my only hate, sprung from my only love

This bastardized Shakespeare quote brought to you by——swimming!

(This stolen photo brought to you by this past weekend’s Nautica South Beach Triathlon!)

Doesn’t that look exhilarating? Beginning your multi-sport race in a sunrise lit ocean? Isn’t swimming awesome? Who doesn’t have fond memories of going to the pool in the summer during childhood? I remember my brother and I would wish and hope we’d get to stay at hotels with pools while vacationing. From the ages of five to nine, I lived in an apartment complex with a nasty nasty pool, but we adored it. Even now, as an adult, my free time during sweat-soaked Memphis summers is largely spent hunting for a pool I can use, or cultivating a relationship with someone who has one. What a joyful feeling to flop a sun-warmed body into a delicious bath of cool blue pool water! How fun is it to paddle around in the Buffalo River and let the current rush against you!

Eff that. Swimming laps is not fun, awesome, or joyful. It is torture.

I never really understood why people say that swimming is such good exercise until this past month. My initial timed 500 meter swim was a laugh. My stroke was the worst of freestyle meets doggie paddle. The first several weeks of swimming were a discovery process, though. Like, oh, if I keep my head in the water, I don’t have back pain after I swim. Oh, swim caps do help. Oh, a killer, albeit hideous, pair of goggles make a world of difference. Oh, it really is good exercise because if both your arms and legs are working properly, it kicks your ass! So the process of getting to the proper stroke was fun in a way, because I made these significant improvements and learned something new every time I swam.

Now that I’m in the proper freestyle form, more or less, I’m struggling. I despise the sensation that I don’t have enough air. My latest thing is to breath every fifth arm stroke instead of every third, because it’s so much more efficient. But somehow either way, I’m fighting for every single breath. Sometimes I panic and have to stop to swim on my side. Sometimes I am fearful that the others in the pool are disgusted by my gasping and choking. Sometimes I am unnerved by the water being too still if no one else is around. The prospect of doing all of this in open water is giving me some serious heebie jeebies about race day.

My biggest challenge with swimming is focus (I think. Wait, also breathing and using my arms and legs at the same time. So just those things.) I can start a lap on auto-pilot. But then if I realize what I’m doing it suddenly doesn’t work anymore. As with almost everything else in my life, I overthink it. I’m past this point with running, but it used to be the same way. With almost every step, I’d grit my teeth and think, “Uhhhhh, I’m running and I hate this.” On my swims I think, “my lungs are going to explode,” or, “almost to the other end.” At which point I turn around and then think multiple curse words while trying to get back. I can’t anticipate a point when swimming will become less mental for me.

But if it happened with running, I believe that maybe it can happen with swimming. But for right now the swim is on my shit list.

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