A few months ago I began a new routine of swimming with my 13 year-old, Galen, a few mornings per week before school. On the first day we approached the pool hesitantly; all of the lanes were full and we were completely unsure of the etiquette. I was pretty certain I couldn’t swim a straight line so sharing a lane would be potentially embarrassing. A woman saw me standing clueless on the side of the pool and kindly invited me into her lane. Galen stood awkwardly by until the woman left and he could join me in my lane.
That first swim was not a great experience. I didn’t have goggles or a swim cap both of which the lifeguard politely recommended as I was leaving. I couldn’t swim more than one length of the pool without hanging onto the side and resting. My son informed me that my legs were dragging behind me well below the surface. My technique needed a lot of improvement. I hadn’t had a swim lesson in almost 40 years.
Back in the locker room I got stuck in my swimsuit and nearly had a panic attack thinking it would never come off. In a cold sweat I admitted my situation to the other women in the room who looked on in horror knowing they may need to come to my rescue. One woman suggested pulling it off downward rather than overhead and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief as I managed to extricate myself from my suit. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one relieved that I managed this independently.
The second week brought minor improvements. I had a new swim cap and goggles. We decided on Tuesday and Thursday for our swims, as they tend to be less crowded at the gym and fortunately as predicted the pool was the same. Galen and I shared a lane and I wore a less restrictive bathing suit, which I gracefully exited in a quiet locker room with no one around to notice my finesse. I was able to swim a bit further without stopping and Galen’s tips on improving my stroke were helping.
Week three came and I invested in a swimsuit that would actually stay on consistently as well as be easily removed. I think Galen was relieved although he politely had yet to complain about having to clue me in to repeatedly adjusting my suit. I found myself relaxing and enjoying it more and more. I began noticing how my body moved through the water and how modifications in my stroke impacted my speed and the effort required. I was now able to swim not far, but further than I ever imagined possible that first day.
Today, 9 weeks later, was my last swim with Galen before his high school swim season will take him away from me. It felt relaxing and good. Familiar faces greeted us at the pool and we each slid into our own individual lanes, now daring to be apart. Sinatra played on the stereo and I enjoyed every soothing moment in the water. Swimming has become the perfect compliment to my strength training and I won’t be giving it up any time soon although, I will surely miss my workout partner.
In addition to providing a great way for me to recover from my strength workouts and manage stress, swimming has been an opportunity to learn something new and to feel what it’s like to be a beginner again. I’ve been reminded of the importance of simple things like finding a friendly face and an outfit you are comfortable in. The first few weeks of trying anything new can be challenging and often feel awkward and uncomfortable.
Learning something new can also be exciting and refreshing. There is really nothing that compares to the feeling of accomplishment you get when you start noticing small improvements. One of the hardest lessons to learn is being okay with being a total beginner, accepting where you are, and simply moving forward one day at a time. We can’t control the outcome but we can control the process. Showing up and working hard will always pay off.
If you haven’t tried something new or stepped out of your comfort zone lately I highly encourage it. At Ocean Blue we have the pleasure of coaching people who are new to strength training all the time. Some of them are daring to start for the first time in their 70’s and 80’s while others are mom’s and dads or middle aged people finally taking some much needed time for themselves. At Ocean Blue Fitness we believe that it’s never too late to be in the best shape of your life. Our team of friendly faces is eager to ease the awkwardness of those first few weeks and will also cheerfully extricate you from your sports bra if needed!