I’ve been a swimmer all of my life. I really don’t even remember learning how to swim. I remember being in swimming lessons with my then 6-year-old brother, I think to keep him company and alert my father when he was turning blue from the cold water. Our swimming lessons took place in the Great South Bay on Long Island. My father was a lifeguard when we were young and learning to swim for us was like learning to walk – natural.
Today, I am eternally grateful for my swimming training when I was so young. I was a competitive swimmer in my early teens and a lifeguard, which is by far the best summer job ever, in my late teens and early 20s. I swam and swam and swam.
And then I had kids. And I stopped swimming….until I signed up for this triathlon. My triathlon decision was two-fold. I desperately wanted to get in shape and strong again, and I wanted a reason to start swimming again. Two years ago, I hurt my shoulder. Two partial rotator cuff tendon tears, a torn bicep tendon, tendonosis, bursitis and ultimately, frozen shoulder. It was four months before I even had more than 30% range of motion. I went through physical therapy, doctor stuff and worked my arm until I had range of motion again with minimal pain. My pain doctor told me that if I could tolerate it, swimming was the best thing I could do for my shoulder, considering I’d been a swimmer.
When I started swimming, I was only able to manage 8 25-yard laps without my shoulder reminding me that yeah, I was really out of shape. But within a couple of months, I’m swimming 50 laps and training my body to swim for a race again.
My shoulder feels much better, even though it still aches right after I get out of the pool, my arms are the same size again (after six months of extremely limited movement, my left arm had lost all muscle tone and looked even fatter than the right one), and I find that on swimming days, I’m more relaxed and centered than I am on any other day.
This last week, I finally got to take advantage of the pool in the morning. 6:00 am. It was wonderful. No one was there. The overhead flourescent lights were not on yet, and while the locker room was a little chilly, it was a balmy 92 degrees in the pool area and the water was like bath water.
It was peaceful and meditative and I got a really great workout. I concentrated on my form, my stroke, my breathing and myself.
I met a woman just going into the pool as I came back to the locker room to start my day. She is just learning how to swim, and while she loves the exercise, it’s been tough for her she said to get it right. At that moment, I was even more grateful that I learned to swim like I learned to walk. It’s such a spectacular exercise, and for me to get back to swimming, all it took was getting back in the water.