On a good week, I’ll swim 3-4 times a week. Over the course of the past six years, swimming has replaced running as my main source of fitness. Part of that was due to the two meniscal surgeries I’ve had (although, I think that the torn menisci were from yoga, not running). But, I’ve grown to love swimming as much if not more than I loved running when I was doing that obsessively. Swimming, though, I have to say, doesn’t feel as obsessive or urgent to me and that’s largely, I think, because swimming is such a meditative practice for me and I don’t mean that in a pseudo-Buddhist way, I just mean that when I’m swimming I’m really not thinking of much except keeping my strokes efficient, the number of laps I’ve finished, hitting my turns and, okay, sometimes I think, “Is it over yet?” Up to this point, too, I have not sustained any injuries from swimming and overall, I just generally feel better, stronger, more relaxed and happier after I swim.
This is all kind of ironic for a kid who grew up in the private swimming pool-laden suburbs in the 1970s and who really couldn’t swim a proper lap until he was in his mid twenties. I’m still not a good diver, but I’ll leave that for my 60s. I’ve been a late bloomer in many areas of my life (music, my profession, having a family) and that’s been true in regards to swimming as well. When I first started to swim laps (at the West IM Center at Michigan State) I could barely do 5 laps and that was when I was running 6 minute miles. Over the years, though, I’ve taken a couple of swim lessons and watched a bunch of instructional Youtube videos and now I’m at a point where I’m actually a pretty strong swimmer. It took me a long time to perfect turns, though, I have to say. I don’t know what it was about that, but I just couldn’t do them. I’m sure I looked like a complete idiot going ass-over-head, feet splayed and looking generally ridiculous when I got to the wall. But with lots of practice, I think my turns look pretty good now and while I used to dread reaching the wall, now I can’t wait to flip, push off and set off on another lap.
I swim exactly 1 mile/1500 meters every time I get in the pool. It took me quite awhile to develop the strength and endurance to get to that point, but now, a mile is pretty easy. What’s challenging is swimming fast. It was just a few months ago that I finally broke the 30 minute mark, but what was interesting about that was that I probably had the strength to do it quite a long time ago. What I didn’t have was the mental toughness to actually keep going the whole time; that is, I thought that I had to stop after 10 laps or so. One day, though, I got in the pool and said to myself that I was just going to swim 30 straight laps. And I did it in 29:35. Now coming in under 30 minutes is routine. Mind and body.
The other thing I like about swimming is that no one can hit me or yell at me when I’m the pool. These things happen way too much to runners and bikers mostly because drivers are idiots and seem to go out of their way to provoke runners and cyclists. And in that regard, I generally like the people I meet at the pool. They tend to be older folks; well, older than me and if they are younger they are usually triathlon-type people. But I like chatting with the old folks at the pool. They aren’t in a hurry, they generally have a kind word and over the years I’ve been swimming at the Wheat Ridge pool, I’ve made some nice acquaintances with people. Some, like my friend, Gina, are in their 70s. Gina is super cool—she immigrated from Italy when she was a girl and has lived here in Colorado for years. She still has a wonderful Italian accent and a little girls devilish grin. I remember when I first met her, she struggled so much just to go from one end of the pool to the next and now, she’s perfectly zippy in the water. There’s also a woman, I don’t know her name, who is a Spartan and asked me where I got my Spartan swim cap (yes, I have two) and then next time I saw her she had one herself.