Swimming lessons from the slow lane


I hit the pool at my local Rec Centre this morning to do laps for the first time in my entire life.

The running injury is still healing and it’s a good, low impact sport. I was ready to kick it. Despite never doing formal laps in a huge pool, I was a pretty good swimmer as a kid…

Turns out kidhood was a long time ago. I should’ve done more research.

If I had done more research I would have known that if you’re unsure of your speed, it’s okay—and encouraged—to pick the empty lane and see how you go. Instead, I picked the busier Medium lane.

An elderly man in the water nodded forward and said “you can go first, you’re faster than me.” I laughed, told him I hadn’t been swimming in a long time, and kicked off without a thought.

If I had done more research I would have likely avoided the small emotional crash that was waiting for me at the end of my own foolishness. I would have found out that starting out swimming is HARD.

After awkwardly struggling for a few laps and trying to figure out the pattern the swimmers were moving in (I should have researched this too, sigh), I returned to the starting wall to see two lifeguards.

It was like a movie, when someone returns home to find two cops in their kitchen and you know they’re busted. The pool cops kindly directed me to the “Slow” lane, which was empty, while seniors glided with clean backstrokes in the background.

Then one of the pool cops told me to stick to the left-hand side… by the wall.

She totally thought I was going to drown. That’s how bad my form was.

Only slightly embarrassed, I headed to the Slow Lane and finished up the rest of my 30 minute swim, trying to correct a form I hadn’t used since kiddie swimming lessons with research I didn’t have. Trying to breath through the motions of the front stroke. Trying not to let the old feeling of gym class humiliation settle in and ruin the experience.

Even as I’m writing this, I realize how crazy it was to dive in without further reading. The assumption that I could just bust out an amazing front stroke on-demand with little experience and no practice is crazy.

As my friend Baz put it, “No one (who is sane) who hasn’t run in ten years is going to join a half marathon with no training or work up.”

If it was arrogance, my ego has been properly deflated. If it was stupidity… lesson learned.

Only thing to do now is Google and get back into the pool.

The bright side of your first running injury

After my first marathon last year my physiotherapist called me a miracle human.

This ain’t a brag—I was in for an injury. A week after the Best Day Ever my left foot was experiencing discomfort. She asked if I had any other injuries after running 26.2 miles. When I said no, she laid the Best Compliment Ever on me.

She didn’t find anything wrong with the foot either, but advised me to stop running if I felt any pain and prescribed me some exercises. (Which I did for about 2 weeks and then forgot about. Oop.)

I healed and went back to running, finishing the Around The Bay 30k in March, and Run For The Toad 25k in September without any issues until now.

The mysterious left foot flare up is back and worse than before.

Is it because I broke my own rules and didn’t take a fulll recovery week off? Is it because I had a busy summer and didn’t train as much as I wanted to? Is it a fatphobic notion that weight gain has brought this injury upon me?

Who can say? All I’ve got is a foot that is stiff and a little sore when I wake up in the morning or when I try to run on it.

Whatever it is, it snuffed my hopes of running the Hamilton Road2Hope Half Marathon this past weekend and has forced me out of my running shoes. My long run two Saturdays ago ended with some frustrated tears as I ran a block, walked a block all the way back home while my foot complained at me.

Negatives of having a running injury:

• Not running is scary
• I’m more cagey and anxious
• Not running makes me have some body image flare ups
• I feel like less of a runner which is ridiculous. What’s more runner than running so much you actually can’t run anymore?

I think the key here is keeping the long game in view. It helps to remember that I want to be able to run for many years, not just the next few.

Positives of having a mild running injury:

It healed once and with care it will (hopefully) heal again
• Allows me to incorporate different types of cardio into the routine
• Allows me to embrace low impact activities like yoga
• Makes me rest up before my annual December Run Streak
• I have less laundry from having no sweaty running clothes to wash.
• More time for self care like reading
• Now I can really taking the time to rest up because there are some big plans in the works

So tonight I’m going to hunt for some new sports gear and researching gym memberships. Even if I can’t run the way I would like at the moment, I need to keep moving for my brain. It’s cross training szn honey. (Have I been listening to Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast? You bet.)