slice, pull, breathe

I swim a lot for my job. Not as much as I should, but it is the only exercise I really enjoy. There’s something about the weightless feeling of your body combined with the sheer power of your muscles propelling you through the water. I’m not quite sure I can harness the feeling in a few words. It’s rhythmical, almost poetic.

In the early days of my lifeguarding I wasn’t a very strong swimmer. I think they were low on interest that summer so they just pushed be through the class. But I would sit on the stand almost mesmerised by the lap swimmers. I could not figure out how they did what they did. Lap after lap of constant movement without choking, gasping for breath, or climbing out of the pool and vomiting. I hear a lot of people new to swimming as an exercise express the same things. It’s a sport that doesn’t make much physical sense. And contrary to popular belief it is not about how long you can hold your breath. It’s about getting into a pattern. Breathe out for four, turn, breathe in, lather, rinse, repeat…

I got into a yoga kick a couple years ago. In it I learned about the importance of breathing in physical activity. During yoga poses you are challenged to push your lungs to new capacities. This exercise greatly increased my endurance in swimming. It was crazy how strong I felt knowing I could breathe out for six counts, that I wouldn’t be gasping for breath every stroke.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have a bad work out sometimes. My breathing will be off and I’ll start to panic a bit, swallow a little bit of water, start hacking instead of breathing, and then I feel like a doofus.

This morning as I was driving to work I was thinking about the rhythm of swimming. The patterns. How strong I feel when I swim. And I thought about the metaphors swimming has provided. My pastor friend Bobby talked about how hard it was to learn to breathe in one of his sermons. In an episode of Mad Men Don Draper talks about the freedom and weightlessness provided by swimming. My daily life is confronted with the realities of swimming, practicing, learning, preventing drowning, and so on. I’m drawn to the water and the peace I find as the water blocks everything else out. There’s something to focusing your whole body on your breathing. Sometimes it’s the most worshipful I feel.

Right now I’m waiting to hear back on an opportunity I’m quite excited about. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for a week. Every once in awhile I take a big breath and try to calm myself down. The not knowing is difficult. But I’ll keep breathing. And swimming. And moving forward.

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