Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

As I rubbed my irritated eyes and coughed up a lung-full of heavily chlorinated water, I found myself questioned my choice of morning exercise. Lacking the motivation to engage in my usual post-breakfast conditioning routine, I walked down to the neighborhood pool determined to swim not for recreation, but for fitness.

This may sound blasé, but for many years, I was unable to bring myself to exercise in a pool. Pudgy and shirtless, I suffered through “pool days” in high school P.E. Going back even farther, there are hazy memories of the pool Nazi. This was a woman who fully ascribed to the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention.” She demonstrated this by literally tossing students into the deep end. Presumably, this was a system of instruction that relied upon our innate fear of drowning to draw out the “inner swimmer”, but that’s all in the past. Now, as a personal trainer, and a pretty fit guy, I’m committed to going outside of my box and getting into a rectangle (albeit one filled with water).

After years of neglect, my stroke (aptly named) was and is not a model of hydrodynamics. As such, propelling my body from one end of the pool to the other takes a considerable effort. By lap three my motivation was seriously flagging so I began searching for a way to document my progress.

First, I tried using my wet finger to trace Roman numerals on dry portions of the pool deck. Evaporation quickly rendered my efforts invisible, forcing me to go to plan B. I scoured the pool for a largish leaf and soon located an ideal candidate. After each lap, I would tear a notch in the leaf. This proved to be a reliable system and it allowed me to focus on “one lap at a time”, alleviating the soul crushing anticipation of countless future laps.

My goal was to complete a total of 20 laps. Each tear of the leaf brought me one splash closer to my goal and soon, I was halfway done. Fatigue started to set in and I realized that my breathing was becoming an issue. Holding my breath allowed me to maintain a level of coordination that was impossible when my swimming was punctuated by frantic, unsatisfying inhalations, but my oxygen starved tissues objected to the increasingly anaerobic environment. Through trial and error, I managed to work out the details of breathing on the fly. I accepted that discomfort was part of the equation and swam on.

As I approached the final few laps, I seemed to “find my stroke”. In my mind I was a somewhat mellower (and ironically more sober) Michael Phelps. By lap 20, I was charging through the water like an enraged polar bear taking an unwitting harp seal. On leaden limbs, I dragged myself out of the pool and began toweling off, slightly wrinkled and happy to be done.

Diving into my past and taking on the pool didn't leave me with some great revelation, but, I'm glad to have done it. After all, it's another notch in the leaf.

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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. Wow, another eloquently simple piece that made me laugh (Swim Nazi) and left me inspired. Great job!