By the time I was old enough to be at the pool by myself, I was swimming a mile a day. I LOVED being in the pool and it was always my happy place on many a military base when I was growing up. Then, everything changed. I went from looking like a little kid to having large breasted D’s in less than three months, and the young guys on the base suddenly started to treat me very differently. In my swimsuit, I suddenly felt exposed and uncomfortable, so I just stopped swimming, put on a bunch of weight, and hoped people would just stop paying attention to my body. It took me years to shake that weight hiding mentality… but the swimming avoidance has stuck around. When I was training for the NYC Triathlon a few years ago, I had to get over being in the pool but it just didn’t stick. The moment the race ended, I was back to coming up with a million reasons why I couldn’t swim. You know what that is? A whole LOT of bullshit.
I was recently asked to be a Dare to Bare Ambassador for the Movemeant Foundation, a foundation that focuses on fostering body positivity (especially for young women) through physical activity. I am a firm believer in that for everyone but recently when I signed up for a summer membership at the YMCA which has an amazing pool, I realized I didn’t really have it for myself when it comes to swimming. I’m usually so good about not caring about being bad at something (It’s fun to learn! Getting out of your comfort zone rocks!) but not in this one thing that I used to love.
So, last week, I packed my gym bag and ONLY packed my very plain lap swimsuit, goggles and cap. There would be no back up plan “in case the pool is too busy.” I felt a little panicky about it. What if I had to circle swim? People would be so mad. I’d be too slow and they’d be pissed to have to share the lane with the fat, slow girl. Which is just silly. NO one cares, and that is just some seriously mean made-up story in my head that’s hung out there for far too long. I got there and every lane was full but I still suited up and sucked it up, it was time to stop being mean to myself in the pool. And it was fine. I shared a lane, then some came to join and we circle swam…. and no one cared. I wasn’t fast but I swam and swam and swam. And as I finished my last lap of the ½ mile swim, I let out a long breath underwater and felt like I’d reclaimed my happy space.
Each time it gets a little easier. I may be slow and out of practice but that mile of zen will happen again this summer. But I really do have to get a cuter lap suit, I mean there is no reason to be completely stoic about not caring how I look while I swim…