Friday, December 16, 2011

Finding My Inner Fish

I am a Pisces.  I LOVE the water!  I enjoy listening to the waves crash against the surf at Virginia Beach.  Watching the James River meander through the city relaxes me.  Swimming in the water that I love so much....that’s a different story.

As a kid I learned how to survival swim.  I could swim well enough to play in the pool and at Water Country USA without drowning, but that’s about it.  Survival swimming also meant I learned how to swim with my head above the water.  Survival swimming is not something you want to do during a triathlon.  It is inefficient and will cause you to tire out very quickly.

Once I got it into my head that I was going to do a sprint triathlon, I knew I had to learn how to swim correctly.  I became a community member at my local YMCA and began taking swimming lessons.  Each lesson was a struggle.  I couldn’t swim 25 meters without stopping several times.  Instead of embracing the water I fought it, or in my mind it fought me.  My swim instructor kept telling me how great I was doing, but I wasn’t hearing it.  I left feeling defeated after every lesson, vowing not to return.

I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why learning how to swim freestyle was so difficult for me.  I was a Pisces for goodness sake’s!  I am supposed to take to the water like the fish that I am supposed to be!  Every time I got into the water I would become tense.  My breathing would speed up and my heart would race.  During a training session in which I was sharing a lane with several people, I stepped into the corner of the lane and just cried since I was so overwhelmed.  Fortunately for me the other swimmers were very understanding and coaxed me out of the corner.

Even though I struggled to learn how to swim freestyle and had wanted to quit more times than I could count, I knew I had to keep going.  First, I was determined to do my first triathlon.  Secondly, I did not want to be like so many African-Americans that could not swim.  According to a 2010 survey done by USA Swimming, almost 70% of African-American children surveyed could barely or not swim at all.  And I am going to assume if the children can’t swim, most likely their parents can’t either. 

As stated in my first post, the swim for my triathlon was rough.  I had a panic attack before I entered the pool.  I didn’t even swim half of the distance.  My only goal was to get to the wall by any means necessary.  After that race I didn’t get back into the pool for almost 2 months.
After my 2 month hiatus, I decided to get back into the swing of things.  My first time back into the pool went better than anticipated.  I didn’t tense nor have an anxiety attack.  I got in the pool and swam.  I can’t say I was fully relaxed, but I was ok.  It appeared that the break had done me some good.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving I had a major breakthrough while swimming with some of my TRIgirl teammates.  A bunch of us had met at the Y to do our own swim session.  Our coached session had been canceled for the holiday.  While doing a drill it occurred to me why I was fighting the water and tensing up so much.  I was not trusting myself!  I did not trust that I could properly execute what I had learned.  So as I swam I talked to myself.  I kept reminding myself that I was not going to drown, that I could swim, but if there was an issue I could tread water.  And if things go really bad, I could always yell for the lifeguard.  That day I started to enjoy swimming.
Here it is December and I can honestly say I enjoy swimming.  I look forward to my swim workouts.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments.  Sometimes I doubt my ability and have to talk my way through my workout.  Other times I am frustrated because I still get easily winded when I swim and my endurance is not where I want it to be.  But all in all I know I have found my inner fish.  No longer do I consider myself Flipper on Crack when I swim.
I am a Pisces.  I am a fish.  The water is my playground.