Life in the Slow Lane

I did something crazy today. I woke up at 7:30 on a day where I don’t have any classes. To exercise.

Pretty wild, right? I KNOW! And believe me, it wasn’t easy, but oddly enough, I was actually excited to do it.

I was obsessed with The Olympics this year. I watched them every single day, almost all of the time. When they showed montages of all of the big moments from the Games right before the closing ceremonies, I sobbed like a baby. The Olympics made me want to try every single sport in the Games (I actually am still lamenting my ill-advised decision to quit judo in third grade. I COULD HAVE BEEN AN OLYMPIAN!). Michael Phelps and all of the swimmers were especially inspirational. They all looked like they were having a lot of fun and the guy swimmers have bodies comparable to those of Greek gods, so obviously it piqued my interest. Also, as someone recovering from an injury and trying to remedy her general pudginess, I knew swimming was a great full-body workout that was easy on the joints and wouldn’t bother my knee. The only problem is that I’m an awful swimmer.

So, I’ve actually been swimming since preschool. My school from Pre-k to 8th grade actually shared a campus with a university, so they let us use their pool in exchange for the joy that a child’s laughter brings (I actually have no idea what they got out of sharing their pool, gym, and cafeteria with us, because I’m 100% sure the college kids hated us). So I have been “swimming” for a long time. But I actually always held my nose when I swam and jumped in the water, or I used scuba goggles that cover your nose. So the whole time I was swimming, I had no idea how to breathe under water. This meant I also had no idea how to do the strokes, so basically I couldn’t swim. Now that I look back on it, I really just treaded water and did somersaults and crappy one-handed handstands (I needed a hand to hold my nose, obviously!), so I wasn’t getting anywhere (in third through fifth grade we actually were forced to do a synchronized swimming show, which was the bane of my existence and to this day I can’t listen to “Moon River” or “Puff the Magic Dragon” without cringing [“Puff the Magic Dragon” was already cringe-worthy though. And very depressing! I mean seriously: “One sad night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more/
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar./His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,/ Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane./ Without his life-long friend, puff could not be brave,/ So puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!” Is it just me or is that seriously messed up?!]. But that’s a story for another time. Contact me if you want more synchronized swimming details because I’ve got a lot to say about that).

So back home, I started going to the YMCA to swim. My first time was pretty rough, but I kept coming back because it was fun and the water felt good. I ended up swimming almost 70 laps later than same week and I felt like I’d improved. Did I look like I was drowning as I splashed around haphazardly, zig zagging across my lane (and probably into the one next to me)? Yes. But no one gave a crap. And I liked that. I just got to do my own thing and exercise on my own terms, and that made it fun. So when I joined the YMCA in NYC, I was of course excited to have a basketball court nearby to use, but I was also really excited to keep swimming. So I got up early today to swim. I saw all of the lanes were full with two people except for the one closest to me, which was empty. Score!! I thought happily. What great luck I have! But unfortunately, I am a rare combination of being bad at swimming and an idiot. So I didn’t know that the empty lane was for the fastest swimmers. I enjoyed myself for my first 18 or so laps, using a pull buoy and a kick board for a couple, then swimming breast stroke (my favorite…at the time) for about 12 laps. But when I got to the one end, I was stopped by a lifeguard.

“Your form is a mess and really hard to watch so I’m going to try to fix it.”

Wow! In that case, I would love for you to help me out (that was sarcasm)! I didn’t appreciate the way she worded that, but I honestly did want to improve. I tried hard but I had trouble with the stroke (especially the kick) and my breathing pattern is still awful (since no one ever taught me), and I also could feel this lady judging me hard with every move I made. Then this fifty or sixty-something year-old dude came to this lane (which I still didn’t know was the “fast lane”). He was in a speedo, so he clearly knew what was up (speedo=knows how to swim. Should I start wearing a speedo?) asked me if I wanted to stay on one side or go in circles. When he asked me if I was going to go in circles, I thought he was mocking me, but after some research it turns out it’s just a method of sharing a lane while lap swimming. Anyway, I just told him I’d stay on my side. But while watching him lap me over and over, I grew disheartened. The life guards switched out and then while I was pausing for breath before my last lap, the new lifeguard informed me about the lane policies with “slow” and “fast” and how I was in the fastest, and then I was embarrassed because it was clear to both of us that I should be in the slowest lane. So I ended up only doing 30 laps and then retreating from the pool with my tail between my legs. They took all of the joy from swimming. WHY COULDN’T THEY JUST LET ME BE? All they had to do was look at me and they’d know that this flabby girl looks like she needs some exercise, who cares if I’m doing things wrong or right, it’s not anyone else’s business!!! If I saw someone shooting a basketball weirdly but the shot still went in, I wouldn’t say “Hey, you’re wrong, do it like this.” Sigh. Sorry for the rant. If this ever happens to you, don’t let anyone bring you down. I’m planning on going back there soon. I’m going to watch some videos to work on getting the right form (I’m still perplexed how I could mess up friggin BREAST STROKE but apparently I looked like a dying animal or something offensive because that life guard was very bothered!), and then I’m going to happily hop into the slowest lane and just try to have fun and do my best (and in the lifeguard’s defense, I was probably also being a bit oversensitive. This is New York City after all! Only the tough ones make it).

Before soul was crushed…

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…and After

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