One of the hardest parts about my running break has been all of the free time I’ve had over the weekends. Without a long run, I feel a strange lack of structure and accomplishment, and I get sad thinking about not having a reason to eat gels.
As part of my efforts to use my recovery time wisely, to fill my long-run longing, and to keep from murdering people out of non-running angst, I rejoined my local gym. A few years ago, when I first joined this gym, I used the pool approximately twice for no reason other than I was too busy on the treadmill.
As a child, I was a fish. My mom had all of us swimming before we were walking, and we spent summers in any lake, pool, or body of water we could find. Regardless, it’s been close to two decades since I spent any real time swimming laps. (My mom thought the local swim club would be a good way for a painfully shy 10yo to make friends in a new neighborhood. Turns out, painfully shy 10yos hate swim clubs.) Since then, I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve attempted to swim laps; even still, I longed for the full-body ache and hunger that comes from a solid swim session. (Swimming hunger is next-level hunger… and that’s coming from someone who’s run 60-mile weeks, and whose dinner record is a full Chipotle burrito, quesadilla, and bag of chips.)
The first day was hard. I spent the majority of the time remembering how to flip turn (decidedly lacking grace after 20 years) and remembering to breathe out confidently and fully. I heard an anonymous swim instructor from my childhood in my head, reminding me to kick from the hip, not the knee. Not knowing what my cruising speed was, I swam too quickly to be sustainable, and found myself sucking air very quickly. Not having any idea what I was doing, I made up a swim workout on the fly… mostly to accommodate the resting of various body parts.
Day 1: 200m warm-up (too fast, too furious), 100m kickboard, 50m sprint, 100m kickboard, 50m sprint, 75m cool down (at which point my calf cramped up and I wobbled over to the ladder and wobbled home).
The second day was much easier, in that I consciously made an effort to slow my stroke down, and try and find a more sustainable pace. After my first five laps (25m pool), I decided that 4-5 intervals of 250m at the same, steady pace, felt like something doable and tangible. Counting laps is hard. Luckily, I still have the $5 pink watch I purchased from Walgreens and used for my first marathon (the Amish years), so I was able to get a general sense as to consistency in the intervals. Breathing out more purposefully was still a little challenging as I got fatigued towards the end of my workout, but I felt a lot more confident (and left the flip turns for another day). I focused on lengthening my stroke, and kicking strong from the hip. A man asked if I was an Olympian that he had seen on the local Fox affiliate. I laughed and said, “No, not even close.” “Well,” he said, “you’re gettin’ it in. That’s what counts!”
Day 2: 5 x 250m intervals @ ~5min each, with 1-2min of rest between sets. Less wobbles when I got out of the pool.
As I finished up my final interval, I smiled as I was reminded of what my dad had said to me yesterday when I told him that I was letting the marathon go. “Well, that’s probably smart. Knowing you, as soon as you were cleared to run, you’d give 150% and probably end up hurting yourself trying to chase it down.” Knowing nothing about swimming, I also know nothing about what constitutes “good.” Yet here I was, excited when I hit my arbitrary splits, wondering how my speed stacks up, and getting competitive about a sport I know nothing about. I guess my dad kind of knows me.
My foot has been feeling a lot better, and the ache in my arch has diminished a ton (despite my regularly failed attempt at taping — it just doesn’t want to stay!). I’m obviously hoping that it will be completely gone by Friday’s appointment (the test I have to pass before I’m cleared to start my run/walk return), but I’ve really enjoyed my time in the pool this weekend, and the soreness and hunger that my workouts bring on. I’m hoping to keep up my momentum and, you know, keep “gettin’ it in.”