FIT@50 / week 75
Just Look Up:
I was back in the pool this week. It was incredible, and although the skills had diminished over a few years, I was still able to comfortably crank out laps. Except for when I crashed into Liliana Hart because she decided to stop and fix her hair in the middle of a lane. Though I think it was on purpose for both of us. I’m going to do a short-course triathlon later this year with our 14 year old daughter, and needed to get back to my own training to teach her.
If Michael Phelps and USA Swimming inspired me to do anything recently, it was to enjoy the training and fun of swimming, and to never be ignorant enough to make up a story about being robbed by cops.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was always weary of water. No, not drinking water or bath water, but big bodies of open water. Sure the movie Jaws contributed to it too, but other than the dog paddle or treading water, I swam like a block of led.
Therein lied the dilemma. For many years, I thought about completing a triathlon, but since swimming was like the first one-third of the event, there weren’t many ways of getting around it. And unlike the one person who actually walked on it, I wasn’t getting away without swimming through it.
Something about having nothing to touch just below both feet while my body tentatively bobbed atop shifting currents bothered the bejesus out of me. I wasn’t going to be limited by this fear. So, I did what any motivated person would do. I YouTube it, and then I bought a book on swimming.
I began swimming before and after grad school classes and work in nice four foot deep lap lanes. I was able to breaststroke over one mile without stopping, so I entered my first triathlon. Guess what? Whitecaps, other swimmers and a pool-only breaststroke resulted in near open water disaster. But I lived to bike and run and was hooked.
I had great friends teach me but the freestyle swim stroke still eluded me. I dedicated one year to swimming four to six days a week. One night in a YMCA pool, I grew agitated and slapped the water in defeat.
My training partner asked what was bothering me. I confessed that while I could do the technique, I still couldn’t rotate to catch a breath. I’d panic, or swim with my face buried until lifting my head for air while both legs sunk and stopped my forward motion. I’d read the books, watched the videos and practiced, but I still had that gnawing fear reminding me that if I stopped, or grew tired or sucked in water instead of air, that I’d find myself where the deep, dark waters waited.
All I ever focused on was what was below. My friend asked what did it matter how deep the water was? We’re up here on the surface. Then he pointed to a pipe running across the ceiling’s peak. He said when you need to rotate for air, just look up.
That night I swam two miles without a single break. I did it freestyle the entire time, and had a blast skimming across the surface while rhythmically doing what I should’ve been doing all along – Looking Up.
Being FIT@50 has taught me that even the things we may want most can have the potential for adversely focusing our attention on the deep, dark negatives of obtaining the goal. Sometimes all it takes is a friendly reminder to Look Up.
Chief Scott Silverii, Ph.D.
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