Those (few) of you who’ve been following me for a while might remember that this is the time of year when I normally hit the pool and swim some laps. I’m not doing that this year, and this post is where I talk about why.
I’ve never been much of an “exercise swimmer.” I spent a ton of time in the pool when I was younger, that’s definitely true, but it was because – news flash – playing in the pool is fun. Especially when you’re between the ages of 4 and 24 and there’s a 105 degree heat index going on. But most of my time was spent hanging out, playing your standard pool games of handball, shark, etc., and especially diving. Height, hang time, grace, body control and dexterity were all fun things to work on. (The ability to direct miniature tsunamis in the direction of the girls was particularly highly prized.)
Back and forth. Either you were racing, or trying to get from one side to the other and back without taking a breath, or you were swimming back to the ladder for your next dive. It wasn’t just…swimming.
While I recognize the awesome exercise power of a bunch of laps around the pool, it just never really appealed to me. Until I was really determined to lose some weight and the only way I could comfortably spend extra time doing so while not missing time at home was to work out during lunch. (The U’s gyms aren’t open early in the summers.) There were a couple of problems with this scenario.
1) My usual weightlifting workout takes around an hour. Not counting walking to and from the gym. Just a plain lunchtime workout wasn’t going to fit unless I greatly reduced it or leaned heavily on the good graces of my coworkers.
2) I don’t know about my fellow authors, being perfect examples of feminine pulchritude and delicacy, but I sweat. Not excessively, to my way of thinking, but I’m also bald. There’s nothing to stop the sweat from just rolling down my head – which it does, hard and fast and usually bringing a busload of its buddies along for the ride. And I really didn’t want to go for a shower in the crappy gym showers. Largely but not entirely related to any number of MTAE‘s public nudity horror tales.
The pool offered another option. Yes, I’d still have to shower, but it was mostly to get the reek of chlorine off of me (or at least partially so, because I was never successful – whoa, they chlorinate the hell out of that pool!), not because I was too funkified for human contact. And the pool here was (and relatively still is) brand-spanking new, so the locker room facilities are likewise. (As opposed to the gyms, the “newer” of which is 20 years old. The gym I work out in was built in 1925. No joke.
So I started swimming for exercise. And results-wise, I can’t really complain – when I stuck with it, I did just fine. The problem was sticking with it.
First, I went to a meeting one afternoon after a long swim in which I pushed myself fairly hard. I had one ear completely full of water and the other partially so…enough that it felt weird to walk. I was asked at one point in the meeting to speak and I’m 60% convinced that I made a complete idiot of myself and 100% convinced that I talked entirely out of my ass because I couldn’t think straight. So, swimming on any day when I had meetings in the afternoon got ruled out.
But more generally, I didn’t feel good about swimming. Part of it was an ego thing, since I could regularly watch 50-year-old guys come in and go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth while I had to periodically stop and gasp for breath. But every day I see guys in the weight room, many older than me, pushing heavier weights than me around. While it’s an ego blow, it’s never been that bad.
Ultimately, I think there are two main thoughts stopping me from swimming right now.
First, and least important, I have to pay a little over $100 to swim. The other gyms are free.
Second, and only slightly more important than that, the more out of shape I am, the less comfortable I am with the idea of donning a swimsuit and hitting the pool to pant like a sheepdog while slimmer, fitter young men and women zip past me. Nobody really likes that kind of strike to the heart of self-image problems. And don’t get me wrong: While I think ego issues are absolutely something to examine and push out of the way as a person heads toward greater fitness, I think it’s also important to be realistic enough to spot something that would just leave me trying to rationalize not going each and every time.
Third, and most important, when I climb out of the pool I feel tired and worn out but I can’t remember a time when I really felt exhilarated. In some rare cases, I can come out of a cardio workout feeling that way, and just having it happen once is enough to carry me through a whole hell of a lot of bad workouts trying to find the next one.
In weight lifting, though, I could have a workout like that maybe one out of every five workouts. At least one exercise, one body part, I could walk away feeling great. “I was worn out by the time I got to the military press, but I knocked the hell out of that standing curl set!!” Even the soreness feels different – not just an exhaustion, but a very specific exhaustion, with a specific location. You can rationalize it, work around it, and move on.
That’s why, speaking for myself personally, I’ll be hitting the weight stack again. Maybe next month, maybe six months from now, maybe next year, but that’s where I’m headed, because that’s what makes me feel good about myself and feel good about the actual act of exercising. And that’s why, this summer, I won’t be all wet.
What about you folks? Are there things that you know work for you, but you just can’t really keep up? (Besides dieting, because, duh.)