In the Swim

Are there skills you developed as an adult that you enjoy enough that you wish you’d picked them up when you were younger?

Mine, which has come on with a vengeance in the last month, is swimming. Lap after lap after lap.

The swimming lessons I had as a kid were 100% aimed at making sure I didn’t drown. I was never given any instruction on swimming well. And certainly never given any sense that I could potentially be good at it, or of how to go about getting good at it.

In grad school, a friend tried to get me to swim with him, and I discovered that while I had a strong breaststroke I couldn’t swim a length of freestyle without wanting to die. Later, at Pomona, I tried again, but hadn’t magically gotten any better.

But two years ago, I got in the pool at our gym here just to do some laps of breaststroke, and threw in a length or two of freestyle. And it wasn’t good, but I didn’t think I was going to die, which seemed like a positive sign.

So I started reading things online about how to swim and discovered one obvious thing I was doing wrong: kicking too hard. It sounded completely counterintuitive but I figured I’d give the advice I was reading a shot.

And it worked? It actually started to feel… good?

But then it got cold and I stopped swimming. And then there was COVID and the gym closed down and that seemed like the end of my progress. Except when we rejoined the gym this summer and I got back in the pool for the first time, it turned out that I was able to pick up where I’d left off.

I’ve been swimming like crazy for the last three weeks, and the progress I’ve made is amazing. As in, today I swam a mile of freestyle, without pause, in a time that seems to me pretty respectable for a slow old lady.

Part of me wishes I could go back and give my childhood self a few hints — well, a few hints and access to a pool and a swim team and a family able to support such luxuries — to see if I might have gotten any good.

But it’s amazing to have this now. To get good at something after 50 feels like a victory of its own.

7 thoughts on “In the Swim

  1. Painting miniatures & models. It’s really given me a lot of serenity throughout the last 3 years or so. I’ve always been a geek and had creative impulses, but no good way to blend the two that made sense to me, until this!

    Monsters 1 & 2 are 2-3″, 3 & 4 are 8-10″ long/tall.

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