What It Feels Like to be a Newbie

One of my goals for 2015 is to become a better swimmer and get over my fear of the open water. I bought a wet suit online about 8 months ago (it is still sitting in my closet un-opened), and asked for nice goggles for Christmas. I bought a stylish, yet functional bathing suit and researched proper form and local pool options. Over the weekend, I realized I now had everything I needed to be able to start swimming and could come up with no other reasons for procrastination except fear. My fear stems mostly from the unknown and I found myself thinking that this must be what it feels like to start running for people who have never ran. I don’t know what a standard or good pace is for swimming. I don’t even know standard pool lengths or race distances. I don’t know what good form for freestyle is and I have no idea how to pace myself. The concept of pool workouts that have different speeds and distances seems completely insane to me. Why can’t I just swim at one pace for as long as I can? (which turns out to be not very long). I am scared I look like an idiot who has no idea what she’s doing (because I don’t) and that my form is so terrible that the serious swimmers laugh at me and splash around and try not to drown. This was all flashing through my head yesterday as I stood at the edge of the pool and I thought about all the people at November Project who are or were new to running at some point over the past 2 years. They all had the courage to show up and not be afraid of looking like an idiot and found their way. I decided if they could do it so could I.

Track runners will probably find this amusing. As I stood at the edge of the pool deciding where to jump in I was trying to avoid the “fast lanes”. I know as a runner I absolutely hate it when a jogger or walker is in the first couple lanes so knowing I would be slow, I wanted to extend the same courtesy to the swimmers as I expect as a runner. However, I couldn’t see the signs that indicated which lane was which. The super slow lane was obvious, but the rest all kind of looked similar. I figured “there’s no way the fast lane is in the middle of the slow lane is on the right” so In I jumped. I started my 300 yard “warm-up” only to need a break about halfway through because of a racing heart.It took a while but I watched some other swimmers and really focused on slowing down and breathing but I eventually found my rhythm. It felt amazing to actually make some progress, but I still felt quite awkward and not very smooth. When I got out of the pool to grab a kick board I finally saw the signs and low and behold, I had been in the fast lane the entire time. Oops.  I relegated myself to the super slow, old lady lane and finished my workout in a much more relaxed environment, which I found improved my rhythm.

Ok, so what’s my point? Well I survived. Sure I probably looked silly when I accidentally swallowed a mouthful of gross community pool water and coughed all over the place. And sure, I was in the wrong lane at first. But no one yelled at me, no one laughed at me – at least not outwardly – and I felt comfortable swimming freestyle for the first time in my life. I still have a long way to go, but for the first time I actually believed It would be possible for me to swim a mile in Lake Tahoe in September and before I jumped in that pool, I definitely didn’t think I could do it. I realized that everyone is a newbie at some point and it’s only through a little bravery and some support from the fitness community that anyone tries something new at all.

A little support from someone who knows the in’s and out’s of a particular activity can go a long way to helping someone overcome an obstacle or achieve a new goal. So if you are new to running and have no idea about pacing or workouts but are curious, please feel free to talk to me or email me or facebook message me.

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