I fell into swimming like a belly flop into a pool. I never “learned” to swim. I’ve never had lessons and just sort of figured it out by instinct and watching other people. I remember so distinctly being at church camp the summer after fourth grade and swimming in the shallow end. You had to take a swim test – swim from one end of the smallish pool to the other – to swim in the deep end and I didn’t know how to swim. All my friends took the test and I hated being left in the shallow end without them. They encouraged me to try the test and I remember saying, “but I can’t swim! This is all I can do” and then I demonstrated what I knew. They all looked at me and said, “yeah, that’s swimming. You’re swimming.”
And so, apparently, I was a swimmer.
I took the swim test and swam in the deep end the rest of camp. It was glorious.
Flash forward about twelve years and two of my sisters and I decide to do a triathlon together. I have no idea why…it sounded fun? Between this decision and me learning of my swimmer status at camp, I’d only swam once in a while. There was no pool that was a fixture of my childhood and I’d never swam laps in my life. But if I was going to be a triathlete, I supposed I’d better get in the pool.
I got myself a black one piece, borrowed a swimming cap from someone and picked out a random pair of goggles at Target. Then joined the local rec center and started swimming.
Holy moly, I loved it. It was the best thing ever. I adored the feeling of the water all around me and the meditation of counting my strokes. It was blissful. I loved it so much I ended up vastly over-preparing for the swimming portion of the tri and severely under-preparing for the bike portion (my least favorite leg by far). Something I could never bring myself to regret.
Flash forward another six years. I haven’t swum much at all since the triathlon. Occasionally over the years, I’ll lament how I miss swimming but then I found yoga and let it go, never made it a priority to find a pool and get back to it.
I moved recently and had planned, of course, to find a yoga studio as soon as possible and have that practice be my main form of exercise. As I discovered the studios around me are all pretty expensive, I found that the community rec center is not only way cheaper, but offers yoga classes. I joined the rec and thought, “well, since there’s a pool I might as well swim some laps”.
That was a month ago. I’ve swam 285 laps since then and rediscovered my love of the sport. I’m suddenly making swimming a priority like I never have before and I’ve only done one land workout since joining the rec. I had forgotten just what a visceral experience it is to be in the water. To move my body in a rhythmic motion, my limbs all working together. I’d forgotten how powerful it feels to slice through the water, foraging a path via my own strength.
I wasn’t expecting to be back in the pool regularly again. Until I was. I had never thought I could complete a triathlon. Until I did. I never thought I knew how to swim. Until I tried.
It has been such a gift.
Now, between my experience at camp and the triathlon, I developed a terrible body image. I was always being told, implicitly and explicitly, that I was fat. That I was too big to do this or that thing. That I was smart and kind and creative but not pretty. Too big for pretty. Too big for athletic. However, I completed the triathlon and was proud of myself and that accomplishment. But not really proud of my body and what it could do.
Now I’m swimming again and I’m even heavier.
But now I’m swimming again and have fallen in love with my body in the last six years. It can seriously do so much amazing stuff. Maybe six years ago I could have agreed at least on an intellectual level, yes my body can do cool stuff. But now, I appreciate it and celebrate it and love it in a way I never did as a child or in my early twenties.
And I LOVE putting on my size 20 suit and donning my tinted goggles, lowering my flab into the pool and slicing through that water like a bad-ass queen. IT’S THE BEST.
I know I’ve written a lot of posts about what it means to me to be my size and do the things I do. And I’m going to keep writing about it because there are too many people that think they don’t have a “swimsuit body”. Because there are too many people punishing themselves for what they ate with exercise rather than marveling at their body in motion. Because there still aren’t enough people talking about their body love.
I love my body. Do I love every bit of it every day? Of course not. But I practice self-love. I practice gratitude for what this body can do (which is literally everything I ask of it). I celebrate my gigantic thighs because not only do they propel me everywhere I want them to, they are towers of strength, rooting me to the ground when I practice yoga. I adore (I really really try to adore) my flabby arms because not only do they help me hug and high-five, they push me through that water like a hot knife through butter.
I dare to bare my thighs and back and arms (and really, let’s be honest, my butt and my stomach, because swimsuits don’t leave much to the imagination) every time I swim. I do not let my size stop me from doing what I want to do, and I don’t let the terrible ways society and corporations put down fat woman stop me from doing what I want to do. I’ve long stopped feeling self-conscious or nervous when I hit the pool. I’m too busy being excited about swimming. I literally didn’t want to get out of the pool yesterday morning.
I’m excited to share I’ve chosen my next triathlon and am really looking forward to running and swimming (doing a relay with a friend so she can do the bike portion!).
So what about your body has you celebrating lately? How are you moving in ways that honor and love your body? A helpful practice on the journey of body love is to look at your body in the mirror and send love to a part of it that you usually have only disdain for, for whatever reason. Practice. You have untold strength within you. Give it a try. Body love. Body celebration.