I had already logged over 3 hours of workouts by the time I entered the pool for my first swim of the summer.
An early morning yoga practice. Then 90 minutes of trampoline practice followed by 90 minutes of flying trapeze practice in the hot sun. Two hours of driving.
What I probably needed most was a nap. But the temperature was 90-degrees Fahrenheit and the crystal clear water was calling.
I love to swim. In water, I feel at home.
Whenever I think about my ideal day, it always includes what I call my triathlon: swim, bounce, and fly.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hit my trifecta.
So I put on my goggles and started to swim. The water was refreshing.
The physical labor was a arduous.
After 4 lengths of the pool, I was ready to call it quits.
I checked my Apple Watch.
I had only been swimming for just over a minute.
I couldn’t let that be my showing.
I paused to regroup and continued with my laps. After a few laps, I paused again to rest.
At each pause, as I looked at the metrics on my watch, I set my next mini goal: 2 more lengths of the pool. Another 50 yards. One more minute.
Anything to move me forward a little more. I finally dragged myself out of the pool after 15 minutes and approximately 400 yards.
Not quite a banner session, but enough for my first day back and when I was tired from the outset.
You have to start somewhere.
I recalled the lifeguard training I did the summer after senior year of high school. When on the first day we had to swim 10 x 50m freestyle and how struggled, lagging behind all the others. That was the warmup.
And then the training in the deep pool.
After 3 hours, I dragged myself back home and sat on the sofa, the chlorine seemingly lodged in my chest. I felt so out of my depths.
I committed to improve. I swam daily. By the end of that summer, I was holding my own in the warm-up laps.
I recalled how when I came back to swimming as a fitness activity in 2012 I could hardly get through a short swim. By the next year, with dedication to swimming a few times a week, I built my endurance to do some great personal bests, like 1,000 yards of freestyle without stopping.
That capability is within me.
I reflected on something my trampoline coach always says:
All training is specific.
When we get out of regular practice with any skill it can take time to build it back. Conditioning in a different realm might offer some relevant skills, but ultimately to get better at something we must practice that skill.
Swimming, trampoline, and flying trapeze all fall within this rule. So do many of our daily tasks.
Writing. Making sales calls. Giving presentations.
The only way to get better at these tasks is to do them repeatedly and consistently.
And recognize that after an absence you may need to rebuild.
My return to swimming always follows the same pattern, and it’s one that applies equally as well to building back any skill:
Start where you are, with what you have. Take it slowly. Pause to rest when you need to, then push yourself just a little more. Repeat consistently. Show yourself some grace.
Each new skill takes time
All training is specific
Give yourself some grace