During the summer of 2013, I hired a swim coach. Improving my aquatic ability was something that I longed for yet didn’t get around to for a while. I wrote about my experience here. It was a lot of work and led me down the path to my primary form of exercise today.

Swimming is quite enjoyable for me now, especially since fine tuning my form with the  coach. I use to try to jog but found that pure misery. About 4 times a week, I am at the Rec Center to get my exercise. The pool is 25 meters long and when I started with the coach, I couldn’t go 100 meters without a break. At the beginning of the lesson, you were afraid that you would drown; by the end, you were afraid you wouldn’t.

As time has gone on, I have continually pushed myself. I started with taking a break every 100 meters. Then I got up to 200 meters. Then 300, 350 and finally 500 without a break. Now I must interject here, these lengths are nothing for some of you on swim teams or performing triathlons, and I understand that. For me, I am a natural sprinter so I am hitting it hard with each stroke to feel accomplished. Plus I am not training for the Olympics. At 36, I kind of think that ship has sailed. For the first time in my life, I actually like exercise.

Now my workout is 1000 meters in approximately 30 minutes. It was 32 minutes a few weeks back but my last time was 27. Now earlier I mentioned how I push myself. I think that this is good for all of us but we need to know our limits. Two weeks ago I went for a swim. We had all been sick as a family and I was just starting to get better. I had not been in the pool for a week and, knowing that my energy was low, I was really trying to pace myself–for a moment. A few hundred meters in however and the demons of self destruction took over.

At 500 meters (my usual rest time), I thought that I didn’t need a break and would be proud of myself if I went further than before without a rest. At 800 meters, I really was starting to feel the wear. Remember, my body was recovering from illness. At 1000 meters I had the crazy thought of why not swim further than I ever have? A few weeks back, I had swam 1100 meters but 1000 was my usual stopping point. At 1150, I thought that I should go 50 more to make it an even 1200. Finally, at 1200 meters I got out of the pool. Was I awesome or what?

Not quite. You know that “it hurts good” feeling after a workout–the one where you pushed your body and got your endorphins going? Yeah, I didn’t have that! I hurt bad. I knew that it wasn’t good the way my joints and overall body felt. It felt foreign to me and was a little scary.

It has taken nearly 2 weeks to feel decent again. It was as if the oil warning light went off in my car and I said, “well, let’s get to our destination quicker and then I will look at the problem.” Bad choice. My wife says that I have a sickness of never feeling like I have done enough. Because of this I run at super high octane and then burn out. And when I am burned out, I can barely get the basics done. There are things to embrace about this cycle, but it can be limiting.

I don’t just do it with swimming, but with work, with writing and with projects. Going at full speed and checking things off my task list is a rush that I love. The problem is that I rush the rush and leave many things out; things that I need to go back and fix later. So many times I have pushed the PUBLISH button on this blog and then read it–oops, should have proofread that sooner.

It’s so foreign to me to actually take things at a decent pace. But for the first time in my life, it feels like I am getting things done right. There are less items being checked off my list and I am also realizing that it’s better to have less on the list, and to make those things remaining count. If you juggle six things, you will do them all poorly.

When on a particular day a couple weeks after my 1200 meter death sprint, I told my wife that I was deciding whether to go swimming or not because my body ached, she replied with this: “If it were anyone but you, I would tell them to go and enjoy, it would be good for them. But since you aren’t capable of that, I would tell you not to go.” Oh I went, maybe to spite her and maybe not (I’ll never say publicly) and I took 8 minutes longer to swim my normal distance. Did I feel like a failure because I took longer? Well yes, at first. But surrendering what doesn’t work, even if it is a lifelong habit, is incredibly relieving.

It’s kind of exhausting rushing through everything. Hopefully a little lesson about pacing myself and enjoying what I do–from an exercise session in the pool–can be applied to all aspects of life.

 

 

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