So it’s been a year of swimming regularly. I started thinking about it as something to do to augment my regular exercise and after a year I’ve found that swimming has not only taken over but I just sent in a registration form to compete in an honest-to-God swim meet. And not some little fuck-around meet, either. A big one. With blocks and timing pads and everything! It’s kind of a big deal.

As I was sealing up the envelope with my registration form inside I started asking myself how I got here. What changed? And what had I actually accomplished along the way. I’m not sure what exactly changed, other than enjoying it. It was fairly simple to alter the workout routine to substitute swimming for my typical cardio work. As I re-familiarized myself with the pool, I did it more and more, and the elliptical less and less. I started off swimming 1000 yards on my lunch hour, two or three times a week. Now I’m swimming five days a week, three days on my own and twice a week with a USMS team. I’m averaging 14000 yards a week– about five times what I started doing.

So there’s that. What’s more I started keeping track of things as the year progressed. I mean, it’s swimming. You go up the lane, you flip around and you come back down the lane. Up and back, up and back, up and back. It’s not the most exciting of exercises.

For several months I swam the same workout each time. I started with five 200 Free on whatever it took to do them. When I completed five of them, I congratulated myself, got out of the pool and walked around feeling virtuous the rest of the day. As I got stronger, my times dropped and I could complete the workout in less time. Eventually I added a sixth 200 Free, but by that time I was pretty bored.

So I watched the clock. I started playing games with myself. Can I do this 50 in less than a minute? Can I string a set of three 200 Free on the 4:00 together without completely gasping out? Can I catch that guy swimming a lane over? I think it was that last one that did it. Having those little imaginary races in my head with other people in the pool. They didn’t know they were racing me. Or maybe they did; I don’t know. Maybe they were doing the same thing to me. We never talked about it.

I started tinkering with my workout. I tried to remember the workouts from when I was a kid– that was fruitless. I turned to online to look for help, and initially that was only mildly helpful. Workouts are all over the place in terms of intensity, distance and goals. Triathlons have become popular forms of exercise and there are a number of suggestions for workouts as part of triathlon training. I looked at some of those and mixed things up a bit, but nothing really fit right. Eventually I discovered a website run by some Kiwis out of New Zealand that provided customized workouts. Swimplan asks you to enter some basic information about yourself, your swim ability and your facilities and then kicks out up to five workouts every day for you to choose from. By this point I was swimming regularly five days a week: three times during the workweek and twice on weekends. I signed up, punched in my basic numbers and waited to see what it would suggest. It kicked out at 2200 yard workout, nearly double what I had been swimming on a daily basis. But the workout was broken down into sections: warm up, build up, core and warm down. It had sets. It had intervals. It suggested appropriate rest and intensity levels. It was, essentially, a stand in coach.

And I ate it up. I took that first workout with me to the pool and was through it much faster than I had anticipated. And I felt great afterward. I thought I would be completely gassed after doubling my workout. I wasn’t. Over the next few months I refined my information, added time trial data. I bought some paddles and a pull bouy so I could drill with those. Swimplan supplies appropriate drills depending on what equipment you tell it you have.

Swimming was very much part of my daily routine. Whirl commented that if I went too many days without swimming, I would grow crabbier and irritable. Complete a workout and I would return to calm, cool and collected. Endorphins are amazing that way. I got to know a few of the regular swimmers at the pool, people I ran into every week. In more than a few conversations, it was suggested that I look into Masters swimming. In mid-October I followed up on those suggestions and I’ve been very happy about that decision ever since.

The end of the year has been plagued by some facilities problems with my regular lunchtime gym. The pool has been intermittently out of commission starting in November. So an added benefit of joining the team is that team practice has given me another outlet while the gym tries to fix their pool.

My highlight accomplishment has to have been the Hour of Power workout in late December. The workout was very simple: swim non-stop for an hour. They kept track of our distance and recorded our time at the end of every 50. I swam 3850 yards in an hour, approximately 2.2 miles. And what is more impressive is that I kept a much steadier pace than I could have hoped for.

Some accomplishments over the past year swimming:

  • Weight Loss : 43 pounds
  • Weight Loss : 6 inches off my waist
  • One hour nonstop distance : 3850 yards
  • 100 Free : 1:13
  • 200 Free : 2:41
  • 500 Free : 7:23
  • 1000 Free : 15:26
  • 100 Back : 1:35
  • 100 Breast : 1:36

I plan to use those results to build some goals for the next year. But before that, it’s off to the races!