So the Olympics made you want to try your hand at swimming? It will be the hardest and most rewarding thing you do in your life.
USA swimming blew your mind this past week. The excitement that seemed to ooze out of every race was palpable. The stories that NBC so magically weaved throughout the broadcast made you feel like the Olympians were your friends. The beauty of the athletes moving through the water (and getting out of the water) made you think, “Hey, I want to learn to do that . . . I think I’m going to try swimming!”
You are not alone in that sentiment. We won’t know until a year from now, but this will most likely be the largest year of growth for USA swim membership ever. Meaning, more athletes will join year round swim teams than ever before. I am making this prediction because it has happened every year after the past 4 Olympics. After 2000, 4.9% USA swimming membership growth. After 2004, 7.2%. After 2008 11.3%. After 2012, a record crushing 13.2% increase in USA swim membership. Notice a trend?
The romance of the Olympics has a lot to do with this trend. The “Phelps effect” also plays a significant role. The new physical fitness fads have also made people more aware that they have to move their bodies to stay healthy. (Orange theory anyone?)
I want to let you know that taking up swimming will be the hardest thing you do in your life. It will also be the most rewarding.
First the Bad:
Let’s take a look at what you think you are getting into vs. what your experience will most likely be.
What you think
|A 50 meter pool is big but I got it. Phelps only took 16-18 strokes per lap in his 100fly||A 50 M pool is RIDICULOUSLY BIG! I am at my 18th stroke and I’m barely ¼ of the way!|
|After a few weeks of practice I will be able to swim with the same ease and grace as Phelps||After a few weeks I can hold 1 to 2 “beautiful” strokes, get exhausted and from then on have a hard time getting my hands out of the water|
|Swim meets go fast: There was no wait for each event at the Olympics||TV editing. There were a total of 89 male athletes entered in the 50 M freestyle in Rio. Those athletes had to be whittled down to a final 8 over the course of 2 days in prelims, and semifinal heats. All of that is swam in one 8 lane pool. Then the women swam. There are an average of 89 girls ages 14-7 on a large summer swim team|
|How hard can training be? Sure those guys are professionals and are hard core, but I don’t have to be.||After 30 minutes in the pool you’re legs feel like Jello, your arms feel like lead weights and you’re hungry. You look at the clock and you have an hour and a half to go|
Did I make you nervous? I’m not sugarcoating anything. I don’t want to discourage you, but I also don’t want you to think that it will all be massages and gold medals.
Now. . . the good:
The magic of swimming comes over time. It comes in the wonderful people that you meet and the accomplishment you feel after every workout.
Over time your physical health will be the best it has ever been and your body will start to look amazing. You’re post workout “high” will be an addiction and you will rejoice when the soreness of your muscles make you use the elevator instead of the stairs. Your cholesterol levels will measure normal/excellent. Your heart will grow stronger, more efficient and your blood pressure will decrease.
Your mental health will most likely have the same metamorphosis. You will feel clear, level headed and ready for the day whenever you complete practice. You will start to feel happy just because. If you do start to feel sad you will more easily be able to pinpoint the reason why and go about fixing it.
The friends you make in your new surroundings will encourage you not to miss practice and will worry about you when you don’t make a training session. Your coach will be a steadfast confidant who sticks with you during thick and thin. Coach will encourage you when you feel timid and motivate you when you feel exhausted.
One very special thing about swimming that many people don’t realize is that it happens in the water. That may sound silly, but it’s true. Being surrounded by water for 2 hours is an almost therapeutic experience. The feeling of weightlessness is exhilarating. I’ve read that we love the water due to the conditions we were exposed to during fetal development. Having started life in an aquatic environment, they argue that we feel at home back in the water.
If you are interested in joining our tremendous sport don’t let anything you hear change your mind. If you think the sport looks fun, do it. If you think swimming will get you closer to your health goal, do it. If you think swimming will help you get you out of your shell and make more friends, do it. If you think swimming will get you those sweet 12 pack abs, do it.
You never know unless you try.
I hope you better understand what you are signing up for when you put on those goggles. I hope that you persevere the “bad” so that you can get the good, and never be ugly again.