Sunday, June 20, 2010


Today, I went swimming at the Wheat Ridge Rec Center. I haven't been swimming laps much lately at all - in fact it's been months, I think, since I've swum laps at all - but I decided on an ambitious goal for the day: swimming a mile. I wasn't sure that was realistic at all, so I wasn't really determined to make it, but I thought having a stretch goal would be fun.

A mile is just slightly over 35 laps in our 25-yard-long pool. I actually count lengths and not laps, as I'll explain later. I used the crawl (or freestyle, as I think it's sometimes called) for almost all of the laps.

I got slower as the laps went on, but ultimately I did make my goal! I think it took me about an hour and a half, which is pretty damn slow, but I don't care - I am excited about swimming such a long distance at all.

I really enjoy swimming. The environment underwater is beautiful and feels wonderful to me. Swimming is also no-impact; I suppose it's possible to get injured swimming, but I've never hurt myself. For me, it is kind of a low-stress, high-rep, light muscle exercise situation that is not extremely aerobic.

I used to have trouble counting laps, but the technique I use now is that I say the number I'm on in my head with every breath, which is a bit hypnotic too. I count lengths rather than laps so that I always know that on the way out I should be saying an odd number, and on the way back it's an even number. That helps prevent the thing where my mind drifts and suddenly '51, 51, 51, 51' turns into '51, 51, 51, 52, ...'

I also wear a mask and snorkel to swim. I first tried this when I had my neck injury, because I couldn't handle the neck strain of swimming back then. The mask and snorkel made it possible for me, since I didn't have to move my neck around to breathe, and could just keep it in a nice neutral position. And what I discovered is that swimming is much more relaxing and nice if you don't have to worry about breathing at all.

Every 5 laps or so, I come up, take off my mask, and have a short break. I try to keep some water with me and drink it during my breaks, because it is kind of easy to get a little dehydrated while swimming. I don't tend to ever feel thirsty while submerged in water.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time. I hope that the pool at my grad school will be as nice as the one at the rec center and that I can swim there on a more regular basis. I can't swim in the winter here, because the chlorine does unbearable things to my already-dry skin, and I'm hoping that won't be a problem in the new locale.


Debbie said...

That's awesome. I cannot do the crawl for very long. Where I used to swim laps it was 36 laps to a mile (9 laps to a quarter mile).

The way I would count was to do 9 different strokes for one lap each. I wonder if I can remember all the strokes anymore--we learned some weird ones in my advanced swimming class. (No, one of them was NOT the butterfly.) It went something like this:

1. crawl
2. elementary back stroke
3. breast stroke
4. side stroke (changing sides after one length)
5. regular back stroke
6. above-water breast stroke (as if I am looking for someone to rescue or am wearing contacts)
7. side stroke with no top arm and with the opposite leg going forward (as if I am rescuing somebody)
8. a thing with arms like the crawl and a kick like the side stroke
9. Dang, can't remember a 9th thing I did.

(Repeat three more times--if I lost track of the repetitions, I could just look at a clock!)

The first time I did this, I was at summer camp, and we all recorded our lap swimming in increments of 1/4 mile. Whoever swam the farthest would win. I came in third with a total of 10 miles over the entire summer. I was so glad we didn't have to do the crawl the whole time--since it was a Red Cross chart, they would encourage any kind of swimming.

I have injured myself swimming, either by getting too close to the divider thingy and scraping my arm along it or by bashing my head into the wall.

I hope you don't ache too much tomorrow.

Tam said...

I already ache too much! Oops.

Sally said...

The idea of swimming with a mask and snorkel sounds very relaxing. (In reality, going that distance would be exhausting, of course - esp. for me, since I suck big-time at swimming. I think I swim as badly as it is possible to swim and still call it swimming rather than sinking and drowning.)

Tam said...

Ed struggles with swimming too. One length of the pool is enough to make him winded and exhausted, even though he's far more fit than I am. I have a buoyancy advantage but I wasn't as buoyant as a child and I was still good at it. Years of swimming lessons, maybe.

Tam said...

And, strangely, the intense intermittent soreness that I felt in my arms and back the night of the swim seem to be the only soreness I've had from it. I wasn't sore the next day at all. Go figure!