Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My First Attempt at Swimming

With the hope of not sounding too obnoxious or full of it, I'm just going to be honest. I am very competitive and I have played a lot of sports in my day but I normally don't like a sport or activity if I'm not good at it. That being said, I am a fairly good athlete and am usually able to pick up a sport pretty easily and be decent. Especially now, that I'm finally in the best shape I've been in since High School, I thought I could just buy a swim suit, show up at the pool, dive in and go.

I obviously know how to swim but I have never swum for exercise. I usually breast-stroke/ doggy paddle my way around a pool or lake to avoid submerging my head and getting water up my nose. But being a lover of biking and running, I know that I want to at least attempt a triathlon at some point in my life. And way before I can even fathom that, I knew I had to attempt a swim. So I made it a goal to "swim for sport" on my list of 25 things to do before I turn 25. And then I put it on my list of October goals. And then I waited until the 25th day of the month to buy the necessary equipment. And then, on the 26th day of October, I went swimming. And it was really hard.

Luckily, Kate is a swimmer who has done two triathlons and has taken recent swim lessons, so she offered to join me and show me what to do. We went from work to the Wilson Aquatic Center in Tenleytown. We took the most roundabout route and got lost in the High School before we finally found our way into this hot, chlorine scented building that is free for residents of the disctrict (ie. me). We found the locker room, changed, and then showered. Apparently you shower before going in the pool- I didn't think anyone actually followed that rule.

I put on my first swim cap and looked ridiculous.

Kate struck up some swimming conversation with a nice guy about what the standards and traditions are at this particular pool while I played with the straps of my new, too tight goggles. Then I looked even more ridiculous.

We meandered over to the 50 meter swimming pool and jumped in one of the "medium" speed lanes. We swam one lap and I was a hot mess. I took a breath with each stroke, held my head too high, and let my legs sink. I wasn't sure whether I was going to drown, hyperventilate, or leave the pool and never try swimming again. But I made it to the end and laughed. I was really cocky to think I could jump in a pool and just be a swimmer. Oh hell no.

Kate gave me some tips about how to hold my head, how to slow my strokes, how to kick properly, and how to breath to make the whole process much more efficient. We did a few breathing exercises. And we did many more laps but I never made it an entire length of the pool in one comfortable, consistent swim. I would always get flustered, tired, or inhale water along the way. Eventually, a lifeguard came up to us and told us to move to the slow or walking lane if we wanted to swim slowly or have a lesson. So I "swam" one more length and felt incredibly self conscious about all the eyes in the facility that I was sure were watching me. I got out and left Kate in the medium speed, 50 meter lane to find a more suitable place for my haphazard style. 

The 20 meter pool, with only three lanes and a kiddy pool attached, seemed the perfect fit. I got in and the water was warmer and sweatier smelling if that is possible. Maybe it was full of more chlorine and my senses don't know the difference. Anyway, I probably did 20 or so laps in that pool and, relatively speaking, they were awesome. The length was perfect, giving me a chance to practice my form and my breathing but take more frequent breaks in between. I slowly felt myself getting better and more comfortable with what I was doing. Because what I was doing was so foreign to me. My confidence was also boosted in this pool because I was not blubbering around, unable to complete a single full lap, looking like an idiot among all of the experienced swimmers. I was actually swimming and I was going faster than the majority of the people around me.

But, eventually, it was time to be done so we relaxed in the massive hot tub, stretching out our calves in the hot water. We cleaned up in the locker room and headed out. I told Kate probably a million times how grateful I was that she showed me the ropes of this new sport because of how truly lost I would have been on my own. And I did not want to be discouraged. Instead, I was encouraged and I can cross another thing off my big list.

3. Swim for sport.

I may not have been able to pick up swimming easily and I may not exactly be decent at it. But I am ready to get over my pride and not dislike the sport just because I can't dominate just yet. I realize that it will take time and I am up for the challenge. I very much appreciate Kate's patience with me and know that I would have been hopeless without her. But I am now comfortable going back and jumping in a pool on my own. I intend to get my money's worth with the pricey gear, to successfully swim 50 meters soon and to, one day some day, complete a triathlon.


  1. You did wonderful, Carrie! Your position improved tremendously as the night went on. I have no doubt that you will be able to swim a tri very soon!

    And I loved joining you. Hopefully we can again soon when less people are there.

  2. I'm exactly the same way with sports I'm not good at - avoid at all costs. I'm also trying to improve my swimming and taking a real swim lesson this weekend. I swim at Wilson now and then, so maybe I'll see you there one day!

  3. Carrie, you would LOVE a triathlon! I did the Nations Tri a few years ago in DC and it's the best possible beginner olympic course EVER. We should talk about it sometime - it's in September each year. Congrats on the first swim!

  4. I have just started swimming's definitely harder than it looks. There's no shame in going to the little pool!

  5. Aw c'mon... swim caps don't make you look that ridiculous. In fact I'd even say you look cute!

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