A fellow doctoral student quoted Finding Nemo yesterday during my qualifying exam meeting: “Just Keep Swimming…Just Keep Swimming”
Now this quotation holds personal relevance both because I feel like that mantra is the only thing that will get me through to the end of May (when I will be in the dissertation phase…ABD!) and because I actually do swim almost every day. Becoming a fitness swimmer hasn’t been quick or easy. I thought I’d share my story of how I became a runner who swims 🙂
Every year I try to make a new years resolution to try something new that will enrich my life. Usually it is skill or fitness-based. Such was the case after running my first marathon two and a half years ago, when I was feeling a little too comfortable in my running routine. I had just completed a marathon–a huge goal of mine–and I found myself asking, now what? My gym at that time (Boston Sports Club) had a small 25 yard three-lane pool and I would watch the real swimmers come in and bang out a workout. They looked so fit: thin and muscular! I wanted to be a swimmer! Being in the water felt soothing, almost meditative (well this was before I was able to incorporate drills/flip turns into my routine). Plus, I had always enjoyed doing some very amateur swimming (laps without flip turns, kickboard drills, etc) when I had drank too much the night before (swimming is a great workout when you’re hungover!!!).
As with running (you can read my brief story about my foray into distance running here), I knew it would take awhile to build up the endurance to be able to swim for extended periods of time. But what I didn’t know was that building this endurance was much more difficult than running. I had just run a marathon so I figured I was pretty fit. My first day in the pool I learned, however, that I couldn’t even swim more than 50 yards without stopping! I quickly learned that swimming requires coordination, both with your breathing and body movements, and necessitates a completely different VO2 max than running (how efficiently your body/blood is able to bring oxygen to your muscles). I knew if I wanted to achieve my goal of being a real swimmer I needed help.
Enter Jen, a member of the Boston Triathlon Team. We met 3 times a week for a month so that she could help me refine my stroke. I already knew the correct form, but I needed to work on doing it exactly right so I could be more efficient (read: efficiency means better results with less effort). She also explained everything to me that seemed so intimidating: wearing a cap, getting the right goggles, using a boey, and how to understand drills (5 x50 pull, 3 x 200 free).
She also explained how unlike running, where you could build endurance with only 3-4 runs a week, swimming required daily effort. A day out of the pool equaled a week off of running. GEEZ, this was a commitment!
But I eventually started to see and feel results. Within 3 months I could swim 200 yards straight; within 6 months I could swim up to 1200 yards in a workout; within a year I incorporated flip turns (finally!). After about a year and a half I finally felt like I belonged in the pool as a real swimmer. I stopped worrying about how amateur I looked because I knew what I was doing! I was also thrilled about how I could swim and run in one day. Swimming was helping me become a better runner!!
So my advice for anyone who is considering trying anything new is stick with it! Persistence pays off! If you’re like me and want to get involved with swimming and really hone your skills to become a fitness swimmer just keep at it. Most people (those who didn’t grow up swimming competitively) can’t just jump in a pool and, boom, join a master’s swim class. It takes time but it is doable!!
Incorporating swimming into my fitness routine has been such a great decision. I know that I will continue to swim for many, many years to come. It’s also allowed me to get involved with longer triathlons and I have my first half ironman coming up!!!
EEEEeeeeeek! I better get to the gym 😉