Last year it was yoga. Last summer it was running.
Now, it’s swimming laps at the community pool around the block from my house.
My personal exercise fads, born of necessity and only tangentially related to what the greater world, what commercials and reality television and popular culture say is the healthy trend of the moment.
I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it until now. I took for granted that my parents taught me how to swim and made sure I stuck with swim team until I’d learned all the strokes. It never made me lasting friends and after a diving accident one morning at practice when I was ten years-old, led to a fear of quick starts and the abrupt end to my competitive career, but it always kept me active in the summers.
I took for granted that my grandma has been swimming for years. She’s logged so many miles in the recreation center pool that the local paper has been writing stories about her milestones for years, since I was a young kid back in Tennessee. My dad tried to sell my sister and I on golf as lifetime exercise, but perhaps I should dive into this watery option.
I took for granted that in Texas, we had a pool in the backyard. The spring we first moved in my sister and I could not wait to dive in. No wonder after a whole year in Chicago. The water was freezing on Easter morning, but we braved through it anyways. I thought I had enough new material to fuel my imaginary games with the larger backyard and the large, mythic Texas landscape, but the pool provided a beautiful canvas for my sister and I to dream together. Mermaids, dolphin trainers… she sent me a birthday cards with mermaids on it in honor of these memories last year. All the pictures from that era show me tanned brown, my hair hanging stringy from pool water. It’s beautiful, from a time when I was immersed in the imagination of the present. At least when I was outside, in the backyard, about to dive back into the pool waters.
Getting back in the water hasn’t been the smoothest transition. After swimming at least once every week or so in my Texas summers, diving back in the water after a year and a half in Toronto and strictly on land relegated me to the slow lane.
But on my first attempt, I did swim for the whole hour and didn’t drown.
After buying dollar store goggles, I sailed through my second trip to lap swimming hour with more laps logged and less water up my nose.
On my third trip, the cute young guard didn’t charge me the fee but just waved me through to the pool. Score, already feeling more fit and attractive.
After two weeks away from Toronto and my normal schedule, I somehow ended up undeservedly in the fast lane. Two kids with way too much energy kept passing me and kicking water into my face. But again, I didn’t quit, I logged more laps, and found enough energy to sprint past those over-competitive boys in my last few minutes. Take that!
It hasn’t solved everything and I don’t expect it to. But when I’m swimming, it’s easier to meditate than when I walk. I can’t stop. I’m with other people in the water, not running alone or against traffic on the streets. My thoughts are my own but every move I make ripples out to the others and their strokes and kicks ripple back to me. I receive them and keep swimming.
I don’t really want to start a new fad. I like that my swimming is low-key and less of a competition than most other aspects of my life, whether that’s my fault or pressure that I can’t avoid. Besides, if it became a fad, then it wouldn’t be as convenient or inexpensive as it is now, would it?