Written with shakey arms

Even though I could think of about 17 things I would rather have done with my lunch hour, I made myself go to the pool instead.

It is a funny thing, forcing myself to swim. When I was on the swim team in high school, I was obsessed. I swam twice a day most days, rising at 4:30am to get to morning practice, and did weights during PE. My mother had a rule that if I missed school due to illness I also had to miss practice. This is a sane rule, of course, but I hated missing practice so much that it seemed wildly unfair at the time. I’d rather go to school sick than miss practice.

Once during my senior year of high school I told the coach of my club team (the team I swam on in addition to my high school team) that I was burned out. I had a nagging shoulder injury, I’d been swimming practically daily for three years, I was tired and I wasn’t improving anymore (in hindsight this was probably due to overtraining and not enough calories in my diet). He listened, nodded, and told me to take some time off, to “go find Buddha on the mountain top or something”. I was, he was clear, not to come back until I felt rested and ready to train without whining.

I went to my car, cried and drove away.

I was back two days later, ready to practice.

I swam the rest of the year, graduated high school, swam all summer and then went to college. I joined the swim team and swam through a kidney infection, a kidney stone, swam the day after my first all nighter and swam everyday until it was time to go home for Christmas break, which fell during the middle of swim season. We left with specific workouts to do every day of the holiday.

I went home, skipped the first day and then didn’t swim again for almost 5 years.

I think I may have a bit of an all or nothing streak to my personality.


Sometimes it is hard to swim. I love it but sometimes it is hard to reconcile what I can do now to what I could do then. I swam just over 3/4 of a mile today (1250 meters) in about a half hour. This would have been a warm-up in high school but it is a work out now.

I am still wanting to do the 2 mile open water swim this summer but, man, does that distance seem long to me right now.


2 thoughts on “Written with shakey arms

  1. Mr. Monkey says:

    I can identify with trying to climb back into shape again. Sometimes I think of myself in high school when I ran track and cross-country, and I so envy what that guy could do physically. I also remember how lonely and depressed that guy was, and I’m glad I’m not him anymore, but I wish I had his body. But whatever I’m going to do, I’ve got to do with this body, so we might as well get on friendly terms with one another. I need to quit treating him like crap and expecting him to look and perform the way I want him to. (Okay, weird. I’m talking about my body in the third person.) I need to treat my body like it’s beautiful and capable and powerful. In a program I used to be involved in, they talked about behaving “as if” we were already the person we wanted to be, because really we are. So I’m going to try to keep asking myself, “If I were a fit and strong and fast, what would I eat, drink, do? When would I go to bed? How would I spend my spare time?”

    So congratulations on the shaky arms. They’re proof that today you answered those questions in the right way and did the most important thing: You’re a swimmer, and swimmers swim, so you got in the water and put in the work. No one made you; no one forced you; no one would have said anything if you hadn’t. It was your own commitment that got you into the pool. Today is a definite win for you.

  2. James says:

    Must be another family trait to go all or nothing with a sport. When I raced bikes I was much like you, tons of solo 4-8 hour rides, racing every weekend, unhealthy body fat ratio (I was 6’3″ and weighed 145 lbs) and totally obsessed with my sport. When I stopped racing I quit riding altogether for almost a year and immediately put on 30 lbs. Once I had the boys I stopped working out completely. Looked in the mirror and realized I looked like Dad, I was 200+ lbs.

    At least for me, finding a new sport to try was the key or I just got bumbed about comparing my current condition to what it was when I was 22. Keep at it!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s