on swimming (I am an athlete)

I went swimming today.

Which might be no big deal.


many things.

Let’s start with the complicated: I had drowning dreams as a child.  I used to wake up choking, mouth clamped shut.

And when the swimming teacher threw me in the pool to “teach” me to swim, I held my breath and let myself sink to the bottom.

That was it for swimming lessons, pretty much.

Despite all that, I love the water, love being in the water, lakes and pools and ocean.

I used to spend Far Too Long in the shower and in the bath.

I love being in the water.

And when someone very close to me discovered that, she bought me a wetsuit. Why? Because Maine.   Specifically, Maine. Is. Cold.

Or at least the ocean is often cold.  If you wait for times when the water feels good, you could be down to about six or eight weeks of swimming a year.

The first time I wore it, it was like magic.  Just like the first time I wore Vibram five finger shoes, I suddenly felt like I had a new superpower.  I could go in the water and Not Be Cold!  Amazing.  A-mazing.

But after that summer, by this and by that I didn’t get it out again for a while.

And then today happened.

I got up, got dressed, got to the beach by seven.  Walked/ran three miles (out and back) and felt like I wanted to swim.  But about half a mile from the end of my route, the air changed.  It got chilly.  I knew I couldn’t swim without being chilled for the rest of the day.  I put a bookmark in it, remembered I had a wetsuit, and…

came back in the afternoon.  With the full wetsuit, not the halfsie one.  I wore my version of a bikini (thank you, Moving Comfort bras!) and pulled the wetsuit on, zipped myself up (love those long zipper pulls!) and headed into the water.

Shock, shock, bliss.

The way a wetsuit works, it allows water through but then it traps water in the neoprene.  That water warms up and insulates you from all the rest of the water.  So those first few minutes are cold, but then you’re fine.

I also had my brand-new, so-excited-to-have-them, made-in-Italy, gee-these-really-fit open water goggles.  They’re like a cross between regular goggles and a dive mask, with a big silicone seal that goes all the way around your eyes, but it leaves your nose exposed.

I stayed out there for maybe 30 or 40 minutes, backstroke, floating, playing, bouncing.  The surf was strong, there was a storm coming in, but there wasn’t any riptide to speak of and I was so, so happy.

The ocean lifts me up.

The ocean sets me back on my feet.

What a gift.

There’s one caveat: if you are like me, the biggest risk is that you won’t notice how tired it makes you until you get out of the water and are shaking a little.  That not-noticing can be fatal if you’re not super careful.  If you’re thinking about heading in to shore, it’s time to head in.  If you think it might be time soon, it’s time now.  Play safe out there.

That said, everyone near a body of water should own a wetsuit and use it.

I swam in the ocean for 30 minutes.  After I walked for an hour this morning.  I loved it.  It was a joy.  I am an athlete.

What is your favorite thing, so good you can’t resist?  Tell us!  Tweet #Iamanathlete.