Being a creature of habit – as so many of us are – I don’t take change quickly. I must, instead, subject my patterns to a gradual erosion, shaving a corner here and an angle there, until finally my landscape emerges from the long wash unrecognizable from its previous incarnation.
After the last four months, I knew the time for change had come. I had a couple of triumphs in the spring, but over the summer I just started to feel a little broken down. I wasn’t seeing the results I was used to, training became more a chore than a pleasure, my mileage started dropping off, and I was even putting on some weight. It was time to make some adjustments to the routine, but because of the way I am, I can’t just junk the whole thing and start over, I’ve got to rearrange the pieces one at a time.
Well, I’m happy to report: the first piece is placed. I’ve become a swimmer again. I say “again” because when I was a kid, “swimmer” was one of the first things I ever called myself. Every summer for three or four years, I was a Shenandoah Stingray. Though I was never especially gifted, I did make it to the state tournament every year in my age group in at least one event. Even after my Stingray summers, I still swam a lot, and even earned a badge four years in a row at Boy Scout camp for completing the Mile Swim. (My original foray into Endurance Athletics!)
But all that was twenty years ago. (!) My body has forgotten an awful lot about swimming in the interim. Two weeks ago when I went down to the “Y” to do some laps for the first time in an age, I was a little nervous. I had modest goals. I didn’t care how fast I swam, or how many laps. I was just going to start the timer on my watch and try to get 20 minutes of easy swimming in (the minimum time for a basic aerobic workout). I was able to do TEN – and I had to stop and stand in the shallow end three or four times to gasp for breath. Then, my triceps screamed at me for days afterward. All I did was swim for ten minutes!
Two days later, though, I went back and again aimed for 20 minutes of laps. I made it to 15 minutes, and only had to take one long break in the shallow end at the half-way point. After two more days, I finally made it all the way to 20 with just one quick break to adjust my cap and goggles. Plus, I picked out a pattern I liked: 2 laps of Breaststroke, then 1 lap of the Crawl (commonly known to the world as “freestyle”). More than that, my triceps had stopped screaming and I was starting to have a little fun.
This past week, I even started to figure out how far I’ve been swimming. Turns out, I can cover a ½ mile (880 yards) in about 20 minutes (with that 2 laps/1 lap pattern).
Soon, I may have to start putting a little more thought into my new swimming habit, but for now I’m completely content to do between 20 and 30 minutes of laps 3 or 4 times a week, and to use most of those swim days as “rest” days from running. I think throwing some full-body, no impact cardio at my weary self is an awfully useful trick.
Who knows? Maybe I can learn myself to extend that ½ mile to, oh, say 1.2 miles, or even, yep, precisely 2.4…