Over the past couple of weeks, I have been slowly easing back into the water. In early May, my gym opened up by reservation only – but I still felt too nervous to go. I wanted to give it a few weeks to see how their protocols were working, monitor the Covid-19 cases in our area, and just generally sit on some thoughts and feelings about being out in public.

Since that opening, I have been a handful of times, and generally feel very safe at the indoor pool. I get a 45 min reservation, and the pool is never full. One day, my kids and I were the only ones there. We get a temperature check to come in, go directly to the pool deck (don’t pass GO, don’t collect $200), and really don’t come into contact with anyone but the front desk staff (who are behind glass and required to wear masks). So I’m officially back, but in small doses.

The first day I went, I honestly didn’t feel that bad or out of shape. My arms ached, but that was to be expected. Endurance wise, I felt like all the running I was doing had helped. It must have been beginner’s luck because every swim since that has, to be honest, been frustrating both mentally and physically. Not only do I feel so far from the progress I made months ago, but I can feel my stroke is off and I’m making a lot of small mistakes. I suspect I am not the only one out there feeling this way in the water, so I’m here to share my experience. If you or (for parents) your swimmer is feeling similar frustrations – know you are not alone.

My stroke feels “off”. I don’t know how else to describe this – but swimmers, you get it. My technique feels wrong, but I haven’t figured out why. My stroke rate either feels to slow or too fast. I’ve forgotten how to sprint. That “easy speed” stride you get when you’re in shape is just gone. I realized this week that building my endurance and aerobic base back up is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve decided to spend a few pool sessions going back to basics and focusing on drills rather than trying to “benchmark” myself with tough intervals.

I keep choking on water. This one has really baffled me – I’ve been swimming MY WHOLE LIFE. But, it’s no surprise that with my stroke feeling “off”, my breathing does too. I went a whole workout the other day and must have choked on/inhaled water at least 10 times over the course of 45 min. Again, lots of drills in my future.

My equipment makes me hurt. One of the things I love about swimming Masters is kicking with fins whenever I want – but lately, I get through about a 200 and my feet and ankles start to ache. I’ve never been great with fins (because I have freakishly small feet), but combined with the running I’ve been doing they really make my knees and feet hurt. I’ve been careful about reintroducing paddles as well, too much too fast could lead to shoulder injury until I get my stroke technique a little more solid. Be careful not to go all in with all your equipment too soon.

It isn’t as fun as I thought it would be. All over social media and my swimming network I’ve read posts for the last 3 months about how we all can’t wait to be in the water again, myself included. So, it feels weird to admit this but, it hasn’t been all that fun for me. Sure, the first couple swims felt good – weird but good. But I am a competitive person. I want to be in shape – my ultimate goal is to get back to swimming in meets and right now it’s an uphill battle. I feel so far away from being in shape, it just feels too hard. I want too much too soon. So while I’m working on getting back into physical shape, I also need to take a step back and get myself in good mental shape – remember why I do this – to HAVE FUN.

I keep comparing myself to others. Post-pandemic FOMO is real. When I read about teams getting back in the water, and see my swimming friends that have access to open water or more pool time than I do – I start to think, “oh no, now I’m even more behind if I don’t get in today”. In reality – my 45 min to your hour isn’t going to make much of a difference – the game has been equalized by the pandemic. It’s amazing how often I need to remind myself of this. Quick story – my husband recently returned from about an 8 month deployment and has had 0 pool time since Oct/Nov of last year. This week, he went back to swim with his Masters team and one day did 4100 yds and all I could think was, “ugh, now he’s ahead of me” 🤦‍♀️. Sure, Rachel. He’s been in twice in 8 months – he must be so far ahead 🙄. Also, why do I care what everyone else is doing? He and I have actually been talking about a lot of these same struggles we both feel in the water right now, and I can imagine it’s much worse for him having been out so long. I was in serious need of a reality check.

Despite these struggles, I am glad to be back in the pool, and I know it will get easier and more fun the more we’re able to all be back together. When I move to Florida next month, my whole family will be able to swim with the same team, which is pretty cool. The hubs and I have been joking about who gets morning masters practice and who gets evening. I think normal is still a long ways away, but bits and pieces will slowly return. The bottom line, be kind to yourself – encourage your young swimmers to be patient with themselves. After all, you can take the swimmer out of the pool, but you can’t take the pool out of the swimmer…. or something like that 😉.

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