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The Joy of Swimming

Photo by Tammy Strobel

“When we’re in the water, we’re not in this world.”
—Gertrude Ederle

After I got home from a mid-July weekend of camping and swimming with my mom, I found The Joy of Swimming waiting for me on our front porch. I was excited because I’d been waiting for six months for the book to be released. I heard an interview back in January 2016 with the author, Lisa Congdon, and I felt compelled to preorder the book. When I flipped through the pages of Lisa’s book for the first time, I landed on a page covered with colorful, illustrated fish. The caption read: “Be the fish.”

When I swim sets of 500s in the pool, I count my laps. Between all of the counting, I say to myself, “Be the fish.” That phrase has become my new positive mantra. The mantra, plus all of the lap counting, lulls me into a relaxed state.

There’s something about the water that is so inviting and playful (at least for me). I love diving into lakes and pools. I’ve never been an ocean swimmer because the critters in the sea scare me. However, I love walking along the beach, dipping my toes into the water, and listening to the sounds of the ocean.

Since I was a baby, swimming has been a part of my life. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been playing in the water for 37 years! My mom claims that I was “born to swim,” but I don’t think that’s true. My love of the water comes from my experiences with my mom. She swam with me when I was a tiny baby and got me into swim lessons—when I was 4 or 5—with good instructors, which set me up for a lifetime of swimming fun. For example, I swam on my high school swim team, for fun throughout college, with U.S. Masters Swim teams, and on my own, too. I’m not the fastest swimmer in the pool, and I don’t swim to win medals. I swim because it is calming, meditative, and keeps me strong.

Chel Micheline—whose story is in The Joy of Swimming—said, “Every day when I get in the pool, I discover a new part of myself. And every day when I get out of the pool, I feel like a warrior. And after feeling like I was at the mercy of a disease for so long, being able to have these experiences and these emotions about the very same body that felt so out of control feels enormously profound. I can face whatever else the day brings knowing I just kicked ass for 5 miles. If nothing else, I swam.”

Micheline’s words ring true for me. In 2015, I recommitted to my swimming practice, and it’s one of the best things I’ve done for myself. This year, swimming has been especially awesome. I joined the Rogue Valley Masters team, swam in a 1500M open-water race, and I’ve been swimming on my own consistently. I feel strong in the water, and I’m grateful to be 95% pain-free. In February, I could barely walk around the block because of back pain, and now I’m a swimming machine. I don’t know what the next six months will bring, but I’m certain swimming will be a part of my routine because it brings me joy.

With gratitude,

P. S. Looking for inspiration to get back into the water? Read these thoughtful books:

Also, I’ll be teaching my journaling course—Write to Flourish—in August. I hope you’ll join us for the upcoming session! Details here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lisa Smallridge August 9, 2016, 4:58 pm

    A terrific, positive read to start the day. Living with pain, whether occasional or chronic, can wear down a person’s spirit. I’ve always loved being in the water, though I’m not a strong swimmer. Your reflections have made me think – perhaps swimming could be a way to strengthen both our bodies and our outlook, regardless of our athletic ability. Thank you!

  • Jen Farrant August 10, 2016, 3:36 am

    thank you for this and the book links. I loved Lisa’s book and I love my swimming. It is the only exercise I do that makes me feel strong and where my body’s foibles work in my favour.

    I’m only in the pool at the moment and I hope by next year that I will be able to get back outdoor swimming again. English seas are rather cold and I’m worried my body won’t be able to cope with it at the moment. Next year I want to be doing outdoor swimming competitions again

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