No Sea Swimming, Now What?
We left our residence in San Carlos, Mexico to return to Tucson because of the Covid-19 crisis. In Mexico, I swam daily in the Sea of Cortez for an hour or more. Very little could deter me from the water. I even swam (with a wetsuit) on winter days the water dipped down into the 50s. And I swam on days when swells were large or there was a lot of chop. Not even stingray mating season could keep me out. On days when a large and soon familiar pod of bottlenose dolphins would swim by – occasionally pausing to play or chat – I felt as if I belonged out there in the sea and it was the one place on Earth I truly fit in. I felt at peace, calm, whole, feeling the gently rush of the water all around me and inhaling the salty air deep into my lungs.
All at once, I was in Tucson, not only without the sea but with no open pools. My mood quickly plummeted. I rushed out to run in hopes that I could acquire that calm I obtained from swimming post-workout. No such luck. By the end of the week, I felt uncomfortable sensations in literally every vertebra. My hips weren’t too happy either. For two nights, sleep eluded me. My body was rebelling against these new workouts.
I contacted an expert running coach, Dr. Jason Karp, once I had somewhat of a grip. It took about two weeks before I felt ready. Days before I called him, I broke out in hives worrying I might burst into tears during the call, which I was doing frequently when I awakened each morning realizing it would be another swimmingless day. Even when I did call, I had a hard time not sounding pathetic. I felt pathetic. In the water, I felt strong, powerful, like I was connected to the sea and everything that lived in it. On land, I felt clumsy, weak, like my body was old and falling apart. Jason suggested that I alternate days with walking and running. And on the days I ran, he suggested doing intervals. Then I might get more of a rush of good energy instead of that I feel like I’m going to collapse feeling, which was more descriptive of my experience so far. About this time, my husband ordered a TRX because he was frustrated with the interruption of his weight workouts. So the next week, I planned to embark on Jason’s suggestion to alternate run/walk days with walk days and made the choice on my own that I would do TRX two to three times a week as well. This would hopefully provide the high and the optimal mental function I experienced after a swim. To restore some sense of calm, which I had also felt regularly after sea swims, I was teaching and practicing yoga and a type of yogic sleep called Yoga Nidra.
The first week went okay. The second one way better. I started to actually feel powerful while running. By resting before I started again, I could do intervals that felt respectably fast. My husband one morning remarked that I was getting faster. And I was loving the TRX workouts. I could do motions that felt like swimming. And my arms started to get more definition. My new plan was working. My body was adapting to new ways of exercising. My joints no longer hurt. I was feeling almost like myself again, despite the abrupt shift in training.
This is not to say I didn’t miss swimming. I still dream of swimming in the ocean. Of looking face-to-face at a dolphin while he makes chattering sounds and blows a bubble ring for me. I started buying books written by swimmers. Lynne Cox wrote two beautiful books, Swimming in Antarctica and Grayson. She’s much more adventurous than me, but her writing still speaks to me on many levels. Even when I can’t swim, I can vicariously through reading these books.
Last week I broke down and drove two hours southeast of here to Parker Canyon Lake. I stayed away from everyone. I had my husband nearby on the paddleboard for safety. The water experience was restorative, refreshing. But I knew then it was no longer the only way for me to get a decent workout or to find emotional balance. Running, walking, TRX training, and my yoga practices will carry me through until I am able to immerse myself completely in my water world again.