Swimming and I are back on.
We’re sort of like Ross and Rachel like that. It was all fun in the beginning, when I swam with my beach club’s kiddie league. Next came a period of serious, hot and heavy commitment in high school, when I swam with a club team that sent most of its swimmers to competitive college teams. Then, I burned out, and we broke up. And it was ugly. Like, a-decade-off ugly.
We hooked up only once during that time, when I renewed my lifeguard certification in college. I thought I’d do a quick 500 to warm up for what promised to be an easy qualification swim. I stopped after a 250, out of breath despite my regular running, hiking, skiing and lifting routines. I didn’t swim more than a 25 again until an ankle sprain two years ago left me with no other choice for a workout. Starting out again, I felt slow and nasty. Rather than relieving stress, it left me feeling annoyed at the sport as a whole (the Ross-Rachel equivalent of shrieking, “We were taking a break!”).
Running has been my steady best friend, there for me even when we’re apart — i.e., when I’m injured. I enjoy it when I’m at my slowest, like when I slogged through the heat for 30-minute jaunts in Florida, and when I care about things like race times, like I do now. It rarely adds stress to my life, and always adds joy. It’s low-maintenance and simple: You put on your shoes, and you go.
Swimming is more like my high-maintenance lover. You’ve gotta really want to swim to make it happen, finding a pool, driving to the pool, planning a workout, de-chlorinating after. And for some reason, I can’t just jump back into the sport like I can after taking time off from running. It takes a serious effort on my part to get to a point where swimming offers the same feeling of meditation-in-motion I get from running.
But my workout yesterday — my last hard one before the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim One-Mile Bay Challenge on Sunday — confirmed it’s worth the effort. I finished a timed 1,000 in 14:30 — with a pull buoy. I nearly killed myself trying to keep up with the fastest guy I’ve ever seen in a lap pool during an 1,800-yard ladder set and a set of fast 25s. Seriously — homeboy’s warmup was the same pace as my sprint 25s.
Which reminded me of one of the reasons I love to swim: It brings out my competitive side. With running, it’s all about the internal struggle. With swimming, if you are in the lane next to me, I would like to beat you. Different sports bring out different parts of our personalities, and my swim yesterday reminded me it’s worth exploring different activities to see if we can manage to surprise ourselves.
Next up: Deciding how long to hold off on running to nurse my sore hip, a terrifying injury considering I was sidelined for months dealing with a torn hip labrum and other issues in 2007. I’ve given my still-sore hip a week off. I’m foam rolling like it’s my job. I’m icing. And now, I’m wondering if postponing my planned run tonight is really an excuse to postpone an inevitable visit to the doctor (if I don’t run, I don’t face the fact that yes, in fact, it hurts bad enough to haul my butt in there). Thoughts? Advice?