Recently we went down a rabbit hole reading Mike Gustafson's Twitter feed, a brilliant homage to competitive swimming. It stirred up some nostalgia for the 25% of us (i.e., Caroline and Kerry) who are former competitive swimmers. While we’re so grateful for life lessons learned in the pool—about the power of discipline, dedication, and drag suits—we’re also glad that we’ve since discovered ways to exercise that allow us to sleep past 3:55am.
Here are some signs that you, too, are a recovering competitive swimmer:
1. You still feel a little guilty when you miss a workout, even though you're a 30-something with a desk job and not training for anything.
And you have to remind yourself that a 30-minute workout really is a workout. Even if you’re not sore for the next 18 hours. Even if you never throw up in exhaustion after. Even if you enjoy it.
2. It took 10 years to learn to eat like a normal human.
Whatever “normal” means. But it probably doesn’t mean “eating four bagels for breakfast” or “snacking on a huge baked potato loaded with shredded cheese and butter.”
3. You can't go near a Powerbar.
Although it makes you wonder: how did you convince yourself it tasted like chocolate? 4. Shaving your legs still feels like a privilege.
After all, you only got to do this twice a year. (But you kinda regret shaving your arms. Did it even make a difference? Now you have the longest arm hairs of all your friends.) 5. You regularly wore t-shirts with sayings like “Eat my wake!” or “I swim, therefore, IM.”
Ah, swim fashion! A part of you misses your deck shoes, shammies, and giant fuzzy parka—and the belief that you looked badass while rocking them. 6. You can’t bring yourself to do Masters swimming.
While you fully support all forms of movement at every age, and respect anyone for getting out there, you’re personally horrified at the thought of taking more than 45 seconds to swim a 50 free. And you know you would. 7. Nothing will ever have the power to humiliate you like a DQ.
So embarrassing! Like you didn’t even swim! You’re so grateful there are no disqualifications in Tree pose. 8. In retrospect, you realize swimming was meditation.
Sure, it was a grueling sport with a mantra of “no pain, no gain.” But all that alternate breathing was better than Pranayama. 9. You still have a bizarre reverence for the kids who were fast swimmers back in the day.
Even though you know it’s not what matters most in life, you can’t forget that girl who once swam a 200-meter breaststroke in 2:27. 10. You get a little nervous when your alarm clock rings.
Your body still thinks that if you’re not warming up by 5am, Mr. Woodling will know. PANIC! 11. You didn’t know what your real hair color was until you hit your 20s.
Lo and behold, you’re not that blond. And you’re a little bummed. 12. You kinda miss the days when your signature scent was chlorine.
And you still know the weirdly fun trick of licking your arm a day after a workout to get another whiff of it. 13. You’re not afraid of any New York City fitness class.
After braving four-hour, freezing-cold workouts, a 45-minute spinning class is a dream. And yoga with bumpin’ music will always feel a little like playtime! 14. You love being able to talk when you exercise.
What no one will ever understand about swimming is how hard it is to be alone with your thoughts for 4 hours a day. 15. You’ve had at least one argument about why swimming is the greatest sport.
Non-swimmers just don’t understand why it’s so much harder than every other athletic endeavor. (It has a 51-week season! You build amazing lung capacity! It’s aerobic and anaerobic! LeBron James is no Michael Phelps!) (In fact, you had this argument in your office yesterday.)