Swim Geek, Swim

After more than two restless months without serious exercise thanks to my broken (but now healing) ankle, I’m back at the gym. Or rather, the pool. The doctor and physical therapist cleared me to swim and I wasted no time getting back to the pool. Since clearing me, I’ve swum almost every day

Yeah, I’m probably overdoing it. And yeah, I’m probably going to have to reign it in. But for now I’m going to swim my heart out and love every minute of it.

I’ve always enjoyed swimming — my parents had a pool when I was growing up, and my friends and I spent considerable chunk of our childhoods playing in it. As an adult there have been times where I’ve hit the pool for weeks or months at a time but it fell out of favor as parental and coaching responsibilities ate into my free time. With walking or running I could just throw on some shorts and a t-shirt, grab the phone and the dog, and be off. With swimming, there are multiple clothing changes, pre- and post- swim showers, and the admittedly rare possibility of having to wait for a swimming lane to open up.

It wasn’t time efficient, so I did it less … even though it would have complemented my workouts nicely. Of course, now it’s my only option, so efficiency be damned. Let’s swim!

I’m aided in my quest by the fact that my son wants to get certified as a “Swimmer” when he takes his Boy Scouts swim test for summer camp. Last summer NeutronLad got the “Beginner Swimmer” rank and it irked him enough that he’s actively working toward the higher rank. That’s great motivation for both of us — there are days when going to the pool seems like a hassle, but knowing that NeutronLad needs this to succeed keeps us both going.

Meanwhile, I’ve got my own motivation. I’m going to Scout Camp with my son this summer as one of the adult leaders/chaperons and I’m contemplating doing the BSA Lifeguard training. The swimming portion is pretty intense, and requires the following:

  1. Swim continuously for 550 yards, including at least 100 yards each of the following strokes in good form: front crawl, breaststroke, elementary backstroke, and sidestroke.
  2. Immediately following the above swim, tread water for two minutes using the legs only and with the hands under the armpits.
  3. Starting in the water, swim 20 yards using a front crawl or breaststroke, surface dive 7 to 10 feet, retrieve a 10-pound object, surface, swim with the object 20 yards back to the starting point with both hands holding the object, and exit the water, all within 1 minute, 40 seconds.

I’m decent with the front crawl, breaststroke, and backstroke — rusty, but decent. I’ve never swam any appreciable distance with the sidestroke, and treading water with only my legs for 2 minutes sounds damn hard, especially since my ankle is still healing. Item 3 isn’t something I’ve ever done, but it seems doable with practice.

I don’t know if I actually want to do the BSA Lifeguard training during summer camp — it would significantly cut into my napping and reading time — but at the very least the requirements give me something to work toward.

Endurance-wise, I’d like to swim a mile in the pool. It’s something I’ve never done before and it seems like a great way to cap off an excellent summer of swimming. To aid in this goal, the BSA Lifeguard one, and NeutronLad’s own quest to achieve the “Swimmer” rank, I’m thinking of signing the two of us up for swim lessons this summer. It’d be an excellent father-son activity and it’d help both of us improve our swimming.

In many ways this parallels my experiences as a runner (though I’m starting as a better swimmer than I was a runner). There’s the same sort of learning curve as I go from getting winded after swimming a few laps to swimming a half-mile uninterrupted. Even after only a few days of swimming, I can feel my body and mind reacting to the exercise and eagerly embracing the new challenge.

It feels good. Damn good.

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My swim trunks and my favorite beach towel; essential gear for my resurgent swimming habit. Credit: Ken Newquist.

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