Once upon a time, I thought I was fat.
|College Swim Team 1997-98 Season|
Glancing over the sheet, it was there in black and white, for all to see.
Instead of concentrating on how I out performed all my female teammates on the bench press, dead lift, and squat (a few guys too), I was focused solely on my weight.
That number being public information pissed me off.
Logically I knew I was not fat, obese, or unhealthy. I was a Division One swimmer, practicing close to 20 hours a week and had a body to match.
However, seeing that number on paper logic was lost to emotion.
While I was one of the strongest women on the team, I also was one of the biggest.
No woman wants to be classified as big, because big is equivalent to fat, and fat does not equal attractive.
Looking back, I am sometimes amazed at my own strength. A teammate's own eating disorder coupled with this incident could have had a very negative affect on my self concept. However, on the contrary, my self concept seemed to improve after these events. I was on the bigger and stronger side, and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
As time went on I have held fast to my self concept, even as my exercise routine has shrank and my waist band has widened. My time in the pool had a great impact on who I am, but over time my time swimming all but disappeared. I had work, the graduate school, then a wedding, a baby, a house, and another baby. Swimming was a sacrifice I gave as time was precious.
Things have changed.
Last month it became quite clear Moira needs swim lessons. At nearly four, she is prime to learn how to swim. Deciding to join the local YMCA, was a compromise. As membership permits my children to partake in swim lessons, it also gives me, the former swimmer, the opportunity to return to the pool.
After digging my goggles and swim cap out of retirement and purchasing a new suit at Marshall's, I was ready for that first swim.
Walking through the door, the familiar smell of chlorine smacks me in the face. Descending the stairs from the locker room, I assess the pool. Four lanes are available for lap swimmers, and there are bodies in each lane.
My first time back won't be a solo mission.
In one, an older man floats on his back, occasionally kicking his feet at a snail's pace.
Not that lane.
In another, another older man again on his back, slowly kicks and does the elementary backstroke*.
*not an Olympic event
That lane is out too.
A middle aged man stands facing a woman in a speedo.
"You will get this" she says, "before long you will swim!".
Not this one.
One lane left.
She adjusts her goggles, and pushes off into a nice streamline. Her freestyle looks strong.
This is it, my only option.
"Do you mind if I share the line?" I ask.
"Of course, not" she says, "we'll split the lane".
Before I can nod okay, she's off again. Her stroke is relaxed, her swim comfortable.
Everything I think I won't be in that moment.
It has been over four years since I've swam a lap.
In that time I've popped out two kids, had two c-sections, and steered clear of most exercise and bathing suits.
What the f--k am I doing?
For some reason, I kept the goggles and cap.
Because if you are swimmer, even if you haven't been in the pool for years, there is nothing like a good swim.
The monotony of back and forth, the cadence of stroke, breath, and kick, the chlorine, are like an old, dear friend. Welcoming with open arms.
I'm going to swim.
Into the water I jump, and immediately I'm back to thinking
What the f--k?
My feet find the pool wall and push into a streamline. Without thinking, my body takes over.
It's not easy, as I feel like I'm pushing through molasses, but I do it.
I swim 1700 yards, which is a little over a mile*.
* 1650 yds. = the mile, one of my old races.
This swim was hard, and my body aches. I used to think I was fat, and I realize how damn fit I truly was!
No longer am I a college athlete with time to dedicate to the weight room and daily workouts. Instead, I'm a shadow of the athlete I used to be. Hopefully over time, a resemblance to that girl in the photo will emerge again.
One who knew she wasn't fat but strong.
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This week's theme: Kicking Ass (I think the water kicked my ass this week!)