Archive for May 21st, 2007

For me, one of the signs of late spring is my first swim of the year in our townhouse complex’s swimming pool. The pool actually opened on Saturday, but between the rain and Trish’s illness (worsened, perhaps, by our over-indulgence in piroshki, blintzes, and dumplings at the exquisite Rasputin’s on our anniversary), my first swim was delayed until today. I’m still not sure how it will fit into my summer exercise routine, though.

I came late to the enjoyment of swimming. One of the advantages of running is that, although it has been absorbed by consumerism like everything else in our culture, you can do it almost anywhere, anytime, with a minimum of equipment. Moreover, my eyes sting in chlorine, and I never cared much for the sensory deprivation of many swimming strokes that leave you deaf and unable to focus on much outside of the water. But with a pool two minutes’ walk from my computer that’s filled with a mixture of salt water and chlorine — and one that I can use for no additional cost on to our monthly strata fees — the reasons for my reluctance disappear.

As for sensory deprivation, I solve that by doing an old man’s breast-stroke, keeping my head firmly above water except when I want to cool off. The result is far from streamlined, and I could politely be called a rugged swimmer rather than a fast or an efficient one. Still, the stroke allows me to keep a steady pace throughout my workout. At times, I can even enjoy the lack of awareness, relaxing so much that, at night, I dream of flight that feels very much like swimming.

Besides, swimming has the advantage of being much less hard on my knees than running on pavement — a growing concern with me. So, over the last few years, I’ve learned to overcome my youthful distaste and enjoy swimming. If it will never be my favorite exercise, it is far, far better than no exercise, or even reduced exercise.

But those dreams of flight come later in the summer, when I get into the rhythm. Like running, like working with a strange animal — like anything, really — the secret of swimming is to discover a rhythm. And, this afternoon, I didn’t have much of one. For the first ten laps or so, my rhythm was irregular, and I couldn’t coordinate my legs and arms. When I’d done twenty-five laps, I felt a rhythm was just beyond me. At forty laps, I might have just found the beginnings of one.

By the time I finished, my chest muscles were strained, too, with the unaccustomed workout I’d given my arms (which is another reason for my modified breast-stroke).

No doubt, though, I’ll soon be used to these discomforts. Exercise, like any vice, needs to be continually practised so you can build up an immunity to the ill effects.

The only question in my mind now is what combination of running, exercise bike, and swimming I’ll take up over the summer. For now, swimming in the townhouse pool has an advantage over the exercise bike in that it’s largely private. However, that will change as soon as the good weather comes, and the neighbors sit drinking and smoking around the pool, making me feel Puritanical and, at times, too self-aware to get into the meditative state that a good workout brings.

Maybe I’ll swim and use the bike on alternate days, or make each of my forms of exercise a third of my daily workout. Not having a commute, I can easily afford the time to do both.

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