Friday, March 18, 2016

Back to Front Crawl 

Regent Park Aquatic Centre. Image by Shai Gil

Saturday I went for my first swim in almost three months. I just didn't have the urge in the winter to walk out in the cold to a pool where first you have to have a cold shower, then get submerged in cold water then get out, have another cold shower and walk back home in the cold. That’s like four layers of cold I could do without. But it was warm on Saturday and once I had finished breakfast and got bored of reading online news (about Donald Trump), I thought it was time to get back in the pool.

In the three months I wasn't swimming, I’ve been going to the gym working out with weights and on fitness equipment. To be honest, I haven’t noticed any difference in my physique, strength or weight. Maybe biking is a little easier and, notably I haven’t gained any weight which must be a first for me between January and March. Usually I simply hibernate, perfect my brownie-in-a-mug recipe and pack on about 10-15 pounds. Not having gained weight has been a huge success - I really am the greatest (to be said in the voice of Donald J. Trump. See, I am reading way too much about that guy). One of my reasons for doing weights has been to strengthen my shoulders for swimming so it seemed like maybe I should try it out and see if any of this “dry-land training” had helped.

Short answer: no. No, it did not.

Weirdly I sort of forgot how to do “swimming”. Not necessarily the stroke itself but all the activity around getting in the water in the first place. I forgot the combination of my lock, I messed up the precise undress/redress sequence. I used to be like one of those marines that could take apart and re-assemble a rifle in a hot minute. Yet on Saturday I was putting on my shoes before my pants (metaphorically… and a little bit literally). Should I stretch out first? Where was my shampoo? Where are my flip-flops? Where do you put your shoes? Socks in the shoes, or in the backpack? Finally I got in the water and I could not make it through a 10-lap set. In December I was doing 3 x 20-laps. Now I could only do four or six laps and I was beat. Eventually, slowly I did my 50 laps and headed for the shower (via the hot tub of course). It was a reminder that the only way to improve at something is to keep doing it.

Then I noticed what I always notice. Those people who really are much worse at using public facilities than I am. The over confident guy who really thought he was tearing up the fast lane but was actually pretty slow (he was so impatient to get by me, then once in front he was so slow I immediately passed him). The guy who was really fast but jumped between lanes always looking for the less crowded one. That hipster couple who didn’t swim in the pool but only used the hot tub. There were people who didn’t really know how the showers worked. Motion sensors people! Someone clumsily knocked down the wall-mounted seat meant for those with mobility issues and it fell with a thundering clang. The two lithe 20-somethings in their string bikinis not wearing deck sandals who looked more like they were on spring break than at a lane swim. The old guy washing his junk with no regard for the fact that he was in public view. The woman who seemed to be drying her hair the entire time from when I entered the change room until the time I left. So I won’t worry about having to start over from the beginning. We’ve all been there before which is better than never getting there at all.

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