I’ve always loved the water. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of swimming. My mother always felt children should know how to swim so before I was enrolled in kindergarten I was enrolled in swimming lessons. I quickly went from tadpole to minnow. From there lessons weren’t needed. I made it to “shark” on my own and by the age of ten I was a junior lifeguard.
My sister and I lived for the cold winter temperatures to melt away. The day the community pool opened we began begging to go. My mother’s rule was we couldn’t go to the pool until the theomometer reached 80 degrees. I’ll have to ask her how she came up with that rule.
Like so many I quit swimming right after I learned to drive. Soon I was off to college and then married with a family of my own and the only time I went in the water was to splash around with my little toddler. Sometimes I’d swim a few laps but my time in the water was never the same as it was when I was young.
The unbridled joy and carefreeness I’d felt as a child gave way to a different kind of joy and happiness — the kind that comes from being a wife and a mom. Years passed and I’ve got to say I didn’t really miss swimming. Too many things occupied my time. Then one day I made a new friend. She introduced me to a new challenge – the triathlon. I’d read Jayne Williams’ book, THE SLOW FAT TRIATHLETE and had secretly wanted to try to complete one but I felt….well, you know…slow and fat. And I was afraid of failing. My new friend, Faith, said she’d train with me and I could walk the running part if I wanted (for those of you who know me know I despise running). She asked if I could swim. Oh boy!
I jumped in and said I’d sign up for a triathlon with her. We started training. I won’t lie to you…my first swim was just OK. I felt awkward. I didn’t know if my bathing suit would fit – it was 10 years old and slightly uncomfortable. I didn’t know my way around the pool we’d chosen (a local YMCA), and I felt like everyone was watching me. I got in the water and tried to swim too fast, too soon. I was winded and tense. I remember thinking to myself, “Can I even swim at all?” I swam 8 laps that day. To put this in prospective I knew the race I was signing up for was a 1/2 mile open water swim. This meant I wanted to be able to easily swim 32 of these laps to prepare for the race (to compensate for the open water, splashing, and other bodies- we’ll talk about this more in March). Yikes, I was discouraged.
I dug deep. I prepared a gym bag for my next swim and I tried to relax a little bit. My second swim was better. I swam 10 laps this time and I didn’t feel as awkward. Maybe this would be alright. By the end of my second week something amazing started to happen. I BEGAN TO HAVE FUN! I’m not talking about, “yeah, that was a good movie” kind of fun…I’m talking about F-U-N. I’m talking splashing-around-maybe-I-can-do-a-hand-stand-kind-of-fun. I slowly increased the number of laps I swam each day, I began researching technique, and, after a while I purchased a Tri-Suit.
The best part was swimming reintroduced me to an old friend. Someone I thought I’d lost touch with…someone I thought I’d never see again…ME. Now when I swim I don’t care about the outside world. Did I shave my legs? WHO CARES? Did I leave my cell phone in the car? WHO CARES? I jump in the water to have fun…to move…to reconnect with the 9 year old me.
SO, if you’re on the fence about doing this crazy-Lazyman-Iron-Tri-thing just jump on OFF that fence, put on your swim suit and jump on INTO the pool with me. We’ll swim that 2.4 miles together!
Here’s some important information you may need to get started. I’m including links to some of my favorite sites and some information from the experts (I’m definitely NOT one!).
Hunger: Swimming is a full body workout. You may leave the pool hungry. According to the August 12, 2014 Washington Post article by Jennifer Van Allen, “In women, ghrelin, the “I’m hungry” hormone, spikes after a workout, while leptin, which tells the brain ‘I’m full!’ plummets, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integral and Comparable Physiology. Not so in men. So post-workout, women tend to eat more, which puts them at risk to gain weight. Men don’t experience this same hormonal fluctuation.” So, be sure to take TWO water bottles; one to drink WHILE swimming (yep, you sweat while swimming) and one to drink AFTER swimming to fight that whacky ghrelin. The hunger will pass.
Swim distance chart: Here’s a swim distance chart. When you find a pool you like ask them how long their pool is. Are they measuring their pool in yards or meters?
Protect your Hair/Body from Chlorine: We invest good money in our hair. One of the number one reasons I hear women say they don’t swim is because they don’t want to mess up their hair. I’ve asked many (MANY) hair stylist how to protect my color-treated hair over the years and they’ve all pretty much come back with the same response: Hair is porous. Wet your hair with regular tap water before getting in the pool. After wetting your hair, coat it with a deep conditioner (or even olive oil). Also be sure to to wash the chlorine out of your hair immediately after getting out of the water (I use an inexpensive chlorine-removing shampoo I get at Ulta). Remember: once chlorine is allowed to dry on your hair/body it’s almost impossible to remove. Take a few extra minutes to take a shower after you get out of the pool. Here’s a useful article: Protecting your hair and Skin from Pool Chlorine
Swim Suit: Swimming doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve been paddling around at our local aquatics center for the last year in a Walmart bathing suit I purchased 10 years ago. It’s all up to you. For our Lazyman Iron Tri there are probably only two/three things you really HAVE to have…a swim suit (can’t legally swim naked at any public pool that I know of), a cap, and a pair of goggles (I rarely use a cap – I know…bad, bad, bad).
Goggles: They don’t have to be super expensive. I believe you can get a pair for $10-20 at most sporting goods stores. Try them on before you buy them. Without using the strap press them to your eyes. You should be looking out the center of the lens. The suction around your eyes should keep them in place without the strap. I know this all sounds odd but once you play around with a couple pairs you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Consider where you will be swimming. If your pool is brightly lit you may want a tinted pair of goggles. If your pool is inside, like mine, then a tinted pair will make you feel like you’re swimming in the dark. You may want an untainted pair.
Cap: Caps are inexpensive but sometimes difficult to put on. Here’s a tip. Invert the cap and fill with water. Hold the cap over your head like a bowl, placing the bottom of the bowl gently on the crown of your head. In one swift motion pull the cap down over your ears; tuck remaining hair up under cap. The weight of the water will help all sides of the cap come down at once ( I know this sounds confusing – practice in the shower several times before trying this at the pool. Also…put the cap on in the shower in the locker room BEFORE you enter the pool.
Other Equipment: There’s TONS of other equipment you could invest in but most public pools with have a variety of free equipment you can use. Ask them about kick boards and water belts.
That’s all I can think of for now. Please leave comments with any questions or experiences you have. Remember…..”Just keep swimming…swimming….swimming!”