I’m having a rough time right now. I’m dealing with it by swimming a lot of butterfly. It’s no surprise that I’m having a rough time right now; it’s December, and December is difficult. Fortunately I have enough self-awareness to recognize what’s going on. I swim for my mental health — any physical benefits are just happy side effects — and I know when I need to adjust the dosage, I mean, yardage.
There are times when a person swims long, steady, meditative swims under beautiful skies. And there are times when a person swims sprints, 12 x 25 alt free and fly, in old, dark 25-yard pools.
Swimming butterfly is the opposite of meditative. It is all-consuming. I have to concentrate on technique the whole time: putting my hands up straight ahead of my shoulders, keeping my feet in the water. When I get tired, my hands hit each other in front and my feet pop out, and I think, “Dammit, woman, get it together.” By number eight I’m breathing hard. By number twelve I’m done.
But if I swim enough butterfly, peace descends upon me like a blanket placed on my shoulders. Sometimes I can feel it hit as I’m walking back to the office. It’s clearly biochemical — endocannabinoids– and it works. Make your own mood-altering chemicals, my friends, in your own bodies.
Yesterday I swam this:
- 2 x 500 modified SKIP
- 12 x 25 alt free/fly on :30
- 200 free, breathe every 5 strokes
- 200 free breathe whenever I wanted
- 6 x 50 kick on 1:00
- 12 x 25 alt free/fly on :30 (again)
- 4 x 75 (25 free, 25 fly, 25 free) on 1:20
- 4 x 75 (25 free, 25 back, 25 free) on 1:20
- 4 x 75 (25 free, 25 breast, 25 free) on 1:25
- 4 x 75 (all free) on 1:15
- 100 cool down
That’s 3600 yards. A SKIP is Swim, Kick, IM, Pull; I did the 500s as 200 swim, 100, kick, 100 IM, 100 pull. And those 25s, by the way, are really on 25 seconds (free) or 35 seconds (fly), so I can have more rest for the fly.
When the roof was being fixed at my pool last month, the pace clocks at either end of the pool became unsynched. I didn’t realize it until the first time I did a set that involved 25s or 75s. I came up at the far end, looked at the clock, and became completely disoriented. Time made no sense. So now I’m using the stopwatch function on my watch, which is as difficult as the rest of December: I’m not wearing reading glasses while I swim, and I can barely make out the numbers.
My eyes are old. And it’s December. But I’m dealing with it. I’m swimming butterfly.