True, running was my No. 1 form of stress relief and the main thing keeping me sane. But as Ms. Hagerty told me when I called her up to talk about my plan, “Midlife is the perfect time to try something new because you’ve lived enough years to know yourself. You have a good sense of who you are, and when you approach something new, you can pivot on your skills and passions.” I would find salvation in the pool.
I texted the YMCA instructor who taught my 7-old-year daughter to swim last summer. “Can you give me a lesson and teach me how to breathe?” I asked.
She agreed, and we met at the Y pool early on a Saturday morning. She showed me how to breathe every third stroke, which meant alternating breathing on either side. “Lots of people struggle to do this and only want to breathe to one side,” she explained. Here, I saw the benefit of being a beginner: I had no bad habits or muscle memory leading me astray. Tell me to breathe every third stroke? No problem.
Next, she showed me how to bend my elbow as I reached for the next stroke, as if I was dragging my hand up the side of my torso. I had pictured my arms as windmills, gracefully circling around, but she said that was less efficient, and bad for my shoulders. “Got it,” I said, practicing the drill she gave me.
In 30 minutes and for $20, I learned enough to get started. I hit the pool twice that week, swimming about 30 laps each time. I enjoyed it, but the goggles I had borrowed from the Y were terrible, my suit from the past summer was stretched out and dragged in the water, and the chlorine was wreaking havoc on my hair color. I decided to invest in a decent suit, a good pair of goggles, and a swimming cap. When I tried on the ensemble at home, my daughter told me, “Mom, you look like an Olympic person!” I wasn’t there yet but I was committed and set a goal: swimming a mile, 66 lengths of the Y’s pool, without stopping.