public in a Speedo followed by getting into a public pool. False. The hardest part about swimming is almost everything. Swimming is not a pretty sport, nor is it easy. Forty minutes in the pool and I'm more sore, exhausted, and hungry than sixty minutes of running.

I have changed my definition from swimming to 'not drowning'.  A coworker recently asked if I had conquered the swim part yet. Conquered swimming? Never. I replied that I have conquered not drowning and am somewhat sure that I would make it out of the Hudson River unassisted. It's the best I can do right now. 

There is a lot of technique and skill involved with something that looks so easy. I also believed that my running and martial arts experiences would give me an edge when it comes to kicking and strength. False. No matter how many miles my legs can push forward on a run, it is a struggle to keep them moving in the water. There are many groups of muscles in the legs and those that are used for swimming are not neccesarily used for running. At least not in the same motions. Running muscles make for good running--not necessarily good swimming.

 I also have what my friend and coach, Laura, call 'marathoner's lungs'. I am used to getting air into my lungs whenever I want to. This is problem when swimming with your head in the water. (Unless you're an amphibion. Which I'm not--but my skin feels like it because chlorine is the anti-christ.) I panic when my breathing is messed up and it took me a few weeks to figure out that blowing bubbles = breathing.

 Despite all of the frustration and anxiety from swimming, I really am enjoying it. It is a full body workout that leaves you with a "I definitely worked out but am still able to function" feeling. Long runs take an hour or so to recover from and cycling is still a mystery to me.  I like just turning my mind of and focusing on counting laps and practicing new skills. The pool can be calming and quiet at times. Or a creeptastic adventure. I'm not confident YET in my ability to conquer an open water swim but at least I can outswim a 70 y/o dude with water weights and a comb-over asking me to lunch from the opposite end of the pool. I can also keep going long enough to let the weird guy who followed me in from the treadmills at sat at the top of my lane for 20 minutes that I'm not interested.

 *Lane rules should be followed like treadmill rules. Never take the lane immediately next to a person if another is available. Actual swimmers would argue this point and say the waves or turbulance create good resistance and speed. But I am not a swimmer; I am an unfriendly, trying-not-to-drown-er and need my space.

Learning to swim/not drown has been a very humbling experience--but in a very good way. I had become complacent with running, accepting a 10 minute-mile and justifying laziness. Swimming has reminded me why I once loved running so much. It's taking something you've never done before and never thought you could do and then actually doing it. It's about setting small goals and establishing milestones to achieve them.

 Every stroke, every lap, every breath, every accidental chlorine inhalation, is another step outside my comfort zone and another yard closer to accomplishment. I step out of the pool with arms that feel like Jello and a burning sensation down the back of my legs and a secret smile.


  1. yes. i think i can manage not to drown in the hudson too. but i can't guarantee much more than that!

  2. I knew I was terrified of swimming and this pretty much confirmed why :)