Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Returning to the pool after 20 years

I push off the wall and glide underwater. Slowly the top of my head reaches the surface and I blow out the air from my lungs. I turn my head to the left and breathe in air that fills my lungs. With each stroke my arms reach farther down the pool, stretching from my shoulders to my fingertips. I take one last strong stroke to the end of the pool and using the momentum; I flip my legs over and push off the wall and head back down the pool. I feel strong as I power through the water.

Or, perhaps I feel like I’m lifting concrete arms barreling through class 2 rapids.

I was happy that my speedo fit for last Monday night’s swim practice. Or at least I thought it fit. Once I arrived at the pool and pulled off my t-shirt, all I could see were the specks of rotten lycra flakes everywhere. Hopefully my suit will make it through this practice I thought to myself.

The coach wanted to see me swim to assess my technique and speed. I had been on the waiting list for a year, so I didn’t want to oversell or undersell my capabilities. I described myself as a former, out-of-shape, national level competitive synchronized swimmer with baby weight to lose. My goal for the workout was to keep up as much as possible and make it through the hour-long workout.

The workout felt great and crappy all at the same time. The power from my arms wasn’t there and my breath control is no longer at the capacity it once was. But I had fun; I loved the workout (which is much more interesting than just swimming for an hour) and swimming with other people was motivating. Considering I haven’t had a proper swim workout with a coach in twenty years, I achieved my goals for the evening. For the most part I kept up with the other three swimmers in my lane and I made it through the whole hour.

Besides swimming in a rotten speedo, the other funny moment for the night was swimming 25 meters underwater. Usually, this is not a problem for this former synchronized swimmer. During my competitive years, I could swim 50 meters long course underwater. Since my synchro days, I’ve added on a whole lot of natural buoyancy to my body. So only after five strokes and 12 meters prematurely, my head popped to the surface. After that little snafu, I switched from breast stroke to dolphin kick to go the rest of the way underwater.

Even though I was slow, and out-of-shape, the coach saw potential. From my technique, she could tell that I was a former swimmer and assured me that many swimmers have been in my situation, attempting to get back in shape after pregnancy weight gain.

A week later, my arms feel stronger and I can still feel effects of last Monday’s workout. I’m looking forward to next week's start of the weekly practices. And with time, whenever I turn my head for a breath, I'll take in more air and less water. (I burped for 15 hours after the workout ended from inhaling so much water.)

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