Monday, August 15, 2011

A Discovery

Since I am the queen of ignoring signs from my body and not taking care of myself until little problems become big problems, my hip injury still isn't any better.  I am finally being good and committing to NOT running or abusing it in any other way until I see the orthopedist on Wednesday.  I haven't run in about two or three weeks, and I haven't biked or elliptical-ed for the past five or six days.  Instead, I've been trying to get my exercise fix by swimming.

For the longest time, I was opposed to swimming for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I hate public pools.  I'm totally wimpy and squeamish - thinking about swimming in water (even chlorinated!) that has been contaminated by other people's bodily fluids makes me want to puke a little.  And puke makes me squeamish too.

Secondly, I suck at swimming.  I don't really know why, because I had swimming lessons as a kid and totally tore up that rec center pool.  Seriously, I started in the lowest level class with the toddlers that stayed on the steps, and by the end of the summer session I had been promoted all the way to the advanced group that rocked out in the deep end and got to use the diving board.  Go me.  Over the years, though, something happened and I started to believe that I couldn't swim.  Probably lack of practice just created this huge fear and insecurity about swimming.  Plus, there's my aforementioned fear of squids.  Whenever I tried some basic freestyle, I would end up sputtering and thrashing and swear I would never swim again.  At running camp with my cross country team in high school, we had to swim across a lake and the coach ended up throwing me a life-vest and following me in his canoe because he thought I would drown.

So I was a teeeeensy bit apprehensive about trying swimming again, but I've been really worried about this hip/back pain and I knew that continuing to run or bike would only make it worse.  I guess my compulsion to get ANY type of exercise overrode my aversion to swimming, because I finally decided to suck it up and go to the pool at my gym.

The verdict: I actually like it! Swimming feels different than any other kind of exercise because it really does use your whole body in a way that nothing else does.  I've always liked workouts that leave you drenched in sweat and wobbly on your feet because, duh - how else would I know if I'd done enough?  Swimming is different - no dripping sweat, no throbbing knees, no screaming quads.  The sensory deprivation is sort of calming - I can't listen to music or read or watch TV, so there's nothing but the sound of moving water and my own breathing.  It leaves my body feeling floaty and loose and generally fatigued, but not completely wiped the way that running does.

It has taken some practice, but I think I might be sold on this swimming thing.  Don't get me wrong - I'm no pro.  I don't know what I look like, but I assure you it is NOT graceful.  Zero technique.  Definitely still some thrashing tendencies.  Also, I can't ever get the breathing right, so I usually have to stop every couple of laps to gasp for air.  But swimming uses muscles in my arms, core, back, and neck that I've never used before.  Instead of the endless pounding on my legs from running, swimming makes me feel strong and powerful.  I feel like I'm doing something good for my body rather than breaking it down.

Also, I think shaking up my workouts has been a good way to address my rigidity about exercise, which is still a huge problem.  I like to do the same thing every day so I can be sure I'm doing "enough" or the "right" thing and any changes are scary because omg what if I get fat?  (Surprise! I haven't gained an ounce since I stopped running.)

But once a runner always a runner.  I definitely prefer running and I miss it and will be going back to that as soon as this stupid hip thing goes away.  For now, though, I'm pleasantly surprised that swimming has turned out to be so pleasant.

1 comment:

  1. I love swimming! It's so meditative. I find that I have to do it regularly or it's not fun, because it's hard work. When I'm in the rhythm and doing it weekly, it's really rewarding...when I try it every once in a while, I feel like I'm having a seizure in the water :) Don't be afraid to rest to heal your hip! I had hip problems earlier this month (turns out I had pulled a gluteal muscle--it goes all the way up there!) and rest for a week completely healed my problem!