Monday, July 26, 2010


One of my most vivid memories of childhood was when I was at my dad's house during the summer (I spent ~6 weeks with him every year, circa 3rd grade to 7th grade).  Early every weekday morning, my stepmom would wake me up.  In the dark, I'd squeeze into my Speedo swimsuit, and cover it with a heather gray Jefferson Gators hooded sweatshirt, which, appropriately had an alligator graphic on the front.  (It was actually chilly enough in Ohio at 7am that I needed a sweatshirt to stay warm.)  In a sort of early morning haze, my stepmom would drive me and my friend Erin to Jefferson Country Club for swim team practice.

Speedo-clad, we'd all sit around the pool on lawn chairs waiting for our coach to arrive.  She was in college and had an androgynous, Pottery Barn Chandelier-type name: Hadley or Hartley, or maybe Halton?  Anyway, when she got to the pool, remnants from the previous night's mascara still clinging to her eyes (and smelling like alcohol, although I didn't know what exactly the smell was back then), she'd immediately collapse on the lawn chair, "warm up with a 500 Free."

The pool was cold.  It always was.  But once we got swimming, it felt warm, like the absolute perfect place to spend the morning (aside from a warm bed, which would have been the absolute).  She'd choose a different person to "pace" the lane everyday, and we'd fall into a graceful line of arms & legs & splashing water.  The distance didn't phase us.  Swimming a 500 Free to warm up exerted the same amount of energy as our nighttime family walks around the neighborhood.

We went on to swim many more 100s after that in our hour and a half practice, the only truly difficult part being sprints at the end.  Five days a week.  An hour and a half each morning.


I'll clarify, in case you guys weren't swimmers growing up: one lap down the pool is 25 meters - so a "100" is four lengths of the pool (down & back, down & back).

This past weekend, I decided to switch up my cardio by swimming laps.  I don't think I've swam for exercise in the past decade.  And boy oh boy!  It was 3,000,000x harder than I would've expected.  Like, really hard.  Like, gasping for breath hard.  Like, lactic acid explosion at the end, hard.

I think part of my problem was pacing.  I couldn't swim slowly, which I know doesn't really make sense, but my body was just moving fast and I couldn't control it.  Then I'd forgotten that swimming can put a lot of pressure on your achilles tendon, didn't stretch beforehand, and thus managed to strain my left one.  And the outdoor Rhodes pool was pretty hot, which isn't exactly ideal.

But you guys, I got out of the pool and was shaking in the way your body shakes when you've had too many coffees.  My legs were jello, but jello with a strained achilles tendon.  And I was tired.  And hungry.  It was an undesirable state to be in.

But mostly, I was dumbfounded.  Because I'm in pretty good cardio shape right now, I think.  I can run five miles (albeit slow) somewhat easily, I just usually have to quit because my knees start bothering me.  And I'm pretty positive that when I was a middle school-aged kid, I could not have run 5 miles.  Or even close to that.  The day in gym class when we had to run the mile was my personal nightmare.  So how was I able to swim so many laps?  Butterfly was my stroke of choice - the one I did in meets - I'm positive I'm not sure I could do a 50 Fly right now, even at a practice pace.

Do you guys ever swim for exercise now?  Have you had similar difficulties?


Sarah said...

I have almost always been in pretty good cardio shape and fairly athletic, but I am a terrible swimmer. It makes me incredibly tired. It seems like it is just a different skill, but definitely something worth practicing.

Amy said...

OMG! I loooooove swimming. I started swimming competitively in 4th grade and stuck with all the way through high school. I agree that it's nuts to look back at 1.5-2 hours of swimming EVERY DAY and to think that it was no big deal. I was never super fast, but I could do it forever and ever. And I loved it. Now I can hardly pull myself out of bed at 7am for work some days. How am I even the same person?

I do still go swimming from time to time but not at all regularly. Every time I do I just love it (feelings of nostalgia I guess), but I don't spend anywhere close to 1.5 to 2 hours in there. Repeat: not anywhere close.

I don't think I've had much achilles tendon pain, but last time I went I did warmed up a bit then decided to mix in some breaststroke (my personal fave). Pain. Lots and lots of pain. Remember doing the butterfly stretch before getting in the pool? Important step. Lesson learned. =) Yay - so glad you're a swimmer too. One more bond. Ha.

And apolgoies in advance. This just inspired me to post about probably today or tomorrow. =)