The other day a friend asked me for some swim workouts. He started his request by saying to me “you’re a swimmer…”
It’s been about a year since I had last been in the pool for a swim workout.
Energetically, it felt like one thing too much on top of everything else I had going on.
Swim workouts feel like a different beast. The time commitment feels greater. Mainly because of my hair. It’s not just the swim, but the commitment to wash and dry the hair (this is less of an issue for men, and you’ll have to trust me on this). With everything else going on over the last year, it felt like too much.
This is all bullshit by the way; just an excuse from my big book of stories. And I knew it.
Chaos Requires Greater Commitment to Rituals
The truth is that with everything else going on, swimming was actually what I needed most. When life gets crazy, many people sacrifice their fitness and self-care first. This is the opposite of what is called for.
The periods of chaos require us to double down on our rituals. Protecting our health and wellness during times of transition is crucial. Exercise becomes more important. Meditation becomes more important.
In Chaos, Self-Compassion is Key
But when life is in chaos, and you’re in transition, self-compassion is crucial. Instead of beating myself up over not swimming, I focused on maintaining any form of daily fitness. I trusted that I would find my way back to the pool when it was time.
Lately, I’ve been feeling like it’s time to get back into the water.
Of course, I built up some anticipation around this that made it more difficult. Getting back into swimming after a long absence is usually rough. Being in shape for swimming is different from being in shape generally.
When I learned that the branch of my gym closest to where I’ve been staying since my move has a pool, it felt like a sign.
My friend’s comment about my being “a swimmer” was the final push.
You Are What You Do
Identity comes from what we do. A huge part of my work around creating rituals has been to align my actions with my identity.
A writer writes.
A creator creates.
A swimmer swims.
Diving Back In
Today, for the first time in over a year, I got into the pool.
Surprisingly, it did not suck as much as I anticipated it would. Perhaps it was the self-compassion I’ve developed; or the detachment from any goal or outcome other than to swim. I didn’t know how long the pool was, so I couldn’t count yards.
All I could do was swim. And that’s what I did. For 55 minutes (with a few short breaks), which is longer than I would typically swim.
It felt amazing. Not just physically, but in all realms.
Why Swimming is Such a Powerfully Effective Workout
When you read that swimming is one of the best workouts, that extends beyond the body.
Of course swimming is one of the best full-body workouts we can do. It’s low-impact, and combines strength and cardio. I’ve been staying in a 5th floor walk-up, and on top of the walking I already do, it’s been a heavy toll on my body. Physically, it felt great to move through the water.
That amazing feeling went beyond my physical body. Mentally, it forces a clearing of the mind. In the water, there is no way to distract myself with phones and televisions. I don’t listen to music when I swim; I am focused on my breathing and my strokes, and on counting my laps.
In the pool, I can’t reach for my phone to jot down a thought like I can in a regular workout. Swimming is meditation. It requires full presence. It forces me to let the thoughts pass.
A Vehicle for Transformation
There’s also a transformational aspect to swimming. Many religions have a thing about water. Baptisms and Mikvahs (the Jewish ritual bath) come to mind. I’m sure there are others. (If you know of any, please share in the comments.)
Water brings us back to our most primal experience. It recalls the safety of the womb. And when we emerge, it is like we are reborn. Purified. Renewed. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
In this time of transition for me, as I shuttle between places while living “home-free,” I remembered that swimming is one way in which I come home to myself.
Infusion of Energy
In my stories about how swimming requires so much energy, I had forgotten about the energy I get back from swimming: how good it feels to move through the water, and the feeling of accomplishment and openness that stays with me all day on days that I swim.
All workouts are investments of time that pay dividends far beyond the time spent. Swimming may be a little more effort than a regular workout. But the rewards are greater too.
Yesterday, I was coaching a client around creating a morning fitness ritual. He conceded that “you never regret a workout.” This is true.
It reminded me that I never regret a swim either.