A Runner Trying to Swim
Do you know what it’s like to be pretty decent at something, be proud of being decent at that something and then venture over to something somewhat similar and suck at it? It can put a real damper on your spirits and leave you with quite the feeling of inadequacy. That’s how I feel about swimming.
I know how to swim. I’m in good shape and I like pushing my body. I thought swimming should be a breeze, right? Wrong. I hate it. Like I’d rather spend hours on a stationary bike staring at a wall hate it. Like I’d rather run continuous 400 meter repeats on an asphalt track in the middle of July with 100% humidity hate it. I don’t like it and I don’t want to do it.
So why do I have this aversion to swimming? Well, for several reasons.
First, it’s hard. It’s not running and I have yet to develop my swimmer’s lungs. When I’m running, I can take in as much air as I want, whenever I want. It’s all around me for the breathing. But, with swimming, with your face staring at the bottom of the pool, your only hope of air comes every three strokes. And you better be quick about it because you’re going right back to the face down, zero air zone in .5 seconds. Then add some type of speed work and you’ll be gasping for air in no time. At least that’s my predicament.
Second, swimming in a pool is boring. Just plain boring. One of the things I love most about running is being in the outdoors, seeing new scenery, smiling at the people passing by. Swimming in a pool is a completely different story. I always start out my workouts with a positive attitude. This is going to be fun type mentality. Then 30 seconds later I hit a wall. Flip, turn around, and bam. There’s that damn wall again. This goes on for about 200 meters and then I’m done. I’m ready to get out and call it a day. But I can’t because 200 meters isn’t even the full warmup. Great.
Third, I’m bad at it. I’m use to being the decent athlete, or at least the decent runner. But in comparison to every other swimmer around me, I’m the worst. And that’s a hard reality to swallow. It’s like being the smartest person in your high school and then attending Harvard. You’re not nearly as cool as you thought you were.
But I have made the decision that, even though swimming is a thorn in my side, I am going to love it dearly. I am going to embrace swimming as a new runner would who hates running. Every day I’m going to show up to that pool, put on my really unattractive goggles, ignore the extremely fit swim team practicing beside me, and swim. From one wall to the other. Again. Again. And again. And I’ll ask my swimmer friends for help. I’ll learn why I’m so bad at swimming and I’ll work to change that. It’s like failing at something time and time again, but then one day, after enough hard work, things get better. I’ll work towards that better day.
Every morning I spend about 20 minutes reading and studying a little philosophy. This morning, in the Analects of Confucius, I read the following, “There is one single thread binding my way together…the way of the Master consists in doing one’s best… that is all.”
Swimming, I will do my best.
Happy Trails and Happy Running,