5:50am. I struggle to catch my breath when I reach the edge. Lifting my head out of the water on the final stroke, I swallow a small amount of water and cough. The powerful smell of chlorine tightens my chest and causes me to wheeze. Is this supposed to be fun? I momentarily watch the swimmers in the other lanes flutter kick and stretch moving through the water with grace and strength, lap after lap. My style looks more like I’m trying to survive a shark attack, slapping my arms ahead and frantically kicking, an awkward ballet.
I always stop after a lap and take a moment, as I look down the lane to the opposite edge. Not ready to swim again, I usually switch off swimming with a little water aerobics. Then I prance across the pool, pumping my arms and lifting my knees. I’m not exactly what you would call a “swimmer” because of my mental and physical situation. Basically, I get bored very easily and my body doesn’t fight it. If my mind says, “I’m done swimming” then we’re done swimming. So, it’s always a game to keep my interest fresh by thinking positive thoughts and making positive strokes.
My post-menopausal body has not been good for me. I stiffen up and ache when I sit too long, my hips are in agonizing pain when I walk. I’ve gained over 100 pounds in the past 2 decades, have moderate hair loss, am a medicated depressive, have bad skin, and worse vision. My body runs hot like a child with a modest temperature. I’m never cold. My only preference for exercise seems to be taking up swimming. I’m at the point of sink or swim, because my options are limited and so are my hips. I’d love to go for a long walk, but that’s not possible. So here I am, fighting for small wins and trying to stay afloat, before the world wakes up. At least, I’m rewarded with an adjacent hot tub to soak in after all my hard work.
6:20am. I’ve been at this for a half hour and am ready to quit. I need passionate motivation and a gallon of strong coffee. I’ll change to the backstroke to relax a little as my eyes are fixed on the contours of the roof. Less chance of swallowing water, while giving me a chance to think. As I reach back, I take a deep breath in, kick, pull, glide. Breath, reach, kick, glide. My breath creates a calming rhythm. I’m not worried about work, or anything else for that matter. My breath lulls me to a state of contentment like I’m in another world, by myself.
I’m coming around to the idea of swimming. Sure, my choices of activity are few, but these early mornings have worked out well. Like Yoga, you get the benefit of exercise, but it also clears your mind. The past few years have been rough on my body, as I am twice the person I used to be, while sluggish and sedimentary. However, taking baby strokes has been the answer. Just dip into the pool and pull yourself to the other side. Repeat. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to look pretty doing it. Just breath.