Unlike many swimmers, I started swimming late in life. In fact, I started very late. It wasn’t until shortly before I turned 30 years old that I got in the pool for the first time with an end goal of making it from one side to the other side without the help of a floatation device. At this point in my life, I already had several marathons and long distance bike rides under my belt. I considered myself in decent shape and truly felt like there wasn’t much I couldn’t do. A marathon or two will do that to you. I soon learned this was not the truth because after several attempts in the pool it was clear that I could not swim. Really and truly, I could not swim one length of a 25-yard pool without flailing about and looking like well, a fish out of water!
My solution to this was hiring a coach who eventually taught me to swim. It was hard and took a while, but within a few months I could swim decent distances. But I knew I wasn’t swimming very fast and if I wanted that to change, I would need to step up my game. A fellow triathlete friend recommended joining a local (US) Masters swimming team, an organized program of swimming for adults in the US. Initially I was very intimidated at the very thought, but one thing I learned when I started cycling years ago was that if you wanted to be good at something and eventually get better, you needed to surround yourself with people who were bigger, better and stronger than you. I knew deep down inside if I wanted to get better at swimming, I needed to train with swimmers.
With my ego tucked in my sleeve and with a stomach full of nerves, a few weeks later I attended my first Masters practice. It is a day I will always remember. Prior to this I had never circle swam, pulled, or used fins. I didn’t even know what a buoy was. I am sure my coach thought that would be my first and last practice. Little did I know when I left the gym after that first practice was that it was a true crash course in everything I didn’t know how to do but would eventually grow to do regularly and love.
Above and beyond the gear and the new workouts were the people I had and still have the great privilege to practice with. On my team, no two swimmers are the same. I regularly swim with people 20 or 30 years older than me that are better, faster swimmers than me and constantly give me a run for my money. I have swum with people with missing limbs and they have cruised by me in the next lane over. I have swum with pregnant women who could out kick me clear out of the pool. I have had my butt handed to me more than I’d like to admit, but each time I’ve come back and slowly but surely I have become a better swimmer. All of these wonderful people I have swam with over the years with have not only helped me learn how to become a better swimmer, but also to want to constantly get even better and to never accept what I do now as all I can ever do and all I will ever do.
Simply put, swimming made me check my ego at the door because swimming is humbling.
More: Swimming Studies