WOTY – Back in the swim…

‘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.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

31 thoughts

  1. Well done on getting back in the pool Jo. I can sense the joy that doing it, gave you. I remember the day I got back in the pool a few years ago, after many years. I felt much the same to be doing something I loved again. Unfortunately the stress of having to be seen in bathers got to me and the swimming only lasted a few months.

    1. Yeah, that is the drawback, but I figure I don’t know anyone so it’s very much whatever from that viewpoint – and once I’m in the water it doesn’t matter. But yes, it brings me joy.

  2. Swimming is such a great activity for staying fit without stressing your body too much Jo. I’m having issues with my hip atm and my walking has been significantly curtailed. I really need to swim, but I’m just not a fan of public pools – so I’m impressed with your fresh commitment and to making it about “ME” – something that we often neglect. x

    1. aaah yes, the public pool… Thankfully the pool at USC is an olympic training pool, fabulously clean & even more fabulously child-free.

  3. Yay, you! And, I love your WOTY. Swimming is such great exercise… I wish I enjoyed it, but I don’t (unless sitting in a hot tub counts). Hubby swims in the ocean when the temps are warm enough and he loves it… I count it as a couple of hours of blessed alone time when he does it… so I guess it really is all about ME 🙂

    1. Oh this made me giggle. I do love the ocean too. The challenge will be keeping the habit up over winter…this being an outdoor pool and all…

  4. I love your WOTY, Jo, it is similar to my WOTY for 2021 which was ‘self’. I love that ME puts the focus on all areas of YOUR life and how you are affected. It is so great to see you back at the pool and what a wonderful way to start 2022 with the focus on you. I am not a strong swimmer but years ago when I was working with the young girls who started me running at 50, we also joined the pool at UQ. We met twice a week for a season and I surprised myself, firstly by being able to swim a lap but also that I maintained the sessions. I take Ethan and Elliot to swimming lessons and often feel like jumping in a doing a few laps myself. You are so inspiring and I’m so happy that you are back doing something that you love. Thanks for being a co-host on 2022 Word Of the Year Link party. We make a great team and I can’t wait to read everyone’s post next month. Happy Swimming! xx

    1. I’m loving everyone’s posts and everyone’s year. My February habit is going to be a toughie to keep to, but no spoiler alerts…

  5. That is so funny that the Pool Clerk dude told you exactly how many days it had been since your last swim. Why?
    In your defense, almost exactly half of those days (748 to be exact) were swept away by the pandemic, so they really don’t count. 😀 Anyway, ME is an awesome word and you are already rocking it in so many different ways. Is it okay for friends to be proud of you? I am. Very!

    1. My thoughts exactly – why? I could have used the pandemic response, but sadly our pools have been open for most of the past 2 years…

  6. Yes Jo, in your case it is all about you!! I love the tone of the confessional in your ‘it’s been 1421 days since…’ and it gave me a chuckle. Good on your for getting back in the pool and remembering what it is about swimming that you love. My daughter who has an almost 2yr old says the same thing when she manages to get to the pool on her own. She says it gives her a break, a sense of freedom and a weightlessness that she doesn’t feel on land – I get it! Love how all the WOTY posts in the linkup are so different and interesting and real!! Just keep swimming….

  7. Congratulations, Jo, for returning to an activity you love! Swimming brings so many health benefits. Keep showing up and keep swimming. Soon it will become a habit. Thank you for co-hosting #WOTY link party. I added my post. Have a wonderful week!

      1. Schedule the swim time in your day planner, track your progress and give yourself a big pat on the back for every swim session you show up to do. Have a plan B for days with inclement weather so you do a different fitness activity to keep your momentum. You’ve got this. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare.

  8. Ugh, no one likes to be Ma’am’d. I remember in France the first time I got Madame (I was 40), I wanted to shout “Madamoiselle”! like Patsy in Ab Fab. Oh the vanity! Ha! I like this idea of focusing on putting yourself first. Nice pick.And easier said than done! #WeekendCoffeeShare

  9. Loved reading this and the story of YOUR swimming history. Although I can swim, I found laps boring or maybe I just didn’t have the stamina. I had to pass certain levels of swimming and rescue capacity at teacher’s college in 1969 to become a teacher and I did that. However, I can float, and can still get a swim stroke of sorts in. I am so pleased for you that like bike riding you are giving this a red hot go…as they say. Congratulations of this change for YOU and thanks for the new linky.. Denyse.

  10. I love the pool. I love swimming. When I left the campus I lost access to my Tues/Thur post work swim and have not been able to recreate that with my current employment. We live out of the city and driving in just to swim always seems like too much work. Then the pandemic hit and seems most of our swimming in the prairies in Canada is done indoor I have not swam. I did manage 3 lane swims at my favourite outdoor pool this year but have yet to make it back to the indoor one and it’s looking unlikely due to a family crisis which means we are full time grandparenting for the foreseeable future. But one day I will be like you and then wonder “can I make it 50 m?”. So glad you are back at it after 1421 days (LOL – I am pretty sure mine has been as long!). Bernie

  11. Hi Jo.

    Welcome back into the water. Glad your muscles recalled so much and what a great showing you made after so many days away.

    I only want to take issue with one thing you said above, that bit about never winning anything other than those swimming feats — I know that can’t be true because you easily won my (and likely many other’s) esteem many times over.


  12. It was so sad how you felt about swimming during your university years, but how wonderful that you’ve come back to it, and how it makes you feel! It reminds me of how I feel when I’m out with the camera. Keep going! The outdoor pool looks fantastic, hope you find a way to keep it up during the winter.

  13. I was never a competitive swimmer – but as a child our summers were filled with swimming lessons, large group trips to the pool. I loved being in the water. Then – my convent days took away swimming. I tried to take my children as often as possible – but that was few and far between. Last spring I took up swimming again – and loved it! I also feel it can be very meditative. I’ve stopped for winter but am counting the days until I can head back out on my bike to the local pools.

  14. Good for you, Jo, getting back to something you love that is also good for you–body and soul! It’s sad that we tend to let those kinds of things get away from us, but this is your year! Congratulations.

  15. Loved hearing how you’re doing this for you and can understand the meditative aspect to it. (And wouldn’t it have been lovely if he had said “it’s been 1421 days since you were here, and we’re glad to see you again!”) I was never a swimmer. In fact, I took adult swim lessons a couple of years ago to learn. It was one of the “to do” items on my retirement list. So now I can at least say I know how to swim…although I’m not sure I’d make it 50m!

  16. Oh man. I might have given that guy the stink eye if he said that to me. Good for you getting back at it. I’m not a good swimmer at all. Your linky party sounds fun.

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