I wonder how many times in my life I tried something for a nanosecond then decided that it was too hard, too scary, or I hated it and was, therefore, not going to be something I ever wanted to do again?
Before we went to Spokane, I had followed through with contacting Dr. Z’s triathlon swim coach, Frank. We exchanged emails and had a nice conversation on the phone. I was really excited to get started with him. I came home from Spokane, got back in touch with him, and set up my first visit – which would be an evaluation of where I was with swimming. As the day grew closer, I waffled between confidence (“heck, I’ve been swimming in our backyard pool since I was 2 years old – I’m an Arizona baby”) and (“OMG, I’m not sure if I can do this, I’ve never really learned how to properly swim, even freestyle swimming”). But I’ve done enough lap swimming in college and even dabbled in it at the gym a few times in recent years, that I thought I would be OK … maybe even better than OK since now I have some stamina built up from running and I’m pretty strong from all of my weight training.
So, Frank and I met on Tuesday morning. First we talked in his office and I told him a little bit more about my background, or lack thereof. Soon we went out to his training area (he trains for all parts of the triathlon and the front part of his gym, after the office area, is mostly weights and conditioning equipment). Toward the back in the corner is the “pool”. The pool is actually the Michael Phelps Swim Spa infinity pool – basically a swimming treadmill, if you will. Actually, before we even talked, he had called me over to show me the pool and to point out one of his triathletes that was swimming in it. She was a seasoned and very talented triathlete trying to take it “to the next level” and get on the podium at her next competition. All I could see was the top of her swim cap and her elbows perfectly and quietly coming out of the water in easy strokes. I barely saw her come up for air. So, now it was my turn to get in this thing. First of all, I hate cold water. It is almost the end of June in Phoenix and I just went in our pool for the first time yesterday. Yes, I’m a wimp. Fortunately, Frank keeps his pool at a tolerable 84 degrees, which made it pretty easy to get into. It should also be noted that I had to go buy a new swimsuit for this too – I didn’t think that I should be at a triathlete training facility in a tankini. Fortunately, swimsuit shopping is actually pretty fun now at my smaller size but, I gotta say, one piece lap swimming suits just aren’t all that flattering. Anyway, I was not as embarrassed about being in a gym in a swimsuit with a coach as I thought I would be. These are things that cross my mind though – and probably most women in my situation as well, no matter what weight they are. I also was sporting my new swim cap (also a new experience) and new Speedo goggles, ones that Frank recommended, and pretty much felt like my eye-balls were being sucked out of my head when I put them on. Here is a photo of me with my head-wear (photo bomb courtesy of my baby girl):
Anyway, I got on in the “pool” – not so gracefully because after my first step I slipped on the next one and entered in with a nice splash. Frank turned on the blower to a fairly slow speed and wanted to just watch me swim. It all went downhill from there. I attempted a few strokes using whatever skills I could remember (basically none) and quickly realized that I wasn’t really putting my face underwater much. I was kinda dog-paddling with style. Upon trying to put my face down in the water, I was hit squarely by the power of this pool’s wave machine and I came up for air gasping. It wasn’t pretty. Traumatic might be a better word. He had me attempt to “swim” a few more times then ran off to get his iPad so that he might document this flailing attempt – for future comparison. I’m sure I’ll get a good laugh out of it someday. After several more stops and starts of my “swimming”, he finally let me stop. Fully dejected, I climbed out of the pool and dried off. I had managed to tilt my ear canal into the full force of the motor at some point and had filled it with water and early attempts to clear it failed. I changed in his little bathroom in the gym then met him in the office to talk. He told me, nicely, that he would fix me. He said I just didn’t know what I was doing. True. He was glad I was there. We would turn this around. I went home, totally dejected and partially deaf….never wanting to return, but I couldn’t exactly back out at that point.
So, today I was scheduled for my first real “lesson”. Believe it or not, my ear has still not cleared, despite every trick I know and buying some swimmer’s ear drops. I couldn’t believe that 10 minutes in the torture chamber/pool had caused so much of an issue. Oh well. I was going to follow through with this, just like I have followed through on every other challenge in this “weight loss journey” thus far. Frank was waiting for me and so was his assistant, Andy. Andy was a young, enthusiastic guy and I liked him immediately. Turns out he was going to coach me today while Frank worked with some of the more seasoned athletes on some conditioning. Incidentally, I watched them from the torture chamber/pool later on and decided that I was in the better spot. Andy got the same awful preview that I had given Frank on Tuesday but he claimed to be very excited to coach me because, evidently, he said I looked like he did when he first started. Aw, that was nice. We started from the very beginning – arms stretched out and face actually IN the water, kicking very slowly. After doing that a bit, I started adding in some arm motions. Then we added in arm motions with hip rotation. I was getting it pretty good and Andy seemed very happy. Because of my length, he had to keep adjusting the speed of the current or I would crash into the front of the “pool”. Eventually we found the “sweet” spot – enough current to keep me centered against whatever stroke strength I was creating. Andy said he doesn’t usually start with the breathing training on the first lesson but I was moving along pretty well, so we started on that too. That is, for me, the scariest part. But, we took it slow and he gave me several tricks to try. It was a bit tricky too because if I got too close to the blower, I got an extra strong current of water in my face, making breathing a bit difficult. We ended with me taking about 6-8 nice strokes, calmly lifting my head out of the water for air correctly after 3 or so strokes, then continuing on. I was encouraged. I didn’t feel like I was a hopeless case. Andy seemed happy. I was in that thing for a full hour.
After drying off and changing, I went back in and talked to Frank briefly and scheduled lesson number 2 for next Thursday. I left feeling strangely awesome. It was a nice workout and I had a lot of energy. Amazing how different I felt compared to what I was feeling when I walked in – complete and utter dread.
I have some things to practice over the next week. I’ll probably just use my dad’s pool for a while since it is a great 1970’s era long long pool. The pool at my house is pretty short – I’ll be crashing into the wall fairly quickly before I can practice too many strokes and breathing. Long term, I’m not sure yet where I will practice, but I’m sure I’ll figure out something – there are plenty of options around here at gyms, clubs, city pools, etc.
I’m not fully sold on the idea of doing a triathlon. But I do like the idea of adding another form of exercise to my repertoire. Like running, I owe it to myself to give it a fair chance – who knows what it will lead to…