‘Have you been a member with us before?’
‘Umm, yes. But I haven’t been here for a couple of years,’ I replied.
The man behind the counter took my name to look me up in the system. When he raised his head again, I felt his silent judgement. ‘It’s been 1421 days since your last swim, maam.’
I was unsure what was worse – the fact that it had been that long since I’d been in the pool or that he’d “maam’ed” me.
My word of the year (WOTY) is ME and this year I’m focusing on putting myself first. My family, my health, my headspace, my work, my dreams, my goals. I wrote about it here. And getting back in the swim – both literally and figuratively was top of my Things To Do For Me In 2022 list.
So, I dug out my lap swimmers, my goggles and swim cap and made my way to the pool at the university a few minutes drive from our place – for the first time, as the man at the counter so helpfully pointed out, in 1421 days.
Swimming has always been the only physical activity I’ve ever been any good at and while I knew I was never going to be a real contender and was more of a stayer than a sprinter – butterfly and long-distance freestyle were my strengths – I was age champion each year during high school in country NSW. While I was a big fish in a small pond, those swimming races remain the only things I’ve ever won.
By the time I was in my final year of school we’d moved to Sydney, and not only could I no longer walk to a pool, but I’d realised that in this much bigger pond, the results I’d been so proud of were, in fact, very average. I stopped training and didn’t swim at all during my university years.
In fact, I didn’t get back into the pool until my mid-twenties when I was living and working in Canberra. I began doing a few laps at the 25m pool at the sports centre while Grant was playing indoor cricket and before I knew it, I was ducking down to the pool for a quick 50 laps of a 50m pool in my lunch hour. My muscles had quickly remembered what they were meant to do.
When we moved back to Sydney, I joined a gym with an indoor pool, swam all through my pregnancy with Sarah, and was back in the pool as soon as I could afterwards – and in the pool with her when she was about 6 months old.
Then life took over. I was working full-time and when I wasn’t working, I was taking Sarah to squad training. As there were never any lanes for recreational swimming, while she kept swimming, I stopped. That was over twelve years (and thirty kilos) ago. Other than a couple of sessions 1421 days ago, I haven’t regularly swum.
I don’t know why I didn’t keep it up 1421 days ago. Swimming – especially black-line or lap swimming – has always been about so much more than exercise for me. An active meditation, it’s one of the few things that truly calms my brain. When I’m swimming, I feel supported and free – despite the presence of the lane ropes. I focus on the black line, on counting the laps, on my breathing. Anxiety, worries, and stress seem to float into the background, and I vaguely watch them do so. Although I feel clumsy, heavy, and uncoordinated on land, in the water I’m light, capable, and strong – no matter how long it’s been between swims. In the water, I feel as though I’m “enough”. In the water, I feel more like myself.
While I was aware of all of this, in the water for my first swim back, swimming cap and goggles on, the end of the pool looked a very long way away. Could I even swim 50m still? I took a deep breath and pushed off the edge. Yes, I could. That first day I completed 16 laps – they were slow laps, but they were laps. It had been a while, but my muscles vaguely remembered what they were supposed to do and more importantly, I remembered how much I love swimming.
I managed a few more sessions before I went to Sydney and will be back in the pool on Sunday and next Wednesday and then twice a week after that. I’m still nowhere near calling it a habit, and my distance is building slowly, but I’m back in the pool and loving it.
Mostly though, it’s time that’s just for me…because, after all, it’s all about me.
On the last Friday of each month (Southern Hemisphere), the cohosts of What’s On Your Bookshelf will hold a link up for readers to share their reflections and actions inspired by their Words of the Year (or goals/intentions for 2022). Sue, Deb, Donna and, of course, myself are looking forward to you joining us and sharing how you have focused on your WOTY during the previous month. Feel free to grab a badge to pop onto your post.