Often, the change that we see as we run is slow. So slow. Progress takes time. The same is true for life–over some amount of time we become someone that we want to be (hopefully), or someone that we do not. Those changes are almost imperceptible, and then suddenly they are part of us. I’ve always thought this marks the progression well:
And then there are days when the changes are huge, and undeniable, and, if we are lucky, they are awesome.
Yesterday, I had one of those days.
I’d been counting down to yesterday, as I was set to finally cleared to swim by my podiatrist after having an ingrown toenail removed two weeks ago (yuck). I even moved my appointment up in the day because I wanted to make sure I’d have time to go to the gym and swim.
Yesterday came, and my appointment, and her approval for me to get in the water. But as I started to get my things together to go, it became very clear that I did. not. want. to. I dragged my feet getting ready. I let the children play computer games for 15 more minutes. Time started creeping toward 2:30, when lap swim would start. I sighed and got everyone in the car and went to the Y. I walked slowly in. (I got caught in a conversation with a guy with a Hood to Coast 2012 shirt on. And in full disclosure, I actually consider that a legitimate use of time.) I dropped the kids off at the Play Center, and then I messed around on my phone for a couple of minutes texting my husband and two friends about how much I didn’t want to swim.
See, I have always hated swimming. I’ve never really even been able to do it. I mean, I took lessons once, lo some 27 years ago, and I knew how to locomote my person across the distance of the pool. But my family were not, and are not, ‘pool people.’ It is not a part of our lifestyle, so all I really needed to do was know how to Not Drown. I learned that and I was kinda done. I’ve never felt comfortable at the pool. I get discombobulated by all the splashing and the not-being-able-to-see. Then are the unfortunate associations from all those teenaged years where I was just incredibly uncomfortable with how I looked, and how much worse does that get at the pool? Like, a bazillionty times worse. I look at a pool and feel like this:
I repeat: I did not want to swim.
I went to the locker room. I fought with my disobedient swim cap (I won). I sighed and showered off. Then, I got in the pool. Slow lane. By myself. I carted myself through the length of the pool and back a few times. The water felt good, but I felt extremely self-conscious.
There were only a couple of people in the pool when I started, and they actually left soon after. I asked the lifeguard about the distance of the pool, as I’ve never known, and soon he came over and asked me about my swimming.
“You look pretty comfortable in the water,” he said.
“Ha ha ha NO! I need to take lessons. I want to take some lessons this fall. ” I replied.
“Really? You want some help?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, thinking he’d give me some tips and send me floating off into a slightly-happier state.
“Let’s just do this right now,” he said “Come here.”
Jocquell then proceeded to spend over an hour with me, privately teaching me… well, teaching me how to actually swim. Face in the water, blowing bubbles, pushing off, kicking, stroking, breathing. Since I’d never met him, and since he was being an above-and-beyond kind of kind, I wanted to do what he asked. So I worked really hard to impress him–did things I’d never have felt comfortable doing if it was coming from someone I knew, or during a group class, or whatever other excuse I’ve dreamed up in the past. Perhaps the ability to do the uncomfortable also came from running, from the confidence I’ve gained from that. I have seen what happens when you work to be better, and I always want that: improvement.
This guy is a great teacher. Patient, encouraging, but challenging, too. He pushed me approximately 324 times beyond what I thought I was capable of.
I got into the pool with great hesitation.
I left with great confidence.
And that is how, things changed for me yesterday. Not slowly, and not over time. But swiftly and with both great difficulty and great joy. Now I get to continue the change. Though changed, I did not morph into Natalie Coughlin yesterday. I need a lot of work on breathing. And kicking. “Whitewater! Let me see whitewater!” Jocquell kept shouting. But now I won’t dread getting into the pool–I have a starting point. I have goals. I have a need to practice and maintain what this incredibly nice and patient person did for me.
The takeaway: Push yourself! Do it! EVERY time you push yourself, you get rewarded. Somehow, and often in ways you could never imagine. You’ll see the change, even if it’s not sudden. You’ll see it. Just look for it.