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