My zodiac sign is Pisces. The Fishes. I don’t pay much attention to astrology, because I think it’s bullshit. Having said that, and meant it, I still must acknowledge that everything I’ve ever heard or read about Pisces is curiously on the mark with me. Lucky guess? There’s also that thing about fish. Sure, they’re tasty creatures. But as much as I’d like to think of myself as a cute and loyal golden retriever, or an aloof tabby – the truth is, I’m probably more in league with a grouper or fiddler crab. Maybe a pelican, if I can make that stretch.
Bodies of water hold sway over me. If I ever go missing, look for me on the beaches of the world. Or, if I’m only gone for an hour or so, check the nearest pool. I am happy when I’m near the water; happiest when I’m in it.
To my great good fortune, I can be in my favorite element and getting in a good workout at the same time. Healthy for my body and soul, simultaneously. I love swimming the way people love yoga. Or the way I once-upon-a-time loved to run. I’m not inclined to do yoga, because I have this deeply ingrained desire not to look foolish in public. That’s not an indictment of the downward facing dog. Maybe I’m even a little jealous that people can get into all those exotic poses. I just don’t want to be that exotic. As for running, all the endorphins in the world wouldn’t be able to put my knees back together again if I tried taking up that sport at this stage of the game.
So I swim. I grew up in a place with a beach at the end of my street, and learned to swim probably soon after I got the walking thing down. I loved being in the water and I never wanted to come out. It’s fair to say it made me sad to leave the liquid world and return to terra firma. One of my first jobs was as a lifeguard at our local beach. Getting paid to get a tan. I never really recovered from that shattered dream…
I never swam competitively or on a team of any sort. Looking back, I wish I had, as I suspect it would have altered the trajectory of my physical existence for the better. Not being able to change that now, I do appreciate the fact that my only association with water is pleasure. And that holds true, even when it comes to using the pool as my gym. I look forward to my daily dose of hydro-therapy – especially since I ditched my gym pool for the public swimming pool in West Hollywood’s park. The gym pool was full of prima donnas and rude, stupid people. I’d do my workout but leave aggravated, which really defeats the mental-health benefits of the swim.
The public pool, on the other hand, is given over to those of us who take our swimming more seriously. There are swim teams for young and old, classes for every ability, and ‘free swim’ times for the floaters and splashers. But most of the time, this pool is reserved for the lap swimmers. It’s so refreshing. Really not much different, I guess, from the treadmill-filled gyms. You swim in your lane, sometimes sharing the lane. There’s a mostly unspoken etiquette, rules of the road. You interact with your fellow swimmers in the locker room pre- and post-swim, but not so much in the pool. If you and your neighbor pause at the same end for a breather or a sip of water, maybe there’s a hello. You get used to seeing the same faces in the same time slots. There’s a rhythm to it.
I renewed my commitment to getting back in shape when I loaded up my ‘swim card’ with 50 visits in November. I tell myself I should take one day a week ‘off’ to give my muscles a rest. Quite frankly, these muscles have been on vacation for far too long as it is, so I don’t worry too much about that. In fact, there are days when I’d like to do morning and evening swims. I think that falls under the category of ‘portion control’ – but that’s another post.
Two+ months into my new aquatic routine, I’m making good progress. I aim for an hour in the pool every day, and usually get in at least 45 minutes of swim time. I’m up to at least a mile (72 laps), and if I’ve left myself enough time, there’s a nice little endorphin rush that hits at about the 60-lap mark that has been carrying me along like a wave to 90. I won’t be asked to model swimwear any time soon. But thanks to this full-body workout, I can feel things getting tighter and stronger in places I haven’t seen in some time, but have always believed were still there. I’ve got a wedding to go to in Maine this summer, and I want to be fit for those beautiful brides. Because nothing is sadder than way too much seersucker.
Getting back in the swim. Day 003 of #100happydays.