My date with the lap pool

I stand at one end of the pool and look to the other side. 25 yards each way. Trepidation fills every corner of my body. I know, all to well, how long those 25 yards can feel. I know lap pools like the back of my hand. There’s a picture of me up on the block in the starting position in my high school yearbook. I know every stroke. I know all the techniques. But, it’s been years since the last time I swam laps. I know the first day is going to suck…it always does. But, there’s something extra special about the way a lap pool sucks the first time that you’re in it. Today’s goal is small. 500 yards. 20 laps. That used to be the warm up in practice. Today it’s my entire workout.

My lane choices were 1) 2 very fit men in their 20’s with pecs and biceps for miles 2) an overweight old lady doing the breast stroke, back stroke, and freestyle at a leisurely pace 3) 2 obese women walking the distance of the pool. I go with the old lady swimming leisurely. I figure, even rusty, I can at least keep up with her.

I hop in the pool. “You can do this”, I tell myself, “You’re a swimmer. A great swimmer. You’ve got this”. I duck under the water and push off as hard as I can knowing the farther I go underwater, the less I have to actually swim. My body hits the surface and I begin my smooth freestyle stroke. Right arm, pull, left arm, pull, right arm, pull, left arm, breathe. My body moves with pure muscle memory. I am, after all, a swimmer at heart. Except this time, I get about halfway down the length of the pool and I can’t breathe. I’m gasping for air, my heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest. I haven’t even gone 25 yards yet. What the crap. I get to the other side and I pause. 25 yards! 25 yards and I already feel like I’m going to die?!?!?! How is that even possible? I swim back to the other side. I take a minute to rest and kick off again.

The whole way back to the other side I hear, what I’m going to refer to as “The Voice”, in my head. “You’re so fat.”, it tells me, “Nobody will ever love you because of how much you weigh”. I argue as I swim, right hand, pull, left hand, pull, “That’s not true. Brad loves me. Brad thinks I’m beautiful.” In my head I see a picture of myself in the 9th grade. I’m with my older sister. We’re wearing our Blue Devil Swim Team shirts. I see it with such clarity in my mind’s eye. There I am, fresh faced, tan, thick blonde hair bleached by the sun, kneeling on long tan legs. Look how skinny I am! Gosh, I remember, so vividly, thinking I was fat. I was convinced I was. The Voice told me I was. Anger fills my veins. I refuse to lose this fight.

Around and around we go, me and The Voice, lap after hideous lap. The old lady has lapped me. Awesome. I’m gasping for every breath that I take. I used to swim these laps {down and back} in 27 seconds flat, now it takes an entire minute. My rubber band falls out and my hair is covering my face. I suck in water as I try to breathe. A few times I had to stop swimming and just walk. “What happened to you?”, I scream at myself in my head, “How on earth did you get like this? You were a lifeguard for crying out loud!” Each lap strips away more and more of my pride. The Voice, my own voice, and a desperate cry for air all compete for my attention. The old lady stops to encourage me. “You can do it”, she says, “just keep going. It will get better.” Thanks, lady. The obese people in the lane next to me look at me with pity in their eyes. The ridiculously fit men on my other side are slightly taken back when I burp because of the amount of water/air I’ve consumed. I’m only 10 minutes into my workout.

I switch strokes to the breast stroke. This one’s easier, but still I manage to look like a drowning frog. I go back to freestyle. The voices consume me. I’m fighting. Kicking the water. Every stroke is a fight. Every stroke is a rejection of The Voice. Every stroke is a declaration that I will win. I see my daughter in my head. I see her look up at me and smile. She’s worth it. She’s so worth this. I gasp for air and keep swimming. Right, pull, left, pull, right, pull, left, breathe, right, pull “You can do this. C’mon, Rebecca, you can do this. Your muscles know these strokes. Right, pull, left, pull. Your lungs won’t let you down. You’ve got this. Right, pull, left, pull, breathe. You knew today was going to suck. Didn’t you just tell that to Erynn about lifeguard training? I know, but today sucks big time. I think I might drown. You’re not going to drown. Right, pull, left, pull, Zoe. Think about Zoe. Breathe.” Lap after hideous lap I go. The old lady is done, now it’s just me. Down and back, down and back.

I notice a man at the end of my lane. Skinny. Fit. Goggles. He’s waiting for something. He’s going to have to wait longer, I can’t go any faster. He asks if he can share my lane. I ask if that’s what he was waiting for. He says yes. I say, “Oh God. Yes, of course you can share my lane.” He thanks me and jumps in. I burp for the 20th time since I’ve been in the pool. He takes off swimming. I notice his slow, deliberate, strokes. This man swims with perfect technique. “Screw this.” I think to myself. There’s no way in hell I’m swimming in the same lane as this man. I duck under the lane rope and head for the ladder. I have no idea if I reached my goal of swimming a 500, and, to be completely honest, at this point I couldn’t care less. I take one last look at the clock…I lasted 20 minutes. I sit in the sauna, shower, and leave the gym. I made it to my car before the tears came.

Until next time, lap pool, until next time.

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5 responses to “My date with the lap pool

  1. You can do it! You are a beautiful lady, and don’t let that stupid old Voice tell you otherwise. All else fails, think Dori from Finding Nemo–“just keep swimming, just keep swimming!” You are not your weight: you are the person you believe you can be. My prayers are with you! Keep it up!

  2. Keep up with it girl. I was a swimmer in school as well and I can barely do a lap now. Our stamina may not be what it used to be but we CAN do it. Even if you only do 4 laps, you are doing something. Good luck!

  3. You’re stong Rebecca! You can do it! Remeber, God will give you strength when you think you don’t have any more. 🙂

  4. I’ve always admired those with swimming skills. I never completed my swim lessons, so even though I can get from point A to point B, it lacks any sort of efficiency and style lol. I say this because swimming is probably the best type of exercise you can do…great cardio and low stress on joints! You’ve got a great foundation to starting an amazing exercise routine! Like you said (and know very well), the first day is always hard, but kudos to you for (literally) getting you feet wet! The endurance will come with time like it did before. YOU CAN DO IT!!! 😀

  5. Pingback: Musings from my couch | Confessions of a Reluctant Housewife

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