There's just something about swimming that makes me feel as though I can accomplish anything. When I'm gliding through the water, pulling it back in the breaststroke, streaming along, no one can touch me. When my view is the ceiling and I can feel water churning behind me as I backstroke toward the red flags, I'm unstoppable. I've always felt this way, even when swimming -- or another swimmer -- has kicked my ass.
Yesterday Ian and I went to the Y to do some laps. He said, "How many do you think you're going to do?" and I even surprised myself when I replied, "I'm doing fifty." Fifty laps? Our Y has a 25-meter pool, so that's 1250 meters. A mile is about 65 laps in a 25-meter pool, to put things in perspective.
I felt great as I started with a 50-meter freestyle and a 100-meter individual medley to warm up. And then I realized that I still had 44 laps to go. As I swam, it wasn't that I was getting tired. It wasn't that the task was especially difficult. It was that the number 50 seemed so daunting. I broke my swim up into chunks to make it more realistic. A 50-meter all-out freestyle here, followed by a lax 100-meter breaststroke, and then a 150-meter alternating freestyle and breaststroke. I took breaks between chunks.
I swam competitively for 11 years, but I haven't competed in 5 years. My strokes felt ragged, my kicks were uneven, and my times were unmentionable. I was breathing hard after some chunks, and I drank a full bottle of water. I remember thinking while I was kicking through my 22nd lap, only 28 more to go. Wait... that's more than I've already accomplished.
The more I swam, the less the number seemed intimidating. Slowly the number of laps diminished, from 28... to 20... to 16... to 4... and then suddenly, after my final 100-meter IM... I was done. I had swum the 50 laps in just over an hour, and I felt fantastic. I can't always achieve that feeling on the treadmill. Sometimes, as much as I want to run 3 miles at a 5.5 pace, it isn't going to happen. But with swimming, I feel like the number is within my grasp, like with enough determination and a realistic mindset, I can accomplish any number of laps I decide.
I carried that feeling of pride and self-determination with me throughout the night, as I reconnected with some of my closest Longwood friends, whom I haven't been able to see for a year!
One of my friends asked Ian what we had done earlier in the day. He asked me for a refresher, and as I recounted our day, I felt that swell of pride all over again. I set out to swim 50 laps, and I swam them. I did it. Truly, self-determination is a powerful motivating force in my fitness life. And that, my blends, is what it's all about for me.
P.S. What motivates you to work out? What are you determined to accomplish? How do you reach a difficult goal?