Amy Tries Again

I Go Swimming And Actually Write About It
April 4, 2011, 8:30 AM
Filed under: In Which I Try Again, Things I Like, Things I Like But Do Not Do

A few weeks ago now, I posted a picture of my sandy, sunburnt self grinning like a loon. I’d just been swimming at the imaginatively named Sandy Beach, after far too long avoiding the water. We’d gone to Sandy Beach to visit Ash’s lovely sister Kristy and her family, and the ocean and I could not have had a better reunion. The second I was in the sea, all my reluctance seemed utterly ridiculous. I hadn’t realised it, but I’d been talking it down to myself. Revisiting things adored in childhood feels, to me, mildly dangerous.  There’s a risk that whatever it was you once loved might now seem smaller, or gaudier, or just embarrassing. With this cheerful theory in mind, I’d been bracing myself to be entirely underwhelmed.

I’d set myself up for disappointment. This was probably why I felt absolutely elated when I realised I was wrong. It was glorious. The very first thing I noticed was that I’d forgotten all about the feeling of the sand under your feet being sucked away with a receding wave. How had that just vanished from my brain? I’d loved that.

Something like this.

I felt a bit sad and melodramatic, to be honest – I almost hoped I hadn’t hurt the ocean’s feelings too much by refusing to interact with it for so long. My sentimental musings didn’t last too long. I was far too busy splashing about and diving under waves. Sometimes the diving efforts backfired and I emerged spluttering, saltwater streaming down the back of my nose. A very slight rip pulled me gently to the right, and it felt dangerous and exciting. My fingers wrinkled. Ash looked at me, smiling.


‘You look so happy.’

I was. The sea was just exactly how I’d left it. All I’d had to do was get back in.

We returned home the next day. I’d meant to write about it. I’d made notes and everything. I wanted to try something else as well, though. This had gone so well, I had to get back into a proper pool.

A few days later, though, the saltwater high had worn off. The pool didn’t seem such a wonderful, non-terrifying idea anymore. I put it off. The pool would be different, I thought. There would be lots of people there. They’d all be sleek and fit and probably be in training for corporate triathlons.

Well, yesterday morning I went. I walked to the Ithaca Pool and swam laps. It was incredibly normal and incredibly strange at the same time. I’d never been to that particular local pool before, as far as I remember, but it was just as a local pool should be. The admission booth was also the kiosk, and sold goggles and lolly snakes. Oversized clocks cycled smoothly on the wall, and blue, chlorinated water twisted the shadows from the bunting strung over the pool for the benefit of those attempting backstroke. I was familiar with this world, but I was rusty.

‘Um, is it just any lane, then?’ I clutched my towel and handed over my coins.

‘Yeah.  Any lane’.

I chose lane three. For the first few laps, the whole thing felt rather laboured, like I was practising a forgotten dance routine. One, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe. Then I got distracted by the patterns of light on the bottom of the pool – I’d always loved to look at them – and suddenly, I was just swimming. I thought of my Grandfather. He loved to swim. He would have been glad I was back in the pool. This made me happy.

The high-flying corporate all-rounders with an interest in competitive fitness must have been at a conference or something. A middle-aged man made his deliberate way up and down the pool, stopping after every lap to adjust his goggles. An elderly woman protected herself from the early morning light in a full lycra sunsuit. A pregnant woman sliced through the water surprisingly quickly. One woman stayed entirely in the children’s wading pool, walking back and forth through the water and stretching. Strong looking men and women pounded laps, but they weren’t scary at all.

I remembered lots of things. I switched between strokes every few laps – I even tried backstroke. (It turns out I’m still terrified that I’m about to hit my head on the wall of the pool.) I did some clumsy tumble turns, and rediscovered how much I liked doing laps with a kickboard.

Image from

I'm a speedboat! Get out of my way!

It was an excellent start to the day, and I felt positively chipper for the rest of the morning. In short: swimming is fun. The water is nice and cool, your arms get tired in a good way (I love a good arm stretch) and you get to look around underwater with goggles on.  I honestly don’t know why I thought I might not like all these things anymore.

The most positive sign? I found myself thinking that the bathing suit I’d bought a few weeks ago (carefully selected to look as flattering as possible) just wouldn’t do on a long-term basis. I’d had to adjust it a few times, and it was no good for doing tumble turns in. No, what I needed was a pair of racer-back togs cut in a sensible way without silly ruched tummy-hiding panels. Something I could move in. Something practical.

I may or may not have already picked out a new pair online and bought some eyedrops to combat chlorine. That said, I can’t say that I’ve rushed back into swimming’s damp embrace. I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep. Swimming and I are hanging out. Taking it slow. After all, it’s been a while, and I’ve cleverly started flirting with it again only a few weeks before my local pool closes for winter. But hey: there are indoor pools. I haven’t been to one of those for quite some time, either. I’m thinking the Spring Hill Baths.

Swimming, you’re alright. This could be the (re)start of a beautiful friendship.


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I revisited a public pool for the first time since high school recently. I’d forgotten just how crucial goggles are in that environment. I’m not sure if it was the chlorine or the child urine but I was nearly blinded after only a few laps.

Comment by DNABeast

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