Why I’m Not All Wet

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.)


11 Responses to Why I’m Not All Wet

  1. Kimmothy says:

    Veddy interesting.
    I like that you recognized all the reasons both pro and con, but especially the one about how you feel after swimming. Part of the great thing about exercising (for me anyway) is the exhilaration feeling you talked about. I mean besides the obvious long-term results, that’s pretty much the only payoff you get from doing this shit! While I’ve never been a runner, I do envy their runner’s high and I’ve personally watched a girl get seriously (and some would say dangerously) addicted to it.
    Right now I’m a little too intimidated to look into the school’s gym opportunities, but I know they’ll still be here when I’m ready. I used to LOVE working out at a gym. My favorite thing was the stair climber, but I also loved certain things in the weight room, like the leg press thing. I know it works for me; I just have to mentally get over the hump. I’m certain it will happen, just not sure when.
    One more thing about swimming: it is so different from when we were kids! Think of all the exercise we used to get without even trying. I used to be a little fishie; couldn’t get me out of the water. Now it’s a very rare thing.
    I liked this post a lot!

    • Taoist Biker says:

      I forgot to add that lifting weights is an excellent way of working through aggression or frustration. You can pull that weight down to your chest, concentrate every bit of “FUCK YOU!!!” you can muster and just explode it upward again.

      Do it a few more times, and surprisingly, the amount of “fuck you” diminishes. Usually right around the time you almost fail and drop the weights right on your ass. It’s hard to be full of “fuck you” when you’re busy squeaking “HALP!!!”

  2. crisitunity says:

    Interesting to me too. I’ve never really liked swimming – even when I was a kid the beach bored me. To imagine doing it for exercise sounds like three kinds of yuck to me. I think you’re going in the right direction.

    As for feminine pulchritude and delicacy, I tend to get red-faced with a corona of frizzed-out, sweat-soaked hair if we work particularly hard in yoga class. I do not smell like I have inner peace. It makes me full-out green-eyed jealous of the clean, smooth yogis and yoginis I see all the time, the ones who just get dewy and glow when they work hard.

  3. Laura says:

    There’s a great gym down the road from me that friends keep recommending, and I tell them I can’t excuse the monthly cost because we have all the workout equipment we really need at home. What I DON’T tell them is that I’m loathe to work out in front of people. I sweat (and not always in the most delicate places, ifyouknowwhatimean), I grunt, I get red-faced, and I just want to be able to REACT to my workout without worrying about how others are reacting to ME.

    I’d love to swim but I’m body shy at the moment, and like you, I just feel bored at laps and worn out instead of pumped up. You put everything so precisely correct in your entry – every now and then I leave a workout feeling AWESOME, and that feeling drives me on in subsequent workouts. We kill ourselves over this whole fitness thing enough – we need to give ourselves the wins. If swimming doesn’t give you a win, then skip it. Move on to what does.

    IMHO, though, the best bodies are water polo bodies. DAY-AMN.

    • Taoist Biker says:

      I generally work out alone anyway. If I had an Olympic weight bench and a full compliment of plates, bars, and dumbbells at home I’d gladly stay home and work out for all the reasons you say. But I don’t have the room, and sure as hell don’t have the money. Since this gym is free, it’s stupid of me to not take advantage of it.

      Now that I know I want to get back to weightlifting, the question turns into “when and how?” Now I’m doing an hour of cardio – but I really can’t do much of a weightlifting workout in less than 45 minutes, which doesn’t leave enough time for cardio. That’s not conducive to my short-term goals. But I also don’t want to get home every night at 7pm.


    • crisitunity says:

      If you’re talking about crotch sweat, and I think you are, it embarrasses the hell out of me too. Black workout pants!

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