Thursday, May 15, 2014

On swimming with friends

I started swimming competitively when I was 7 years old. Synchronized swimming for a year before that and swim lessons from the time I was 6 months old. I grew up swimming. Most all of the swimming I did was with other people, on a team. I was always surrounded by competitive people who wanted were there had the ability to punish themselves in the water. When I am surrounded by people like that, it's "easy" to keep coming back everyday for more torture fun. 
When I moved to Hawaii and started swimming again (after a long hiatus), things were different. I wasn't surrounded by my friends and I wasn't around people who enjoyed going to practice. I was swimming alone and I was only swimming once, maybe twice a week, 2500-3000 meters tops. I never thought I needed to swim more than once or twice a week to rebuild and then keep my swim fitness. And swimming alone is not fun, so I rarely did it. I wasn't motivated and thought all those years of swimming would stick with me. "25 years of swimming doesn't just go away" (well it does...I don't think I'll ever be swimming at the level I was swimming at 10 years ago, but I don't want or need to be swimming like that.). I thought I could fake a "good" swim pretty well without being in the water. I can, but I also can't. I was bored, unmotivated and swimming alone. I could fake a decent swim pretty well, but my swimming was no where near where it should have been with all the swimming experience I have. The swim should be my strength, where I can gain an advantage, I should be able to be out of the water with as little effort as possible while still going fast so that I can have a great bikerun to add on to the swim.
How long had people been telling me this and I just didn't listen, "I've been swimming for XX-years, I don't need to swim 8,000 meters a day to have a good triathlon swim." Well, the 8,000 meters a day part may be true and I really don't want or have time time to be back there, but more consistent, purposeful swimming is definitely paying off.
I started small. I joined a masters team, gasp!, something I never thought I would do, ever and I was going twice a week. The people were great, having a written workout to do with others was something that was definitely missing and there was a coach on deck to hold you accountable...sort of. Masters is different (Disclaimer: I've only ever been on one team and all teams I'm sure are not alike), a workout is provided, but you do what you want to do and can come and go as you please, if you don't want or ask for directions/critiques, you don't often get it. Your coach doesn't hover over you or give you a hard time if you're late, leave early or completely alter the workout. So what do you think happened?! I didn't complete the workouts, I got out early, I still wasn't motivated. I was swimming MORE, but that more wasn't necessarily BETTER. My swim times improved slightly, but I still wasn't totally committed to swimming smarter.
It took about a year for me to realize listen decide on my own (even though I had had many suggestions in the past that this would be in my best interest) that putting in the work and time necessary to focus in on and strengthen my strength was important. I'm so glad I did. It has made all the difference. I am fortunate enough to have moved super close to a pool and have connected with a solid group of people that I swim with at least once a week. Having other like minded people around who are trying to improve their swimming allthewhile having a good time and enjoying each other and the workouts (and the pool "toys") has made all the difference. I look forward to jumping in the pool atleast once a week with these people and get sad if I have to miss a day with them. I only wish I could swim with them every morning they get together and fight the bluehairs for lane space! Because of this/them, when I go to swim on my own the other 2-3 more times, my workouts aren't as awful as they used to be. Thanks!
There's still plenty of work to be done and gains to be made, but I can say with 100% confidence that my swim is coming back and I'm truly starting to enjoy swimming again. Living in a place where I can swim outside year round, ocean or pool, definitely doesn't suck and makes things much more enjoyable. I think if I lived somewhere where I had to swim indoors almost all year long (like I have done the majority of my swimming career) I wouldn't be in this swimming place that I am right now. I don't dread going to the pool anymore. I look forward to it. I enjoy it and if I have to miss a day with the morning crew I get a little sad. Getting up to swim in the morning before work or going there right after to get a swim in before another activity isn't always the most fun thing in the world, but I love it! And I NEVER regret it when it's done.
Relationships and the people you surround yourself with are what's important in life, in my opinion. The
people I've met and the friendships I've made through swimming and sport are some of the best relationships I have. And swimming has done that for me.
I believe this photo was tagged, "the six degrees of Michelle Simmons"
Thanks Mom and Pop for putting me in those lessons and swim team all those years ago!  

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