swim swam swum

Swimming was rather less successful than I had hoped, from the get-go. Not that I didn’t suit up, and climb in the pool, and dutifully haul myself from one side of the place to the other, while water went up my nose and my suit rode up my butt. It is one thing to pose poolside with a glass full of vodka in a cute suit; it is another to actually try to swim laps in one, also wearing a swimcap. They made me wear a swimcap. No one looks good in a swimcap. But I’d like to suggest that "especially me" be appended to that truism as a permanent and incontrovertible part of its truth. And did I mention the water in my nose, and my eyes hurt from the chlorine, and I kept swimming into the wall because me and straight lines are not best friends and do not enjoy picnics together?

I thought it was such a brilliant idea. It remains a brilliant idea on paper, even. Swimming! Swimming is so much fun, it is barely even exercise! It is cavorting around in the water and laughing joyfully while at the same time getting terrifyingly fit without even noticing it! Swimming is so wrapped up in the idea of beach balls and splashy-splashy that all the exercise benefit is muffled and you cannot hear its cries for help. Also, you don’t get all hot and sweaty in the water. It’s swimming! I love swimming! I hated swimming.

It was such a brilliant idea in theory, which also kills me. I am losing weight quickly, right? Well, less quickly now. Now, I’m just sort of going down three pounds and then gaining five and then staying there and then going down five pounds and gaining three et cetera. Shortcut: I’m staying about the same, right now. And when you lose weight quickly, you also lose muscle along with the fat. Which is a disturbing image, isn’t it? Picture all the yellowy fat being flushed, swirling around the bottom of a tub, interlaced with red streaks of muscle and I am freaking myself out here, now. Sorry about that. Anyway, you lose muscle, you don’ t find it underneath the couch cushions, you have to do something about that.

Enter swimming! Because I tried weightlifting, once. Once. Maybe a couple of times. And I found it boring, and I found myself having absolutely no idea what I was doing. Do I just keep picking this up and putting it back down? Am I supposed to be in this position? Where do my hands go? Are my knees really supposed to be like that? I don’t want to know what I look like. It was like really bad sex, except I had no one to ask for a little help, here, with this bit. So really bad sex with a drunk partner. Ah, college.

Since diagrams on the Internet are confusing (I am a tactile learner) (ah, college) and personal trainers are expensive and Grunty McGruntersons in the weight room are not so much approachable and I am also shy and out of shape, I cast around for another way to get me some muscle tone back, and to continue to avoid that drainpipe image that was so hauntingly disgusting (and yet, strangely motivating!). I thought about Pilates (aaah!) and I thought about "Full Body Toning!" classes (aaaah!) and then, you know how this story ends. Which makes it not a very good story, I guess.

But I found out my new gym has swimming pools, and there I was, climbing into my bathing suit and reserving a lane and bouncing out of the locker room wearing nothing but a towel and a very inappropriate suit, carrying my stupid swimcap because I have some dignity. No, really, I do. And I love swimming. I put on my stupid swimcap and I jumped into the pool, and I felt so good and purposeful and fit, and I struck out down my lane, and I realized that I am just not very good at swimming. I could not make straight lines. My head was barely above water. The water kept sloshing into my ears, which was uncomfortable. I couldn’t see a goddamn thing, I kept forgetting to kick, and I am really not that buoyant any more, and I did not enjoy it.

I swam for my allotted 30 minutes, but did not feel particularly pleasantly wrung out. Mostly just, you know, wet. And that was disappointing. I am going to keep swimming, and in that way I will improve, and the addition of goggles and earplugs will both make me look like an asshole and make things more pleasant, I’m sure, but in the meantime, I have to figure something out. Maybe I will save up for some personal training. Or hijack a club person and ask them to please tell me how the machines go–the club people at this new gym, they are slightly less awful than the college kids who used to staff the weight room at my old gym. Or maybe I will go ahead and swallow my terror and go crazy and try Pilates! There is nothing like being unsuccessful at something in a room full of people. But at least I’ll have more clothes on.

10 Replies to “swim swam swum”

  1. It will be better with goggles! I promise. Also, if you wet your hair first and put a little conditioner in it, and then stick it under a cap, it will help your hair absorb a little less chlorine. Also, since we belong to different branches of the same club, ask at the front desk for a robe. They have robes at my branch, so I don’t see why they wouldn’t have them at yours.

    My problem is that I am too splashy. If I ever get a lane next to the deck chairs, I predict a lot of angry sunbathers. If people ever sunbathed in San Francisco.

  2. I really like Pilates. An hour a week made a huge difference in my upper body (a lot of tightening up around the rib cage, for example, and the rediscovery of my waist). Classes resume for me on Wednesday and I’m pumped! I know it’ll kill at first (it does, around the middle) but I always feel a bit better after a day or two. Calling the instructor names helps too. Especially if she doesn’t mind. :)

  3. I don’t think of it as looking like an asshole, I think of it as looking like a tough, rock the world-type swimmer. And then I watch the Olympics with the swimmers with their caps and goggles and hear them talking about practices and technique and think, Word. Because I’m cool like that.

    Honestly, though it will come. I swam a lot when I was younger, but even so every time I have started back into a swimming routine I’ve had to slog back into it almost like the first time.

    Cap: if you haven’t already, I recommend getting silicone silicone. Latex ones are really hard to get on. I usually spray spray-in conditioner on my hair before I put the cap on. Then I wash my hair with Loreal Kids Swim and Sport shampoo. My hairdresser is always amazed when I tell her how much I swim.

    Goggles: I like Speedo Hydrospex because they don’t fog up much and they never leak. I get the Junior ones though because I apparently have a small face or something.

    I don’t have any earplug recommendations because I just deal and then shake my head like a crazy woman after every swim.

    And now that I’ve rambled about swimming for far too long. Good luck!

  4. The worst part about swimming for me, aside from the suit and the water and the water up the nose and in ears has always been swimming. But somehow, despite actually hating it when I do it, I still love it and lament my lack of pool.

    Weird how that works out.

  5. Have you tried yoga? Not ‘sitting there contemplating your navel’ yoga. I’m talking about kickass Ashtanga.

    I’m completely addicted to it, and if it’s whole body toning you want, this is your answer.

    Love love love your blog!

  6. I’m tellin’ ya–Jazzercise has everything BUT swimming. (www.Jazzercise.com) It has aerobics, pilates, kickboxing, stretching, weights, all of it in different combinations…all in one hour of fun! With music. This weekend, someone from Corporate was out evaluating our Instructor and actually told me after class that I should think about becoming an Instructor! I almost died! Ten years ago I was so out of shape and alienated from my body that I felt like I was “all head.” My t’ai chi instructor at that time made me wear a bracelet on my left arm so I could tell left from right! Who’d a thunk I’d ever get to like exercise so much that someone would mistake me for a potential aerobics instructor???

  7. I enjoy your blog and had to comment since I taught swimming for 15+ years and am trying to motivate myself to swim again. I agree with a previous poster – a silicone swim cap is much easier to get on and off. Also, they come in more snazzy colors. Also, googles are a must. Get them wet first and then once on your face, push them in so they stick. We’re not meant to get water up our nose and so you will never like swimming if you are inhaling the pool. You can try a nose plug, or you can just hum. When you hum, you are not able to inhale through your nose at the same time…works like a charm! You can also try flippers if you’d like. They really work your legs and make you go faster which is a nice feeling when first starting out. Many gyms teach water aerobics…maybe you would like that better. Good luck!

  8. I just came back from the pool. I want to do it more because I did pay extra for the pool priveleges. But it’s just so inconvenient sometimes. I hate smelling like chlorine and having water in my ears afterwards.

    Goggles will make a huge difference as others have said. You will be able to swim straighter since you can see where you’re going, and you can concentrate on breathing instead of chlorine in your eyes.

    Since you seem to mainly want the upper body workout, maybe you can give up on kicking and use a pull buoy. It’s a one- or two-piece foam gadget. You clamp it between your legs just above your knees to give buoyancy to your lower half. You can probably borrow one from the gym or get one at a sporting goods store. It gives you a great upper body workout because you are basically dragging your body through the water using only your arms. It’s much more doable than that sentence made it sound.

    I still get water up my nose, but only when I really try to hold my breath. Try exhaling through your mouth continuously while your face is in the water. I don’t breathe through my nose at all. Out through the mouth underwater, then a big gasp of air when you turn your head. You’ll get some water in your mouth until you get the hang of it. Just blow it out with the air while you’re under.

    A friend swore by putting drops of rubbing alcohol in her ears after swimming to dry it out in there. I’ve never tried that myself, though.

    Good luck!

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