They say the plunge into unknown depths is like love. It will bruise you if shallow or its depth will give you the most wonderful dive of your life.
After the initial screams of panic, muscle stiffness, being nearly blinded by the chlorine and awkwardness of being in a bathing suit died down (which nearly took a month), the swimming pool stopped being a thing of terror. I never thought myself to be hydrophobic until I was pushed into the a four feet deep pool and thought I was going to drown. I never knew how self-conscious I was of my body image until my first awkward walk out of the changing rooms for my swimming lesson. I never knew how my initial fear and pre-conceived notions held me back from trying out new things until I took my first dive after two weeks of climbing up and down the diving board.
My decision to take up swimming last year was one of the best lifestyle changes I ever made. During my childhood I swam in the pond (yes, a pond, not a fancy pool) at our home, especially during the summer holidays but it wasn’t too deep and it was more frolicking in the water than learning how to swim. Moreover, I was no longer pleasantly plump and bordered on being obese. Swimming seemed the perfect solution to lose the extra flab and cross off one item from my ‘things to do before I’m 30’ list. I browsed through nearly a dozen shops in search of a modest swimsuit and also the swimming cap and the goggles (which never failed to fog up). And the next day I was at the pool.
I took it up for fitness. A heightened sense of self-awareness, a calm mind and losing my fear of tackling the unknown were added bonuses. I still haven’t lost the flab entirely and at times the prospect of sleeping late seems more inviting than a frighteningly early morning swimming lesson but this is one activity which I will try to pursue as often as I can.
It’s a pain waking up at five in the morning for exercise and I pack my bag and head out to the pool half-asleep. But the moment I’m in the water relishing the slight shiver, breathing in the crisp morning air and floating in the crystal clear water, I’m home.
After a few laps I feel my body become lighter, the breathing regular and enjoying the the silky touch of the water on my skin. I don’t compete and rarely keeping tabs on the time taken to make a lap. I swim at my own pace. And within minutes I am not aware of the movement of my limbs. Just like breathing, barely perceiving. The mechanical strokes become almost meditative and my mind is free to ponder on my thoughts, often gaining new perspectives. I take in the beauty of the early morning, soaking in the warm sunshine; feasting my eyes on the blue water; it’s a state of pleasing serenity.
Then there is the joy of people-watching too. The pool is the meeting ground of a variety of people. There is the paranoid young girl flapping her arms since for more than a month at the shallowest end of the pool. There is also the “I-feel-I-am-God’s-gift-to-womankind-because-I-have-a-super-toned-butt” guy who strides leisurely around the pool looking very pleased at the beauty he exudes. The young lady of seventy who competes with her grandchildren, the professional swimmers hard on their training, the rowdy kids occasionally kicking me in the head in their enthusiasm to race each other, a giggling gang of fat funny females and few disturbingly attractive women who shine with the confidence that cellulite and stretch marks will never be a part of their lives, and lastly the instructors who have their own personal quirks; all these people are a part of my swimming experience.
I’m longing to go back into those blue waters after a prolonged break during the winter.