The other morning at the end of a 6 a.m. training session in the pool, the coach told us to swim down to the flags about 3/4 of the way to the other side of the 25m pool. The point: to do group sprints from there back to the end of the pool, about 20m.
When the four of us in my lane got to the flags, we treaded water waiting for her countdown. Three, two, one…GO. When you’re used to pushing off from the pool wall, starting up from treading water feels odd. The first few strokes almost don’t take at all.
But you know what I learned as I powered out of the deep end and made my way to the end of the pool as fast as I could, lane-mates doing the same alongside me? I’m not bad at it. I gained momentum after a couple of strokes and sprinted the 20m or so to the wall.
I could feel that I’d pushed ahead of the others and when I touched the wall and looked up, I had a big smile on my face. The first thing out of my mouth was, “Let’s do that again.”
And we did. Three more times. Each time we positioned ourselves differently in the group, on each side of the lane or to the middle, doing what we could to emulate race day. You don’t know exactly where in the pack you will be, even if you try to find a clear path with no one around you. It usually doesn’t work that way.
Three more times, “Three, two, one.., GO!” And three more times I felt like a kid all over again. It took me back to the days when I used to dive over and over and over off the board of our backyard swimming pool. I hollered, “Watch!” and then waited until I knew I had the attention of my mother or my father or my grandfather or, preferably, all three, as they lounged on the cedar deck beyond the shallow end.
Or the days when we raced, my brothers and I, from one end of the pool to the other, diving our shallowest racing dive and swimming our fastest freestyle. Or when we held our breath and swam 40 feet under water, from the shallow end to the deep end. Or more. And when we came up for air, we were always smiling.
That’s how those sprints felt last week even though there was no one to call out to to “watch!”
Sam and I promote the idea that we should do what we love. If it’s not fun, then what’s the point? Even more than that, finding those things that take us back to the freedom of childhood is a precious gift. You can sense it whenever Sam talks about riding the bike. So often she includes a little “whee!” in those posts.
With all the burdens of the grown-up world, I find it easy to feel weighed down. And for me, swimming releases me of that. When I’m in the pool, I don’t think of anything else. And when I’m sprinting with others…wow!
Not all of our activities can be like that. I love running, and I do experience a kind of freedom when I run. It helps me shed or at least park my worries for a period of time. But it doesn’t take me back to that more innocent time. Not like the pool does.
Looking for a photo for this post, I search “children swimming.” In just about every single of the hundreds of images my search yielded the kids were smiling ear to ear. Yep. That was me.
What takes you back to that childhood sense of freedom? Think about it. Then, if you’re not already doing it, make a plan!