Today I’m sitting stranded in a fog-bound Dubai airport trying to make it back to England to visit family. Yesterday, back home in Melbourne, I went for a swim. It was my first swim in probably 12 months.
And it sucked.
You see, I used to call myself a swimmer. I used to race competitively for the Doncaster Dolphins in the pool and in the ocean, in Victoria and nationally. It’s what I did in my ‘spare’ time. It was preferred workout of choice. It made me feel great when I did a good, hard training session or when I PB’d in a race – never mind maybe even won a race!
I’m competitive and I love to win. I loved racing. I loved training. It didn’t even matter if it was the middle of winter (we trained in an outdoor pool) and the set was hard. Swimming was my thing.
But it’s been two years since I raced, won medals or even trained with any real consistency. I do have a whole bunch of very valid excuses as to why I haven’t – two rounds (three individual) hip surgeries within 19 months, a husband dying in the middle of an ocean race, a house and business move and the associated emotional trauma of coming to terms with the fact my marriage had been a warped and twisted abusive relationship from start to shock-finish.
To be honest, for the last year I have had zero interest in getting back in the water. It used to a place where I felt safe and where I had space to work on stuff in my head during the many hours of training each week. It used to be my ‘happy place’.
Then Charles died and I didn’t feel that way anymore – partly because of how he died, but also because we had trained together it just all got a bit yuck. Over time, as I began to fully grapple with the nature of our relationship I realised that the control and emotional abuse was so intrinsically bound up with my swimming that I began to realise that part of me didn’t want to swim anymore as some kind of ‘FUCK YOU’ to him. I don’t HAVE to do anything I don’t want to do anymore – even swimming.
I really have lost my mojo – my motivation and desire for swimming. I was swimming long before I met Charles, in fact, looking back, those were the swimming days that I loved the most. When I was part of the squad, going away to my first inter-state meet, racing without the fear of not living up to his expectations.
I have blamed my hip rehabilitation and ongoing pain, I have blamed a lack of time now that I have a business, a partner and between us five children to juggle. And whilst all of those things have certainly made it harder to get back in the pool I am also acutely aware that if I had really and truly wanted to, I would have prioritised it somehow and made it happen.
I just wrote a blog for The Huffington Post about being truthful – with yourself and others – and so in the interests of honesty (and practicing what I preach) I’m going to put it out there and say that I haven’t been swimming for so long because I just haven’t wanted to.
That is until the other morning, when I was sitting in bed drinking coffee and scrolling through my Facebook feed, and I happened upon an article by Michelle Steinke-Baumgard (One Fit Widow) and it got me thinking. It reminded me of all the reasons why I loved swimming, of all the ways that it made me feel better and be better. I have never swum, or exercised in any way because it was a means to a weight-loss aim. It’s always been about how it makes me feel.
So I went for a swim. I left my children in the care of Andrew and I headed off to my nearest pool – the newly updated Boroondara Sports Complex which is a mere 10 minutes from my new house. No excuses. Bag was packed in about six minutes and I was on my way.
The psychology of getting my arse to the pool was one thing.
It all got a little bit more tricky once I got into the water. Turns out my brain remembers really well what it feels like to swim fast and effortlessly like I used to.
My body not so much. It hurt. Lots. And I wasn’t even trying to do anything very hard!
And so whilst I was sitting stranded on the tarmac at some random Dubai airport because the main international airport was temporarily not letting any other airplanes in its airspace I spent some time reflecting.
Comebacks hurt. They take effort and willpower, focus and determination. And they require a start point. So, I will find the time in 2017 to get back in the pool. I will prioritise my own health and wellbeing better than I did in 2016 and I will keep swimming.
For me. For my body and for my mind and most of all because I deserve it.