equality · fitness · Martha's Musings · swimming · weight lifting

On making and taking space

Female figure alone in an infinity pool looks towards the ocean in the distance
Female figure alone in an infinity pool looks towards the ocean in the distance

By MarthaFitat55

I started swimming because I wanted to do something different that would complement my current fitness routine (weight training twice a week and trail walking once a week) along with walking and stairclimbing through the day.

I quickly found swimming served as a form of meditation. I like doing laps even though I am not an especially fast or strong swimmer. Since August, I have been going at least twice a week, and sometimes I have managed even three or four times.

In many respects, swimming is my reset button.

The last swim of 2017 was interesting. The pool’s fast lane had been taken over by a swim team, leaving the triathalon trainees no choice but to take over the leisure swim area. We all (athletes and leisure swimmers alike) ended up staggering our departures from the shallow end, although it quickly became apparent why I am a leisure swimmer and not a tri candidate.

My first clue came from the waves generated by so many swimmers in one place. I haven’t seen waves like that since the last time I went pond swimming close to 30 years ago. My second clue was realizing they were lapping me easily. They were like Energizer bunnies, one after the other after the other, cleaving the pool with their arms and legs pumping rapidly like pistons.

By the time I started my third lap, I was feeling more frazzled instead of my usually relaxed state. In fact, I rather felt like a cat whose owner was rubbing its fur the wrong way.

As I made my way through the waves, I thought about leaving the leisure side and going to the therapy pool. I was feeling overwhelmed by the volume and the quality of swimmers, and more than a little uncomfortable, but I stayed and completed my usual set of laps. It wasn’t my best time and I was not in my usual state of zen post swim, but I did it.

I stayed because I knew I had the same right to access as anyone else. I might have been the slowest person in the pool, and I definitely had the weakest form, but I had made a promise to myself to go swimming and I wanted to keep it. So I made space for myself, and like the wonderful Dory from Finding Nemo, I just kept swimming.

I didn’t always think this way. I was one of those people who would join a gym in January and slink away in February or March. As I mix up right and left on a regular basis, aerobics classes (later replaced by zumba) were usually mortifying experiences requiring multiple apologies to participants for bumping into them. As a result, I was pretty self conscious about anything I did in a gym where there were other people.

After four years of weight training, I have not only built muscles, I have also increased my confidence. Weight training is all about competing with yourself as opposed to others. It’s also about recognizing everyone has a place in the gym and you learn to accomodate and respect where people are.

While I may be slow in the pool, just as I am on the running trail, it is good to remember I am always steady and persistent. Rather than get stressed out by what others are doing, or trying to guess what they are thinking about me in that shared space, I know that what really matters is setting and meeting my own pace every time I hit the gym or the pool. It didn’t feel like it initially, but on reflection, it was a good way to kick off the new year.


— Martha is looking forward to 2018 and making good on her big goals.


7 thoughts on “On making and taking space

  1. I love this post! Yes, your space and your time are yours. I’ve certainly wanted to be invisible (if I was riding alone and feeling extra slow or sluggish). But moving through space and time is the point of it. And this makes me continue to want to resume swimming, as it’s more meditative than any other activity for me. As soon as I’m fully well (a week or two? fingers crossed), I’m planning on doing a tour of local pools and clubs to pick one for swimming. Thanks for the lovely reminder.

    1. Thank you Catherine. I have been enjoying it very much for that calming quality. I hope your search for a pool that meets your needs is productive.

  2. I feel exactly the same way when the pool is crowded…. that I should get out of everyone’s way because I’m so slow. It’s an instinctive feeling. Then my logic kicks in and says NO, I have as much right to be here as anyone else! Thanks very much for this post.

    1. It’s interesting how instinctive that feeling is to meet everyone else’s needs except our own. I’m glad we are resisting that pressure!

  3. Love this Martha! I’ve been a swimmer for about 20 years, really getting into it as an adult, but like you I treat it’s as complementary, not as a primary sport I want to improve at (though improvement is great). I’m reasonably fast but not the fastest by any stretch, which means I also go through those same feelings. I can tell you, though, that it gives me huge pleasure to see everyone doing their thing at their own pace in the pool, and if we have to share a lane in tricky circumstances that is ok! I also insist on my right to swim at my pace if there are faster folks alongside me, and I fully support the right of other swimmers who are slower to be in the lane. It is not a bother or a worry at all!

    Enjoy your next swim!

    1. Thank you Kim! That’s my favourite part of swimming — meeting the other people who are getting their swim on in their unique fashion. I love my pool for giving all of us swimmers, fast and slow, recreational and athletic, the spaces we need. It’s not often it gets crowded at 6:30 am but when it does, I just keep going. There’s room for everyone!

Comments are closed.