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Posted Jan 22 2009 3:46pm

Another milestone. I went swimming today. That probably doesn’t sound like much, but it was a huge step forward for me in a number of ways.

Firstly, there’s the scars. I’m used to wearing short-sleeves now, but my worst scars are on my upper arms and shoulders and tend to be hidden by a t-shirt. So going swimming involved being OK about having those visible. That was a little step - one that I’ve prepared myself well for over the last six months or so.

The big step was the fact that I willingly put myself in a new situation that would have pushed a number of my panic buttons before. Growing up as the fat kid and still being a bit overweight now, I’ve never really liked being less than fully clothed. I’ve used clothes as something to hide behind. That started to change last year when I started wearing bright colours sometimes, but obviously there’s a big difference between wearing bright colours and wearing just swimming trunks.

Because I always sucked at sports and fitness activities, they’ve been something I’ve mostly avoided, especially where people can see. People laughed at me when I was growing up when I tried to do this kind of stuff, so it was easier not to try. And being in that situation, on my own, is scary.

But I want to be fit and active. I’ve started working towards getting fitter and swimming is one of the ways I want to use to get there. I always liked swimming when I was a kid and it’s the only form of exercise I’ve ever really found fun. And these reasons I had for avoiding it all seem a bit silly. The feelings they cause are real, but the reasons themselves are just remnants of the problems I’ve had.

It surprised me how hard it was. I kept trying to talk myself out of going, overthinking it way too much. But I kept myself calm. The way I figured it, the worst that could happen is that I could look dumb, unfit and scarred in front of some people who don’t know me who I’ll probably never see again. And the first time you do anything is always the hardest, so if I did go, it’d be much easier the next time. In fact, trying other things would be easier, too. There were good reasons to try and only bad reasons not to.

One of the rules I’ve made that’s worked so well for many thing is this: I don’t have to feel bad about any failing or fault that I’m actively trying to fix. This worked with getting my teeth sorted out (I don’t have to feel bad about my teeth being in awful condition when I’m fixing it by going to the dentist). And it’s worked now (I don’t have to feel bad about being unfit, when I’m trying to get fitter).

So I went today after work. I haven’t been swimming in ten years. Apparently, I’m rather less bouyant than I was back then, but I soon got over the “OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO DROWN” feeling and moved on to the “OH MY GOD I’M SO OUT OF BREATH” feeling after each length. In the end I only managed six or eight 25m lengths before I got out the pool, with quite long rests in between each of them. And I felt absolutely exhausted afterwards. But I did it, and I’m going to do it again. I’ll be able to do more lengths next time, too.

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