Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I thought I'd be bouncing up and down with silly yellow plastic floaty dumb bells. I thought there'd be ladies in bathing caps and lots of good natured sharing of aches and pains. I thought I'd be able to keep up.

Wrong. Totally wrong. Not even close. I was humiliated.

I had to have someone teach me how to stay underwater and glide. By the fourth of 8 25 yard laps I was pulling myself along the lane divider, trying not to swallow any more pool water. Breathing was a dimly remembered skill, albeit one quite useful when trying not to drown. I knew how to do it - I just didn't have the energy. Breakfast was oatmeal and brown sugar and skim milk and vitamins and bee pollen. It seemed like healthy fuel for a work-out, especially after I'd carbo-loaded on semolina toast with strawberry jam last night. Maybe I should've had some protein - like half a cow?

I didn't realize that it was possible for your entire body to be covered in sweat while you were swimming. Mine was part physical exertion and part mental terror - not only was I the oldest person in the class (by several decades, mind you) I was also the shortest person (by many inches). Not being able to have my head above water while my feet are on the ground is an uncomfortable sensation for me, and when it bumps up against tired and short of breath I am not a happy camper.
I couldn't pout, though. Amster had told them I was tough. Quitting was not a viable option. On the other hand, no one was counting my laps and no one would know if I completed 6 or 8. One thing I did know was that there was no way that I was going to be gasping out laps, looking like everyone's nightmare, while the rest of the class watched and waited. What I did, I did as well as I could. How many I did is between me and Joe Weider.

There were many variations of the experience - with and without flippers and kick boards and above the water and below. Most of the other participants looked quite relaxed as they glided beneath the surface, a steady stream of evenly spaced air bubbles rising in their wakes. The deep breath I took before submerging just made me more bouyant. I was floating on the surface in no time. And my air bubbles were uneven, to say the least.

I was fine on the land piece of the class. I'm not much for explosive movements any more, so jumping jacks and squat thrusts were unwelcome suggestions. But I did them all. With perfect form and using all the relevant body parts. I scooped my lower belly and engaged my i-t band to do the roll-overs and snickered to myself when I heard them encouraging each other to use momentum to get their legs up and over their heads. They wouldn't last 10 minutes in pilates. Unfortunately for me, were were in Aquatica.

Once again, I am reminded of TBG's oft-repeated caveat on exercise - each activity prepares you for itself and not much else. I can work up a huge sweat on the elliptical or the treadmill or in yoga or pilates and feel energized and stronger at the end of the workout. But put me in the pool, and I'm a failure. All that aerobic capacity? Gone. All those muscles working in perfect harmony? Missing in action. He's absolutely right -- I haven't trained for it and my skills don't transfer.
I have no doubt that I'd improve if I stuck with it. And Amster wants me to meet her there next week. I don't know. Right now, all I want is a soak in the hot tub and the world's largest glass of ice tea.

I could still make it to my favorite yoga class - if I could stand up, that is.

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