Two Strokes Forward, Three Strokes Back

I love swimming!  That’s a lie.  I keep trying to say it because I have heard that it helps psychologically.  So far, it’s not working, but I will hashtag it all day if there’s a chance it could help.  I just can’t pin down what my issue is with swimming.  I don’t have some past trauma that makes me fear the water.  I’ve come to realize that I don’t really fear it at all, yet I can’t stop the anxiety from creeping in.  It’s almost like I self sabotage and I can’t control it.  My technique is far from perfect, but I know I can move across the pool.  Unfortunately at some point, I need to breathe.  I can feel the anxiety building in me, knowing that in a couple of seconds, I am going to have to take that breath and screw things up.  I try to picture that perfect little bow wave that my head should be creating.  That perfect little space in which an upturned mouth can grab a little pocket of air.  I picture that one goggle still in the water and everything going smoothly.  Then, I go for it and I’m a total disaster.  Neck turns way around, my arm isn’t where t should be, there is no pocket of air because I turned my head wrong .  I see the sky, so both goggles clearly not where they should be.  I gobble  up what is probably way too much air in desperation and then try to gingerly blow it out so that I can make room for more, only to find that I suck at letting out easily too.  Once in a blue moon it goes well enough that it doesn’t halt my stroke and I can actually complete 200 yards, but that’s rare.  Nine times out of ten, I am glad I was able to do a 50 without having to stop at the wall for anything more than getting a breath in as I turn around.  Don’t get me started on flip turns, that is probably never going to be in my wheelhouse.

I hear stories from all sorts of people about how they really sucked at swimming, couldn’t swim one length of the pool and now can swim for miles on end.  I hear those stories and think to myself “I can’t wait until I can say I used to suck at swimming.”  Well, tonight’s swim is starting to make me lose confidence that will ever happen.  There’s always crappy training days, but I have had a streak of them for swimming lately.  I was feeling really good about my progress one day a couple of weeks back.  I even wanted to stay and swim extra yards just because things felt like they were going the best they had, ever.  I felt like it was a real  breakthrough.  Like every time thereafter would just get better and better.  When I hash-tagged I love swimming that evening, I really meant it.  Then it happened.  For once, I was eager to get to the pool, I plopped my happy self in, started the Garmin and off I went.  Everything went to crap in an instant.  My stroke was all over the place, I could not get a breath right and I could not swim 200 as I had so easily done just days before.  What is wrong with me? I thought.  Maybe just stress or less sleep.  Yeah, that’s all it is.  I just need to take it easy and it will all be back to improvement soon.  I did what I could, horribly, and called it an early day.  I was shy of my goal but didn’t want to beat myself up.  It was a bad training day and nothing more.  Right as rain tomorrow, I am sure.  I was wrong.  The next training day was a struggle yet again.  I’ve had bad bike sessions, I’ve had a bad run, but the next one is almost always good.  This was different.  I was starting to think that maybe that one awesome day was a fluke.  Maybe I had a lucky session and that was that.

Tonight, I was supposed to swim 1600 yards, in 200 yard increments.  I didn’t want to go to the pool.  I can give a bunch of excuses, I didn’t sleep well, I wasn’t feeling good, I was tired from work, blah blah blah.  I told myself to suck it up and headed to the pool.  I did what I do best.  I take the next smallest way to move forward.  I got dressed and headed to the pool deck.  I didn’t wan to get in, but I did.  I told myself to just warm up and do my first 200.  I did 50 and I felt like I was done.  I can’t describe how badly I wanted to get out of the pool.  Nothing unusual went wrong.  The same old challenges were there, my pull was off and breathing was ridiculous.  I just can’t seem to find a rhythm and amount of air that works right for me.  I agreed with the voice in my head that I would just do 50’s.  Hey, at least I would get it done.  I’ve had sessions where once I really got going things smoothed out some.  Second 50 went by as bad as the first.  I rested at the wall for what seemed like an eternity.  I just wanted to go home.  I decided to scrap the plan and go back to basics.  I was clearly having issues so I planned to just do some drills I had seen online that help with getting comfortable in the water.  So, off I pushed to just do some corkscrews.  You start on your front with hands out in front of you, kicking to keep moving and afloat.  It’s simple, you flip over onto your back, get some air and back to your front.  Simple for most, but not for me tonight.  On my first turn I somehow pulled in a ton of water through my nose.  The type that makes you feel like the water hit your brain and wants to come out of your ears.  The kind that sends searing pain into your head and instantly makes your eyes water.  Idiot, I thought.  I was on my back trying to clear my sinuses and just get to the other end of the pool.  I wanted to call it a night, right then and there but told myself I needed to at least do this freaking drill successfully.  I was able to do so for one length of the pool.  I gave freestyle one last try before throwing in the towel.  Usually, when I don’t feel like going I end up happy I did.  Tonight, the voice of negative me on my left shoulder, won out.  I was done.  I left feeling defeated.

I started my pity party on my way home and carried it on until I was out of the shower.  I told myself that I was better off just doing duathlons.  I could still have some fun without swimming.  I told myself how running was really “my thing” and this triathlon thing wasn’t really for me.  I reminded myself of how I never have to really convince myself to get my bike and run on, but lately I always have to convince myself to swim.  I reminded myself of the fact that in every tri I have ever done, scared on the bike or not, I have always had some kind of issue on the swim.  Always.  I thought about how maybe this was just the universe trying to tell me to give it up, it’s just not for me.  After all, things happen for a reason, right?  Yes, perhaps I’ve been ignoring signs from above that this is just not for me.  Who am I to combat the universe?  Minutes later, my boy asked if he could go in the pool.  He had agreed that he wanted to learn how to swim freestyle and we planned for some mom and son lessons in the pool this weekend.   Well played universe, well played.  Just like that, my pity party was over.

How am I going to teach my boy to do something I can’t even do right?  I don’t know exactly.  I am going to tell him all the right things to do, and demonstrate them as best I can.  He knows I struggle with the swim.  Maybe we can get the hang of it together.  Then I thought about ways I can help myself in an effort to eventually help him too.  One thing came to mind.  The same thing that has come up over and over… the tri swim group that Gary recommended a while back.  No.  That would make me totally uncomfortable.  That will make me feel even worse than I already do.  Here’s where you can visualize me swatting that left shoulder negative me away…..  Maybe I will be uncomfortable.  Maybe that is good.  Maybe the pressure of trying to perform will get me out of my own head.  Maybe having others there will help me.  Maybe I need to stop trying to rely on myself and start relying on the help and encouragement of others.  I guess we will see next week.  I just sent the email to sign up.


I May Never Heel Again!

When I started my professional career, I had never really worn high heels with the exception of an occasional wedding.  In those instances, the shoes came right off as soon as possible.  When I did start wearing heels, I purchased those really fat heels so that I didn’t look like I was walking on a tightrope the whole time.  I wore those chunky monkeys for several years before graduating to the real deal.

At one point in my career, I knew I was moving up the proverbial ladder, so I wanted to start dressing more sharply.  I purchased a new wardrobe, accessories, and of course shoes!  I began to don stilettos to work on a daily basis, only trading them in for sneakers on casual Friday.  Eventually, I even wore them on casual day, I would just wear a pair of heels that were a little bit more funky or colorful.  I got to where I could wear them all day with no issues at all.  I walked in them as naturally as I walked in bare feet.  I loved my heels.  I loved buying them.  I loved wearing them.  I loved how they made me feel.  For some reason, at the time, wearing the heels made me feel powerful.  I think part of it had to do with the fact that I was succeeding in a male dominated industry and when I wore heels it made me that much taller then my hot headed boss.  Body language says a lot, and when you literally look down on someone, it can have an affect.

I eventually progressed into wearing heels out more too.  I have never been one to have tons of nights out on the town, but when I did go out, I wore heels.  Girls night out? Heels.  Birthday party (even a kid’s)?  Heels.  Date night? Of course heels!  Run a 5k?…. Ok, not heels, but I did have one pair that I was so comfortable in that I swear I could have run one wearing them.  My shoe collection began to look like the stereotypical woman’s collection.  It was many pairs of heels in different heights, textures and colors.  I really did love my heels, some of which I wore way beyond their life span.  It’s tough to find comfortable pairs sometimes.  Heels and I were seemingly inseparable.  Even when I got into running and started triathlon,  when some people start making athletic wear their everyday apparel, I wore my heels.

And then, it happened.  One night in the middle of the night, I went to stretch my feet and had the absolute worst calf cramp I had ever had!  It was like I was in a sci-fi movie and had just been hit with a curse that was transforming me into stone, starting with my calf!  It seized up like a rock.  I actually shouted out loud, waking poor Darin in the process.  He helped me try to rub out the pain and eventually, it calmed back down and I was able to go back to bed.  I chalked it up to being caused by the way I stretched my leg and went about my business.  It happened again, a few nights later.  I was in agony!  I called my sister over and she used some massage techniques to ease the surrounding muscles.  I figured I was good and expected no more issues.  Boy, was I wrong.  It took some time but eventually, I had the same problem again.  My calf complete seized up in the middle of the night.

I did some research online (of course) and ended up stumbling on some information regarding what high heels do to the anatomy and I was forever changed.  I went shopping for cute flats and any shoes appropriate for work that didn’t have a high heel.  What I didn’t account for, was that all my pants were hemmed to wear with heels.  I had to have them all hemmed.  It took some getting used to, but I slowly acclimated to not wearing heels at work.

It had been many months since I had donned a pair of heels, when my son informed us of his fifth grade dance.  He didn’t want us to dress super fancy but thought nice jeans and heels would be appropriate.  Jeans and heels were one of my favorite staple items.  I love the way a flashy pair of heels looks with a great fitting pair of jeans.  I went for the big guns.  My 4.5 inch Jessica Simpson glitter covered shoes that graduated slowly from rose gold to a deep bronze.  I love these shoes.  I wore them to my brother’s wedding and danced for hours on end in them.  They are sexy, they are flashy, they are beautiful and comfortable.  They are perfect.  Well, they were.  When I put them on, I had all kinds of bodily reactions.  My feet cringed.  If my calves had eyes, they looked at me like I was crazy.  My walk was nowhere near the perfect saunter I had developed over the years.  I thought that it had just been a while, and if I gave it time, I would be back to my old heel wearing self.  We went out to dinner and just walking though the parking lot was hard.  We headed to the dance, and I was dreading the thought of having to even remotely consider dancing in them.  I told myself that if my boy wanted to dance, I would have to suck it up.  Thankfully, he didn’t want to dance.  I think he knew that when I cut loose, he was bound to get embarrassed.  I held on and finally made it to the car.  Once there, I immediately kicked the shoes off, looking at them as if they had just insulted my mother.

I have decided to clean the closet out and donate just about every pair of heels I own.  I may hold on to the  Jessica Simpsons should the occasion ever arise that I need to wear amazing heels, for not more than 30 minutes.  I think that society has trained us to think that heels are sexy, yet more professional.  It’s a funny juxtaposition.  Only once I started doing triathlon and trying to take better care of my body did I realize the damage they could do.  I do miss the look, and sometimes how they made me feel, but I certainly don’t miss the anguish they eventually brought on.  Sure, there are stretches I can do to offset the issue, but who has time for that?  I don’t stretch enough in general as it is.  Sometimes we have to give up one thing we love in order to move on to something we could love even more… like Vibrams.  Yeah, I went to the opposite end of the spectrum and now I love me some Vibrams!