Monday, January 31, 2011

Swimming versus "Swimming"

I'm gonna try and start swimming next week. Contrary to most athletes/ Americans, I don't find swimming all that difficult. I started swimming back in high school. I swam in college. I swam after college. I enjoy it. Gives me time to think. I don't do it much because I suck at biking and running and because I hate getting in my car and driving to workout. I really would love to put a pool in my basement. Then I would swim daily. Also, I'd get to reap the benefits of the free cologne that comes with every workout.

I'm pretty sure that my swimming prowess was one of the driving factors that led to a life of triathloning. Granted that I am not as fast as I used to be (not that I was ever 'fast' in the hs/ college competitive sense) nor as serious about my times. I suppose that if I trained harder I might knock off as much as 3-5 whole minutes in an Iron distance event and almost 1 minute in something shorter. Yet, the bike and run seem to be the way to bigger time gains. Swimming, in all its glory, gets de-prioritized. Unfortunately, in triathlons of any distance, the power of swimming is grossly under appreciated.

Wife's suit optional
I have friends that still regard the stuff you do in a backyard pool as 'swimming'. It so happened that one day, ages ago, a friend (back before I was a triathlete and still had friends) asked me to go swimming. Since I'm a swimmer, this appealed to me. Yes. I'll do it. I have a bag pre-packed with swimming gear. Goggles- yes. Shampoo/ conditioner- yes. Paddles- yes. Buoy- yes. Nutrition- yes. Man, we were going to have a great workout! Much to my chagrin that we ended up in his backyard. Why was I the only one with a speedo? Do I really need to do flip turns in a 15' diameter, round, plastic tub filled with water? They have snorkels, is that allowed? Why didn't I add sunscreen to my gear bag? How many laps in this thing equals 100 yards? Where's the deck clock? Where's the deck?

These questions went greatly unanswered but I was determined to get in a good workout. I got started. Push off the wall near the ladder. Glide. Stroke once. Breathe. Flip. Crap, you're not supposed to breathe on the last stroke before the turn. I hope no one was watching. Glide. Stroke. Flip. Crap. Did it again. This is the first hypoxic warm-up of my life. Glide. Stroke. Flip. Crap. Someone had to have seen that. Coach is going to kill me.

Had I known I was going to be a triathlete, I would have chalked this up to practicing for a mass swim start. "Cannonball!" was announced and greeted with a tsunami. Back then, I was just annoyed. I had shared the pool with the diving team. They knew how to wait for a open space before prancing off their bouncy thingy into the deep end. Was there a deep end in this thing? I forgot to look. Either way, this diver-wanna be completely skewed my only stroke for this lap. Patience Banter, we'll work out a system. Out of nowhere, hands grabbed my shoulders and yanked me up. This was more than some loser tapping my feet signaling a pass. Way over the line.

Popular version of 'swimming'
Okay, I now know that most people's view of swimming is splashing around in water, throwing toys, sword fighting with flaccid noodles, and senseless horseplay. Fun but not really a workout. Sometimes, their version of swimming includes not moving at all, it's just sitting on some sort of inflatable. I actually had to go out and purchase trunks for such occasions. Big, baggy things with pockets and a mesh lining (seriously, what in the world does the mesh do anyway?). Do you realize that you cannot find trunks without flowers? Nowadays, you can't even find them in a length above your knees. Caution- I feel a rant coming on...

When did men's fashion relegate that 'shorts' had to be 3/4 length affairs? When women wear them, they are called 'capris'. Yet modern fashion has decided that a man's beastly hairy jams be hidden so that only the calf is showing and even the calf tends to be covered with socks. The word 'shorts' means just that- short. My legs are works of art not to be shunned from society just because the experts think it's cool. I am not an animal.

Even going to the pool now, I have switched from traditional speedos to jammers. I am not sure why there is a negative stigma for swimmers wearing swimming gear in public. Cyclists can relate. I go to the Y and I have added cover-up shorts to my pre-packed bag. It's not that I am ashamed, but when in Rome...
Left side please
I'll definitely go to the pool. Since I've not been in the water for months, I'm gonna start off light and slow. I am secretly ashamed that my entire planned workout was once considered the warm-up. I will practice patience and focus on what's important. At least there are won't be  flowers, mesh, or pockets on my suit.


  1. This coming from the guy doing the "chicken dance" in the picture to your right on the blog. 'course I'm one of those annoying slow guys in the water that lose 3-5 min to you faster peeps. Next you'll be complaining that the water is old people warm.

  2. Nope. My next complaint will be completely different.