The workout looked simple, but the addition was daunting.
Swim Master Greg had sent me a ladder workout. In other words, after the typical 1,000 yard warmup (complete with drills) the rest of the set increased then decreased yardage. The plan started with swimming a 100. Then a 10 second rest. Then a 200 with a 20 second rest. Then a 300 … you get the idea. All the way up to a 400. Repeat the 400 then come back down the ladder.
All told, with warmup and cool down, the workout was 3,100 yards.
To those who have been swimming most of their lives or for whom swimming has come naturally, that’s a typical workout load. For people like me, it’s doable but terribly, terribly daunting.
Swim Master Greg told me I could get out the second 400 if I wanted. My yardage would still be high and the focus on gaining muscle memory, working on finishing my stroke and utilizing my power, would still be there. I made no decision before heading to the pool. I would take it as it came.
Once I started swimming, I really wanted to hit that 3,000-yard mark. It would be my first 3,000 workout — heck it would be longest swim ever.
My arms started to burn, in that good way. The way that makes you know not only are you working, but working the technique properly. After that first 400 was finished, it was decided — bring on the next 400.
And so I hit my first 3,000-plus yardage workout.
In my head, I started singing “Stronger” by Kanye West. I did 3,100 yards. “Take that. Haters.” The lyrics were directed at no one in particular. Just a general boo-yah to life, a sense that I was in control of my day.
Whatcha got for me? I just 3,100 yards in the pool. Bring it.
All right, so my hubris and creativity were at opposite ends of the spectrum. I blame the 90 minutes in the chlorine. But regardless of how I expressed the sentiment, the underlying theme is universal and actually deeply powerful — when we feel in control of our bodies, we feel in control of our life. The universe may decide to challenge us that day, but control of our bodies gives us a sense of confidence. If I can handle this (insert your definition of a tough workout here) I can handle anything the day brings forward.
Athletics breeds strength — not just physical strength, which develops over time (because right now, the strength in my arms is non-existent and there’s a good chance they might fall off before lunch). It also breeds emotional strength. It develops an inner confidence. It makes you strong and humble at the same time. It allows you to see who you are, what you want and gives you the focus and the support system to create your own authentic life.
Important thoughts for today — International Women’s Day.
And it’s the perfect time to mesh women’s athleticism into the mix of political, social and economic advancement and celebration.
Because sport can be a major component of improving the lives of women worldwide.
In the grand scheme of women’s movements, sport usually is an afterthought. Understandably so as political oppression, stifling social norms and economic injustice are higher on the agenda. Athletics and exercise might even be viewed as frivolous or playing into the already existing system of marginalizing women. The covers of the latest issues of “Runner’s World” and “Women’s Running” both, for instance, tout weight loss. Health is an important concern, but somehow when selling fitness and health to women, it’s packaged as a way to achieve a good “look.” As if vanity were the only reason to run or bike or swim or strengthen your core.
But strip away the packaging and there is something much more powerful about athletics for women.
When you have power over your own body, strength and confidence increase. There is a connection among body, mind and spirit. Feeding one while ignoring the other keeps you from tapping into your deepest personal power. Collective movements often are only as strong as the individuals involved. And as those of us who have ventured into this world understand, that strength surfaces in many forms throughout our day and permeates every aspect of our lives.
So this morning, I swam 3,100 yards for myself, but also for women worldwide who need a bit of power in their lives — whether it be individual strength or collective change. By celebrating my own strength, by pushing my own limits, I help to broaden the possibilities for someone else, if only by changing the vibrational energy in the universe for that particular moment.