I’ve been told for years that swimming is a sport that you do for life. That once a swimmer, always a swimmer. After taking years off, and being away from swim training for longer than I’d like to admit, I can say those statements are actually true. I was more surprised than anyone to admit this.
To me, swimming was what I did. It was what I did 6 to 9 times a week, every week, every month, every year. Any social life life was fit in around my swimming schedule. And I always felt that if I kept going as strongly, I would continue to get better and keep going to improve and to compete.
One day I realized that so many hours each week wasn’t a sacrifice I was ready to make. All of that training to place at big meets just wasn’t worth the trade off. And I thought, if I wasn’t competing, I was no longer a swimmer.
I was snarky in high school when adults told me, “I used to swim in high school.” I would think to myself, “Big deal. I’m in high school, and I swim. But it won’t matter unless I go to Nationals, or the Olympics. I’ll get to brag a little bit if I swim in college, but it won’t really matter. High school swimming isn’t real, it’s just practice.” I think that training with Olympian coaches, and phenomenal teammates jaded me. Swimming in high school was real. Those hours, that passion, those triumphs and tribulations are things that are still with me here, shaping the person I am becoming.
It’s only since I’ve been away from the meets and the training and mandatory practices that I’ve been drawn back to it. I’ve found that maintaining a healthy diet is really tough when you’re not working out. I can get as frustrated as I want that “I can’t eat the things I want to eat anymore” but it’s not only because I’m getting older or that my metabolism is slower, it’s because I’m not training 2000+ calorie workouts every day of the week. It’s the allure of a swimmers body that keeps drawing me back to the lanes.
When I finally don that suit (which looks embarrassingly unflattering compared to my idealic memories of how those things used to look on my frame), I feel comfortable. Walking to the edge of the pool, and following my routine. The arm huggers, the specific hair bun, the cap I know won’t slide up my forehead, the goggles that are dark enough that no one will see my eyes but bright enough to see the bottom of the pool in low light, the hop in the pool and the habitual pops up and down to settle myself with the temperature, and finally the dolphin dive and flutter kick that sends me on my way. Those moves let me know I’m home. That familiar black blocky line sends me into my meditation stage.
It’s amazing how my body remembers. The swimming downward posture, pulling all the way through the stroke, rotations, not breathing off turns, and alternate breathing. It’s all there running, through my head, but not like rules. They’re more like autopilot that kicks in so I don’t have to do the thinking (haha, “kicks” in). That solid black line, with the crosses at each end, will always be my meditation. This is my Yoga, my upper corpse, my thinking place, my de-stresser. This is where I have to remember to go.
So no – I don’t compete (unless you’re swimming next to me and inching up during my sets). I don’t have schedules, I don’t taper, I’m not in the pool every day, and I no longer smell like chlorine constantly. I didn’t swim in college, and I’m never going to Nationals. But, I am a swimmer.