OLW Going Swimmingly: Slice of Life Tuesdays

Join us with a Slice of YOUR Life at Two Writing Teachers

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hStacey S. recently sent me an article freshly published in the NY Times about swimming’s  joys of solitude.  

I read it like a swimmer 🙂

We enter the meditative state induced by counting laps, and observe the subtle play of light as the sun moves across the lanes. We sing songs, or make to-do lists, or fantasize about what we’re going to eat for breakfast. Submersion creates the space to be free, to stretch, without having to contend with constant external chatter. It creates internal quiet, too.

For better or worse, the mind wanders: We are left alone with our thoughts, wherever they may take us. A lot of creative thinking happens when we’re not actively aware of it. A recent Carnegie Mellon study shows that to make good decisions, our brains need every bit of that room to meander. Other research has found that problem-solving tends to come most easily when our minds are unfocused, and while we’re exercising. The neurologist Oliver Sacks has written books in his head while swimming.

Nope, this is not yet happening to me.  I do count the laps in my head, building up my swimming stamina.  I’m swimming in a Junior Olympic sized pool and I don’t swim like anyone else around me.  I’m not even swimming in a real bathing suit.  I use a black one piece Danskin that slides on and off easily.  I would get another one for backup but so far, I can’t find one, even online.   I do have a new purple Miracle suit but I haven’t broken it in yet.  That’s more for the Cancun resort we are headed for in March.

Complaints aside, I am happy to be in the water.  I’m happy that I don’t have one of those exciting new waterproof iPod headsets.  I’m happy when I’m alone in the pool,  happy in the quiet.  Sure, I’m still self-conscious about the way I get myself back and forth in the pool. My happiest way to swim in under the water, like a fish, but I can’t stay under  long.  I tend to feel best swimming on my sides- left or right is fine.  I could never master the usual stroke: head in and out, smoothly coordinated with one arm and one leg.  I watch the swimmers in the lanes around me.  They seem to swim effortlessly and yes, I’d like to swim like that.  But for now, I’m not in search of a swimming teacher.  I’m just taking the water the way I did as a kid.

What I’ve realized is that as a kid, being in our bungalow colony pool was not about swimming, but socializing.We were in the pool to escape the summer heat and play without the rules of our counselor. I did swim some, loving the underwater, but we weren’t there to do laps.  We put on our suits to continue what we were doing in our clothes, just hanging out together.

Now swimming is serious and solitary.  I’m understanding why, for years, I was disappointed and uninterested in the pool.  Swimming laps is serious and solitary but  finally I found my place in the pool as an adult.  I’m not just sitting in a suit reading in the shade.  I’m in it with the athletes, burning calories, keeping my heart and lungs strong and yes, enjoying the water and I’m feeling taller at the end of a swim.

And yes, I’m building a rhythm to my swimming routine.  The first two laps are tough and in the second lap I wonder how I can keep going.  That mirrors how I feel on the treadmill, and when I weight training but I continue on to the 3rd, 4th and the 5th is wonderful.  I am relaxing into that lap, feeling comfortable in the water, spending more time under the water, finding my zone.  6, 7, 8, 9 is fantastic. 10 is magic and everything after 10 is gravy.  I still stop at 15, but yes, there’s more to conquer.  I do want to move faster and I think I’m wasting energy and soon I will be out to find a teacher.  Learning for me usually includes a teacher 🙂

It’s snowing in Paramus now and it looks like I’ll be missing the 9:30 aqua class at the gym, but there’s an afternoon ahead of me. I’m sure there will be time for a swim if the snow ever stops.

Yes, to swimming!

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22 thoughts

  1. A couple years ago I decided it was time for me to learn how to swim. I took private lessons and my teacher said I just need to practice. I like you, prefer swimming under water. I feel like a “fish out of water” awkwardly swimming laps, silently wishing I was all alone in the pool. Your post encourages me to practice some more.

  2. Biking my usual route allows me to enter that quiet place of thinking. The first half mile is all uphill, but when I’ve passed that, I’m good. Swimming is just another type of journey for you.

  3. It does look warm and wonderful and is a reminder that my NEXT address will need to be nearer an indoor pool or in a warmer climate! I have wonderful happy memories of winter swimming days when I was in HS; however, there are no indoor pools in “Stormville” and at 18 degrees, there is no way I am jumping into my local “frozen-solid-anyway-pond.”

    • This warn spot is all new for me, Anita. But for years, I was a member of another gym, right across from where I lived with a great pool and I ignored it as I walked into a small room to lift weights instead. There were actually treadmills along the sides of the pool. I never went in. Ha!

  4. Happy in the quiet – love that phrase. Your journey and dedication is motivating. Tasks always seem to be difficult at the beginning but gain momentum and ease with practice. Yeah for you, Bonnie!!

  5. In college, after doing all the research for a paper, I would head to the pool & swim laps. When I got out, everything had crystallized and i was ready to write. I don;t swim anymore because I have really bad eczema and the chlorine aggravates it. I sure miss that quiet time and its rhythm. You can;t really recreate it anywhere else.

  6. I love that you don’t feel the need for a teacher…yet. I think that is the way it really happens with kids too. They are content to ‘swim’ around in the pool just the way they want. I love to think when I do the elliptical. Next year I will get back in to swimming, I love a warm pool though, and might have trouble finding one. xo

    • It’s nice to be in charge of deciding when it’s time for a teacher. I’m in the stage of getting used to the experience myself. So when I move to instruction it’s because I am ready for it.

  7. Love hearing about you in the ‘zone’, Bonnie. It’s very cool you’ve found this for yourself, & I hope when you’re ready, you do find a teacher for that next step. Also hope the afternoon brightens!

  8. Love the idea of a regular swim routine. If any of the pools available near me looked like the one in your photos, I’d have to build this into my routine. So far, haven’t found one that doesn’t make me cringe! Love your words and images, Bonnie, as always!

  9. Even though you use words like “tough”, “serious” and “solitary”, your writing makes swimming so inviting. It has to be a good match between a person and an exercise to make the experience enjoyable even when exercise get challenging. You have found your match.

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