Sunday, November 16, 2014

Swimming is my Frenemy

Running is my passion and my friend in life.
  Swimming, I decided yesterday, is my frenemy.
This is a blog post about my journey in learning to swim.

What, you ask, exactly is frenemy?
"Frenemy" (less commonly spelled "frienemy") is a portmanteau of "friend" and "enemy" that can refer to someone or something who really is a friend but also a rival. 

Swimming has the potential to be my friend in life, but right now it is also my rival. The thing that mocks me at moments and says "you will never get this!"  Yesterday, I literally looked at the lifeguard and said " I sure wish I'd learned to this at her age, " nodding to the 5 year old in the lane next to me, also learning to swim. 
 I am no longer embarrassed at this, as I once was when I began this journey only a week ago. (Sheesh, it feels like a lifetime already!) Now, I laugh about it, but proudly share that, yes, I am learning to swim. I am conquering a fear I have always had. Many people walk away from their fears. I am facing mine. Finally. 
  I spent my first week in the pool learning how to properly kick. And then I learned how to do the arm movements properly. And then came the dreaded task of putting my face in the water and breathing. In all my years of "swimming", I plug my nose, and then bring my head above the water. Keeping my face in the water has never been an option for me, mostly because of my fear. 
 When I was 5, I nearly drowned. I am not making that up, it happened. And I believe that moment contributed to this lifetime fear of my face in the water. 
Well, it's about time I conquer that!
    So, my goal yesterday was to do the breathing. (By the way, I never thought swimming was going to be complicated. Michael Phelps makes it looks so easy!) I began by kneeling in the shallow end and pushing my face into the water and breathing out through my nose. While there was a bit of benefit to that, for me, it was too easy just to come up. So I knew I needed to try to add this with my movements. So I pushed through the fear and dove in and began.
  My first attempt at this, I stopped before I'd even made half a lap. "I can't do this..." I said. But then I stopped. "Can't" left my vocabulary a long time ago, and I'm not about to let it return on this adventure. 
  When i first started running, I remember going out with my brother (a marine drill instructor, mind you) and feeling like I was going to die. "I can't do this, Tim!" I'd say. And he would look at his watch and say "Yes, you can. Keep going. Almost one mile."  When he and I finished that run, he laughed- "Rachael, you just did a mile and a half..." He tricked me, but i will forever be grateful for him doing that. I was pushed and conquered. That moment in time taught me much about overcoming. 
 Now, the pushing and conquering is different, but nonetheless, I have to remind myself of that beginning running journey. I did not run a race on my first try. For pity sake, I am not going to be swimming laps my first try either. I have this determined mind set , and when I don't reach it right away, I tend to get frustrated. But yesterday, in a moment of nearly giving up, I put my face back in the water and kept going....until I made it one lap. And while I was exhausted, I was satisfied.
  My breathing has a very long way to go. I kept my face in the water, but as far as coming up for short breaths, I am still working on that. I took longer breaths, but at least I put my face back in. That was one big step further than last week.
 Like anything, it will come with time and practice. Nothing good ever comes easy. Successful moments come from time, determination and hard work. 
  I laugh because in doing just one lap, I am severely out of breath. I said to my friend, Kristin, "I can freakin' run half marathons, and this puts me out of breath??" She looks at me, smiles, and says "Welcome to swimming" and heads off for her next lap. 
  When I started running, I never imagined how it would lead to such beautiful events for me, including but not limited to, my new career. I couldn't even run a mile. Now I've done 10 or so half marathons, one marathon and many 5Ks.  
 Right now, swimming is my frenemy. I love that I am conquering it, but it remains my mocking rivalry as well. I cannot imagine doing a mile of it, but that is my end goal. I have no intentions of it becoming a passion, but I will conquer this fear. One lap at a time....

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