Last week I finally jumped back into the pool. It’s been a year of mostly not swimming due to COVID closures. I swam in the backyard pool on a bungee cord velcroed around my waist at my old house. Then when the city pool finally reopened, I rarely made it to practice because of the busyness of moving. Once in Arizona, it took me months to get settled and the weather was too cold! We had snow, rain, wind, and I just didn’t want to go.
Today, I managed to make the 30-minute drive, got my own lane and swim laps. No, I’m not swimming Masters yet. I want to get stronger. Plus the Sun Devil’s Masters that practice in this pool look so fast and fit that it’s intimidating.
My third day back in the pool felt so much better than the first two attempts. I swam my normal Palm Springs warm up of 4 -3- 3 (400 yards freestyle, 300 yards kick, 300 yards pull). That’s all I intended to do but I felt good so I swam some more.
My fellow swim mom, school mom, Masters swimmer and dear friend Linda said she keeps track of her laps by the alphabet. I’ve tried that and it works. So, today I played the animal alphabet game. Each 50 yards was an animal. I started with ape, bear, cat and dog. You get the idea. However, when I got to “N” I was stumped. Does anyone know an animal that begins with the letter N? Another tricky one was Q. I decided Queen Bee was good enough — not quite an animal but it’s a living being. The last 50 yards was X….
I did it! I finally drove to the pool today for lap swimming. I haven’t been swimming since I moved four months ago. I used to live a mile from the pool and it was a big part of our lives. From swim mom to swimmer, I built friendships and healthy habits around the pool. It’s now a 30-minute drive and it’s much easier to find an excuse not to go than when I lived close by. Plus, I had friends who were there and we’d text and call to encourage each other to go.
Today, I drove by myself to a pool where nobody talked to me except the lady who took my $3. It was so hard to swim! My shoulders were tight. I got winded so easily. I noticed most of the swimmers were women who had their hair up and wore visors or hats.They used kickboards or walked. I felt like a superstar for actually swimming with my face in the water and managing an occasional flip turn!
Looking back at the pandemic, and then my move, it’s been a year of mostly not swimming. I hope I can get back into my swimming shape again soon. I can’t believe how hard it is!
Here’s what I wrote last fall:
Today I am returning to the pool. I’m nervous yet excited. I haven’t been swimming at the city pool for months — since February would be my best guess. The pool quickly shut down when shelter-in-place began in March. It reopened while we were out of town in August.
Although I keep saying that swimming outdoors should be perfectly safe, I’ve been a little bit afraid to swim anywhere but in my backyard. I tried swimming at home with a bungee cord, which is hard because it’s boring! Plus it’s swimming against resistance.
I see one of my Piranha Masters friends at the park during my morning walks. He’s been swimming three times a week and asked me to join him this week. It’s been my goal to return to swimming, so I’m diving back in. I’ve also invited Linda, my Masters buddy and fellow swim mom, to join us.
I think getting back in the swim of things is going to make a big improvement to my overall health — physically and mentally.
It’s time to get ready. I wonder if my swimsuit still fits?
What have you had a hard time doing because of the global pandemic?
I read a great article, “The first rule of sports (and all) parenting: Don’t speak,” in the Washington Post by Nancy Star:
Your child doesn’t have to play in the Super Bowl for you to know the feeling. Their team was supposed to win and then they didn’t. What do you do? Being the mother of two girls who played soccer and ran track, I thought I knew the answer: Talk it through. Tell them you love them. Say it’s just a game. Remind them there’s always a next time. Isn’t that what good parenting is all about? Keeping channels of communication open even in tough moments?
Turns out the answer is no. I learned this when I had a “don’t speak” moment.
I understand this all too well. After my kids would have a disappointing swim, I’d try to reassure them. I wanted to take away their hurt and make them feel better. Most often after I’d say, “That wasn’t so bad,” or “You have another swim ahead.” I’d be met with negativity and a statement like “I sucked!”
I’d get a barrage of negativity that would take me by surprise. I never figured out that by trying to protect them from their upset feelings, I wasn’t making it better for my kids, but was making them feel worse. They weren’t ready to talk about a bad swim with me and “hash and rehash,” as my daughter would say. I read in a David Benzel sports parenting book, “From Chump to Champ,” that we should wait for our kids to talk to us. We need to be there and listen. But, if we start the conversation first, even with the best intentions, they’ll probably pull away and stay quiet. They want to please us so much and may take any little thing we say personally, as though they’ve let us down. It’s best to be quiet and listen. They may surprise us and open up more than ever if we let them take the lead.
Here’s more from the Washington Post article with the mom watching her daughter’s varsity soccer team lose their final meet. She received advice from a dad, Peter, who had more experience with soccer parenting and she followed it.
“Their lead slipped to a tie toward the end of the second half. In the last minute of play there was a stumble, scrambling and a goal for the other team.
Parents supplied transportation for home games, so we waited while our daughters gave sullen high-fives to the winners and then huddled with their coach, listening as he shared his disappointment. When he was done they separated and, backpacks slung over shoulders, trudged across the field toward where we stood.
Watching their grim faces approach I wished a meteorologist were present to confirm my suspicion that 22 high school girls who’ve just lost a chance at a state title can change the atmosphere, collectively sucking the light out of the sky. Their fury was frightening.
But Peter had been through this before. “Don’t speak,” he said. As I started to turn my head he added, “Don’t look. Just walk. Go to your car. She’ll find you.”
I tried not to move my lips as I objected. “All I want to say is I’m sorry.”
“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t speak. Not until she talks to you.”
Because he had been through this before, I listened and walked to my car alone. I felt her before I saw her, walking silently beside me. Reassuring phrases immediately formed in my brain but, channeling Peter, I said nothing.
A moment later I noticed her teammates walking with their parents, mothers mostly, who offered words of consolation. “Are you okay?” and “You played well,” and “There’s always next time.” To me the words sounded gentle and kind.
The girls did not agree. “No,” they snapped, and “I sucked,” and “There won’t be a next time.”
By the time we reached the car, every daughter except mine was crying and the moms were, understandably, annoyed and lashing back. “Why are you yelling at me?” and “Being upset is no excuse for being rude.”
We were silent on the ride home, silent as I turned on to our street. It was when I pulled into the driveway that my daughter finally spoke. “That was such a bad game.”
How do you handle your children’s athletic or academic disappointment?
One year ago I wrote this post, when things were normal. I’d love to volunteer now in my new town. I think it would be a great way to meet people and feel like I’m contributing in some small way. Hopefully, I’ll be able to jump back into the pool and find a Masters team as well. One year ago at the beginning of February we had one known case of COVID in my hometown of Snohomish, WA. We had no idea what the year ahead would be like. Here’s to getting back to normal!
I’m really missing our gorgeous Palm Springs pool, my swim friends — and long course.
I gave up part of my day to volunteer at the Piranhas Masters meet. I was too chicken to sign up to swim. I haven’t done a meet since pre-knee and eye surgery.
I took on a new writing job for trade magazines in the last few months that has me chasing deadlines and sources — even through the weekends. Maybe I shouldn’t have been there and should have stayed home and worked.
But, I went and feel so good about helping out, cheering on my teammates and friends.
Two things that stood out today:
The first heat I timed, my lane had a 98-year-old woman, who needed help to get on the blocks, who dove in and swam a 200 free. I said to my teammate and friend sitting next to me, “What was my excuse again for not swimming?”
Then there was the 20-something-old autistic young man who doesn’t function well in day-to-day life. I watched as he got up on the blocks, dove in, swam amazing underwaters, gorgeous strokes and won events with personal bests. His friend and coach told me he’s part of the US Paralympic Team. Although he doesn’t function in the “real world” he gets the pool. It was beautiful to watch. The support he got from his competitors was amazing, too. Everyone was on his team.
Volunteering was exactly the medicine I needed to feel fulfilled, connect with my community and get away from the stress of deadlines.
I recently read about the benefits of volunteering from several articles. Here’s one I read called “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” from a website called Help Guide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness. Here’s the link and an excerpt:
Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. Learn how to find the right fit.
With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.
Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.
Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier
Volunteering connects you to others
Volunteering is good for your mind and body
Volunteering can advance your career
Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life
Sights from the Masters swim meet.
Where do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it? Are you able to volunteer during COVID?
It’s unbelievable how our world has changed. I’m not talking about the pandemic. I’m talking about how far we’ve travelled away from prejudice and racism in my generation and my parents.
I was working on a story about a swimmer, Paul Jeffers, who grew up in Southern California in the 50’s and 60’s. He swam with a swim school called the Sammy Lee Swim School. He’s working with a friend and fellow swimmer, Bill Brown, who graduated from USC in Cinema on a documentary about the life of Dr. Sammy Lee.
Dr. Lee overcame years of racial prejudice with a positive attitude and hard work. As a young diver aspiring to be an Olympian, he was only allowed to practice diving Wednesdays at the Pasadena’s Brookside Park segregated public pool on “International Day.” The pool was drained after International Day and white children swam the other six days a week. His coach at the time, dug a hole and filled it with sand so Sammy Lee could practice the rest of the week. He believed diving into sand made his legs stronger and was helpful to his Olympic aspirations.
He attended Occidental College where he was able to dive each day in a pool with teammates and pursue his Olympic dreams. His parents, who sacrificed to come to America and start a small business, pressured Sammy to become a doctor. He was able to do both.
Although Dr. Sammy Lee served in the Army during the Korean War, was an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist — and an Olympic Gold Medalist — he encountered more prejudice. He was blocked from buying a home in Orange County.
Simply amazing to me that such an accomplished man would face such prejudice, and it was not that long ago. What’s also remarkable is how he kept positive and succeeded with hard work and grace.
Do you have any stories to share about how our country has changed for the better in the last five or six decades?
This morning was clear, gorgeous and colorful. I stopped several times to take photos of the glorious day. I was feeling slightly beat up because I overdid it yesterday and I worried myself silly over the missing kitty. I tried to squeeze in as many laps as I could in the 45-minute swim time slot enforced by the city. To do that I put on fins and today my legs are sore! Since returning to swimming two weeks ago, I’ve found it really wears me out. Plus, I walked too much if that is possible. More than 22,000 steps according to fitbit.
So today, I did a rambling slow-paced walk and took note of the beauty around me. I’m sharing it with you, including a friendly roadrunner I filmed a few blocks from home:
A view of Mt. San Jacinto from the Wellness Park
Watching the sun rise through the palm trees
When the walk was over, I felt able to take on another day. Also, I didn’t freak out when kitty took off outside. I realized she’s found a safe place to hide out and will return to my side, once the strangers take off after painting and fixing things around the house.
A wall of bougainvillea brightened my day.
What beautiful sights do you see when you slow down enough to enjoy them?
View of our pool with Mt. San Jacinto in the background.
Yesterday I swam with my Masters team. I can’t believe how much better and stronger I feel today. I used to whine about “having” to go to practice — and skipped all the time. Getting back in the pool after so many months of not being able to reminded of how I used to say, “I don’t have to — I get to.”
Our pool was closed March through August and teams were unable to practice until a few weeks ago in September. I now understand how lucky I was in the past. I could leave home at the last minute and dive in — at any time. I had the option to swim laps or swim with our team. Today, I need to reserve and plan ahead. And for months, I had no option at all.
We aren’t back to normal yet, but our coach has the pool for one hour 15 minutes Monday through Friday afternoons. He can have 20 people in the pool for practice at once, each of us in our own lane. So, although I didn’t get to see all my swim friends, I saw several of them, and appreciated chatting and talking before and after practice — chatting while doing my kick set.
It’s a welcome change to have a coach push me a little bit — but not too much — so I’ll return again.
I really missed swimming, my friends and my coach. I remember at my first meet (where I was the swimmer and not my kids) a fellow swimmer told me “Swimming is the secret fountain of youth.” I really believe that because I feel great today! In addition to the low impact workout, and increased oxygen to my brain — I truly missed the social interaction with a diverse group of people I might never have known outside of our common love of swimming.
Where I swim. View from the deep end.
What activities have you been able to return to that you missed because of shut downs? What are you excited to return to once again?