Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Failing a workout isn't really failing

Post-swim self-photo in my swimsuit, cap, & goggles flexing my bicep
Post-swim self-photo in my swimsuit, cap, & goggles*
On Monday I was having a pretty bad pain flare, but I wanted to swim...kinda.  I told myself that all I needed to do was 500 yardss, then I could get out of the pool if I wanted to.  Even a little bit of exercise can make a huge difference in health-related biomarkers (if you don't believe me, Google Dr. Stephen Blair from South Carolina).  I could do any stroke, go as slow or as fast as I wanted, but 500 yardss was the benchmark.  In truth, if my pain would have spiked severely while swimming those 500 yardss, I would belittling my workout, no beating myself up over not hitting my benchmark.  Judgement-free workout.

So I get to the competition pool and can't find a lane that's either being used for a swim team practice or has teenagers playing in the lane (which the lifeguard isn't supposed to allow in that pool, but my back was bad enough.  I didn't bother talking to the lifeguard because I had a limited distance that I could walk, and getting to him and back to the lane would have eaten up the spoons I had allotted for the workout.  Instead, I noticed that the therapy/recreation pool had an open lane.  I don't like swimming laps in warm water (the therapy pool usually is around 85°F), but I just kept telling myself that I could stop at 500 yards.

It was a hard ten laps, my back was angry, I was cranky from getting splashed by kids playing nearby (and playing on the stairs and ramp...things the lifeguard is supposed to deal with, but didn't).  I finished by 500, spine still angry, still cranky, and got out.  I hit my baseline goal, but I had to keep reminding myself that I didn't fail the workout because I got in the pool and did it.  It's ok that it didn't feel good today.  I did it and that's what matters.

So yesterday after work, I went to the pool again.  This time I got a lane in the competition pool (still on the long course 50 yard setup).  I did 100 yards of breast stroke and realized that my back was really not happy with doing that any more.  I then started to do some freestyle, fully intending to switch strokes as I usually do every 100-200 yards.  Something clicked in my mind that just let me keep going without stopping to catch my breath.  100 yards became 200, 200 became 400, 400 became 800, and then 1000.  I stopped at 1000 yards of freestyle mainly because my right shoulder has been a bit sore lately and I didn't want to aggravate it.

I then realized that my short swim on Monday may have given me the opportunity to push my body further than it's gone since I was doing triathlons in 2007.  I haven't done more than 400 yards continuously.  By trusting my body (much like Anna at Curvy Yoga did), I did something that I hadn't done for a long time.  I did most of those laps without kicking as my spine protested every time I had a meaningful flutter kick, but I still did it.

It made me think of Ragen Chastain's blog post about how fat isn't the opposite of fit, and how disability isn't the opposite of fit either.  Bodies can be a lot of different sizes, shapes, configurations, and abilities, and still can do a lot of amazing things.  Fitness can also mean different things to different people in different circumstances.  It's also something that shouldn't be a mandate nor should it be something that creates a moral divide.  Fitness does not make me a "good person" nor does it make me any better than anyone else.  Ideal fitness to one person may be to be able to complete a marathon.  For another person it would be to be able to walk around the block.  Another person it could mean to be able to bench press 200 pounds, another to be able to play airplane with their toddler.  It's personal, and it's up to you to decide.

For me, it's also deciding that I need a day off to rest my shoulders instead of going to the pool three days in a row, even though the aquatic center is going to have the competition pool closed from Thursday afternoon until Sunday....because I need to let my muscles rest and repair themselves so I don't get injured.  It's not the easiest thing to do for me as I really enjoy being active, but it also gives me a chance to reconnect with my body (something I have trouble doing with chronic pain).

Onward and rest-ward!

*This self-photo with the camera on my phone was hard to post here, but I think it's important to have more images of fat folks that are doing physical things (or having done physical things, in the case of this photo).  I find it fascinating how I was worried to show my fat arms, or the places where the suit doesn't contain my flesh as well.  Maybe someone else will see the beauty in this photo even when I'm having trouble looking at it.  Also, I've decided that everyone looks a bit silly with a swim cap on, and I'm no exception! :-)


  1. Honestly, my mind went straight to the swim cap in your photo. There's no way (well maybe a small way) that I would ever take a photo of me with a swim cap on. I look super silly. So good on ya for posting it anyway! And good on you for basically pulling a 1,000 yds. My body totally hates anything over a 500. :)

  2. Oh, I loved your photo! And thank you for posting this. I've been dealing with a lot of pain lately (mostly plantar fasciitis and what is probably a shoulder tear), and I've been feeling kinda low about not doing as much as I'd like to, or really, as much as I feel I *should* be doing.

    As it turns out, when I give myself permission to do something every day that feels good for my body, no matter how small or insignificant-seeming it is, it keeps the momentum - and the joy - going.