What activity does every personal trainer tell you to do if you are injured/cross training/looking for a change up? Swimming. What activity does every pregnancy expert tell you is the best exercise for gestating moms? Swimming. What activity does my dear friend Dr. Jon – who is 70+ but looks like he’s 40 and acts like he’s 20 – swear by? Swimming (and some kind of crazy form of karate that I’m dying to try and yet also terrified of). And what have at least a dozen of you asked me at one point or another to do a Great Fitness Experiment on? Swimming.
I hate swimming.
Let’s get one thing straight: being raised by parents who consider swimming a life skill and not optional, swim lessons were mandatory all the way up to high school. I can swim. I can freestyle, back stroke, breast stroke and – the one I hate the least – side stroke just fine. I just don’t like to.
I know what you’re thinking – Charlotte’s body image issues rear their ugly head again! But, weirdly, that’s not my problem. First of all pregnancy gives me a pass on having a flat stomach and secondly the only people who swim at my Y during the time I’m there are the elderly and tiny tots. I’m fine with the whole swimsuit-in-public thing. So what’s my deal, then? Why aren’t I hopping gleefully into the water and letting the buoyancy cradle my baby and my soul?
1. I hate being cold. I’m so intolerant of cold that it’s become a running joke in our household. And to me anything short of a hot tub is considered cold. You know that feeling of first diving into a cold (okay, probably lukewarm) pool and slicing into the water? Some people love it. They think it’s refreshing or something. I hate it. I’m immediately freezing and then I’m so grouchy about being cold that the first twenty minutes of my workout are ruined by my crabbiness. And then? Once I’m done I have to reverse the process by leaving the now-warm pool (no, I didn’t pee in it) and facing the cold of the pool deck followed by the even colder locker room.
2. I hate being wet. I have really dry skin and the chlorine is like a chemical peel, especially on my face. I also just don’t enjoy the sensation of water on my skin. It irritates me. I haven’t taken a bath since I was 10 because I can’t stand sitting in water.
3. I feel like I can’t breathe. All pools have that layer of chlorinated warm moist air right above the water that unless you lift your head completely out of the water – like you are not supposed to unless you are a granny in a shower cap – you must inhale and exhale. I feel like I’m breathing through a damp rag.
4. I don’t like wet hair. Confession time: I only wash my hair twice a week. Oh, I shower every day (except when I don’t) but having very dry, very thin hair it actually works out better to not wash it every day. Honestly it styles better when it has 2-3 days of gym sweat build-up in it. When I do wash it, it’s a pain to do. I do not have wash-n-wear hair. It doesn’t dry straight or curly but must be coerced – with great heat – to do one or the other. However, if frizzy ever comes back in style I’m all set.
5. It’s such a production. You have to remember your suit and your goggles and a towel and extra clothes and a blow dryer and lotion and shampoo and flip flops and your arm wings (kidding!). It takes forever to get in the pool and twice as long to get out. Not to mention that you have to shave places that in a month or two I won’t even be able to see thanks to the belly. Why go through all that when you can just arrive and be sweating it out in a class (that doesn’t require a bikini wax) within 5 minutes?
6. You can’t talk. You guys know that my gym time is my social time. My head is a noisy place and scary things happen when I am left alone with it for too long. While you can swim with a friend, that’s really in name only as you won’t hear, see, or talk to them for the duration of your workout. I’m chatty; I’d miss my friends. Even if they were just in the next lane over.
7. I wear contacts. Without them I’m blind. (True story: when I was 16 I jumped on the back of a boy in the pool whom I thought was my brother – thanks to my seriously limited vision – only to realize my horrible mistake when he turned around with an indignant “Can I help you?”) Swimming + contacts = all kinds of problems.
Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, you may be wondering why I unleashed this torrent of whine on you. Here’s the thing: I want to want to swim. If that makes any sense. I want to like it! It’s such a great workout and I need a change right now and, well, I’m pregnant! So I’m turning to you guys – I know tons of you love to swim. Tell me about it! Help me turn my frown upside down and belly flop gloriously into the pool!
What’s great about swimming? Why do you like it? How have you overcome your challenges with swimming?