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Just below the surface

The countdown has begun! I’ve signed up for another triathlon and it’s only 7 weeks away! This spring I’ve been able to keep up with my running and biking, but once again, finding it hard to find time to train for the swim. One of the biggest hurdles for me getting into the pool to train, is the timing of the lane swim: early mornings. Mornings are the toughest for me. It takes me a bit to get my joints moving and most mornings I feel a bit of gastric…well…everything just doesn’t seem quite “settled.” Swimming is such a whole-body workout: strength, cardio, mental focus, timed breathing (translation hypoxia! LOL), so getting some calories in before I swim seems like a good idea, but…not so much. On the other hand, if I don’t eat, I feel like I haven’t got enough energy or focus…can’t win. I’m really looking forward to getting into the lake this week…on MY time 
I’ve got a lot of training to do this season! I don’t know if this has happened to you, but every year it gets harder and harder to get back up to “speed.” You know what I mean? I mean, in my younger years I could just jump right back into an activity after being away from it for months or even since last season and BAM! I’d be right back to building on where I left off! Not any longer! Haha! Probably an age-related malady…or a combination of age, RA, shift work, a more sedentary life (I’m not chasing after two young kids!)…who knows…but whatever it is, I am AWARE! LOL

So, I’ve spent the last few months trying to get back into the “swim” of things (see what I did there!?) really feeling like I’m NOT improving. One morning a few weeks back, I was getting particularly down on myself for what felt like, my inability to make any gains…and it sure didn’t help that I was being LAPPED by an elderly gentleman…like a super old man!

Before really getting into it, let me tell you a bit about the pool I swim at. It’s at a rec center and I love it! I mean I see every body shape and size, every type of athlete, beginner to elite, all coming together to share the facilities and I must say I have never felt out of place or embarrassed…a really great atmosphere #roundofapplause. 

OK so, it’s 0730 and the lane swim has just opened, which happens to be 30 mins before Aquafit. If you didn’t already know this, Aquafit is probably THE best-attended aquatics program hands down…like it’s PACKED, a whole sea of floating heads…awesome…except…several of the Aquafit attendees choose to come early and do lane swim before their class starts. Again, so wonderful that they are making physical activity a priority, but it makes traffic in the swim lanes HEAVY! 

0735: I’m doing my very best to focus on my technique, timing, fluidity, and calmness, attempting to keep my body gliding along the surface of the water, timing my breathing and finding my rhythm…while sharing my lane with FOUR other swimmers. Bump. “Oh, sorry.” A swimmer overtakes me. “No problem, you go ahead.” I finish my lap.

0737: Left, right, left, breathe. Right, left, right, breathe. Bump. “Oh sorry.” Same swimmer…lapping me again? And this time I notice he’s A HUNDRED AND FOUR! I might be exaggerating, but he was a seriously old dude…like OLD. Come on man! I’m being lapped by a grandpa!!?!? Deeeeeeep breath….insert all the positive self-talk you can imagine…and I’m able to find my rhythm once again.

0739: Fluid, smooth movements, gliding through the water, my mind clam and I’m immersed in deep concentration and focus. Bump. “Me again.” Yup. Lapped. Again. This time I’m not feeling quite…so…Zen. Thinking to myself that I should probably just find another challenge as this one is clearly beyond me. Then I got thinking, this guy must have some incredible technique or something…maybe I can learn from him?? I’m really grasping at straws to find the positives here! LOL So I do something I never do. I decide to watch him swim…from UNDER the water (it’s not creepy right? #fingerscrossed). 


He’s wearing fins! AND he’s using hand paddles…

Well. There you have it. I had unkindly judged myself by comparing my performance to someone else’s before truly understanding what I was comparing.

This experience made me realize that I do this more than just in the pool. I’m becoming aware of how often I am quick to look down on myself for not “measuring up” to those around me. I let the accomplishments of others, their achievements and gains determine the standard, set the bar, and become the expectations for me in my life without taking the time to understand what each of us has to work with…you know? 

When did I stop being kind to myself? Forgetting to celebrate the daily left, right, left, breathe. Remembering how much effort it takes to glide smoothly through a day, keeping my mind focused, and immersed in hopeful things…considering all of the things that are just below the surface; fatigue, joint pain, brain fog…

The other thing I am reminded of as I think of my geriatric lane partner, is that I also have a lot of things propelling me forward, extra advantages if you would…family, friends, hobbies, purpose, love…making my life rich and worth all the effort, especially on the days I’m not sure my own efforts are going to be enough to keep my head above the water. 

Take it from one chlorine-soaked, goggle-wearing, swimmer to all of you out there feeling like you are being lapped, despite all your efforts to keep up…be kind to yourself, there’s so much more just below the surface. 


person with rheumatoid arthritis