If only I had known.
Back in February, I didn’t have time to get to the pool. I was trying to squeak out a workout or two each week, but it had been hard to do that when my calendar was so full already. Going into March, I didn’t even make it to the pool for just two quick swims.
Looking back, I wish I would have spent more time there. Little did I know, just like everyone else, that COVID was going to shut down our pools, and our lives, for months.
So, in March, the pool had closed, and just like that, I was a fish out of water. Literally. I went through March, April, and May without a swim. It messed with me more than I realized.
I’ve always thought that I wasn’t meant for being on land. I’m clumsy, I have short legs, I am uncoordinated, and I have very flat feet. When I was a child, I had to wear braces on my legs (think: Forest Gump) and have been plagued with random orthopedic issues off and on. Running is hard on me, yes; but, I won’t stop doing it. Swimming is natural for me and seems to cancel out all of the pounding I do on the trails and road. There’s something about staring at a black line on the bottom of the pool with just the sound of the water in my ears.
Yes, I had been running more for the past few months, and that was great. But, something was missing. Something was “off”. I was grumpier than usual, stiffer than usual, and I wasn’t sleeping well.
Last week, the first week of June, I found out through a friend that a local pool was opening and you could reserve a lane for lap swimming. I quickly jumped at the chance and reserved a lane with someone so we could split the cost.
I had missed the pool so much, I was dreaming about swimming. The dreams never made sense, and I usually couldn’t remember much when I woke up, but the dreams involved water and swimming and a feeling of floating. I did have one particular dream that was quite vivid. It was as if I was in Venice, and I was swimming everywhere I went. I swam to work, I swam to the store; I was constantly getting into and out of the water.
As a child, I can remember telling my parents that I wanted to live in Venice because I wanted to swim everywhere. I also remember that they laughed and told me that I would definitely NOT want to swim in the water in Venice. Now that I’m older, I know why.
So, last Tuesday, I showed up at the pool with just my cap, goggles, and a towel. We were not permitted to shower or linger on the deck. I didn’t want to waste any time, so I quickly got my lane assignment and got in. We were only allowed 50 minutes in the water, so my goal was to swim the whole time, if possible.
The water felt so cool on my aching legs. It was magical. I slid in and went under. Silence. The soft fingertips of the water seemed to hug me and welcome me home. I was at peace immediately.
Ask any swimmer you know, and they will tell you what it feels like to be back in the water after a hiatus. The pull of the water is hard to explain. Is it because it reminds us of being in the womb? Is it the feeling of being weightless? Or, perhaps, that we feel like we are in another world that is so different from the noise and the gravity of our every day life?
All I can say is that the feeling of peace stayed with me and followed me throughout the remainder of the day. It made me long to get back to the water as soon as I could. By the time I had gotten in my second swim, it was as if I had never left the pool at all.
It’s nice to be welcomed home.
Amy is a trail runner and triathlete, a coach, a mother of four, an Exercise Physiologist and a Physical Therapist. She lives with her husband, Dan (also a runner and triathlete), and four kids in Ohio.