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Lap by Lap, yard by yard, I feel more like myself!

Posted Mar 17 2011 12:00am
Last year at this time I started training in earnest for the Malibu triathlon, and I had to force myself to swim.  By that time I was riding and running regularly, so I was pretty confident there.  However, it had been a couple of months since I'd gotten in the pool.  So, I declared it time to swim.  First time in the water I easily swam 2000 yeards, so I was fairly sure the distance wouldn't be a problem, but open water swimming is totally different.  So, I prepped to train for the ocean.  I started in a protected bay and slowly moved to the Pacific.  Open water was hard, but I pushed through it.

Whatever the venue swimming has always provided me a place of comfort, of escape.  I used to joke that it was the only time in my overly connected world where I was truly unreachable.  I joked about this, but it is profoundly true.  I run with my phone on my waist, ditto on my bike.  When I swim the phone is safely locked away from that corroding water. I am unreachable.  Sometimes I relish in that.  

I happily proclaimed on twitter and facebook the other day after I was finally allowed back in the pool, "lap by lap, yard by yard, I start to feel more like my old self." I thought about why I felt this way.  Was it the return to some form of real-ish cardio for the first time in 2 months, maybe.  Or just the return to the order of exercising, training for something, maybe.  Or was it the simple stillness that swimming in a pool is, possibly.  Whatever it is, being back in the pool feels fantastic. I can only imagine how great it will feel to get back on my bike, or to run (if I'm ever allowed to do that again).

Still there is something about swimming, especially in a pool.  To me, it is rote muscle memory.  Lap after lap, stroke after stroke, same thing over and over again, your arms propel you from one end of the pool to the next.  You can hear nothing but your breath and the occassional splash.  You focus on your breathing and your forward progress, you see only the black line beneath you.  To me, it is made for meditation, or for a clairty of thought which is a form of meditation itself.  According to yoga philosophy during mediation you are both observer and observed. Iyengar says, "Meditation does not make the dull. Rather, in meditation the mind is still razor sharp, silent but vibrant with energy." Further, according to yoga philosophy, when in mediation time should have no meaning.  I'm not sure I can reach that level of clairity while counting my laps and swimming away, but I know that I see things more clearly when swimming and that time has no meaning.  I lose myself in the water.

All this begs the question, is my missing of my exercise routine, missing the exercise or the clarity of mind?  Missing the place of protected isolation that allows for me to see my life clearly?  Maybe I should meditate on that?  In the meantime, i'll keep swimming!
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