swimming: a nonessential glossary

Swimming:  what I do for exercise when I have an injury that keeps me from running.

Optimism:  what I feel the first lap, when my arms are fresh and strong, and I think, “Man, I feel good today!”

Reality:  what sets in midway through lap two.

Amnesia:  the reason I feel optimism on lap one. Also the reason I can never remember if I’m on lap twelve or lap thirteen. Or is it eleven?

Faster:  what the woman swimming in the lane beside me is.

Instructional video:  What my friend John loaned me after watching me swim one morning. I kept the video for six months and never watched it. I appreciated John’s wanting to help, but truth is, when I’m not swimming, I don’t want to think about swimming. John, by the way, is a super nice guy. He once taught a sex education class with my wife and, when it was over, gave her a clock shaped like a sperm, which also, as I’m sure you know, swim.

Goggles:  what I lost three pairs of the month I started swimming. See above: amnesia.

Speedo:  what I wear to swim in. Try not to think about it.

Lost and found:  the green container in the locker room. For a long time I didn’t know it was the lost and found. To me it was just a green container with sweatshirts and socks hanging over the edges that I never thought anything about. Then one day, a few months after I began swimming, I looked inside that green container and found three very familiar looking pairs of goggles. That’s when I realized it was the lost and found.

Lifeguard:  the person who has to be there for anybody to get in the pool. Also the person who told me, the first day I began swimming for exercise, “You need to relax.”

Pleasure:  what I usually feel when I run and hardly ever feel when I swim.

Eating quinoa and getting a colonoscopy:  besides swimming, two things I do only when I have to and only because they’re supposed to be good for me.

Breathing:  what I prefer to be able to do when I exercise.

Kneel:  the name I call my currently injured knee. Having a name for my knee makes it easier to talk to him and support his recovery, as in “How’s it going Kneel? Anything I can do for you today?” I got the idea for naming a body part from a friend and running partner who calls her uterus Susan B. Anthony. She inquires regularly about Kneel and sometimes talks to him directly. I have not done that yet with Susan B. Anthony.

Buoyancy:  physical property that is an aid to swimming. Also a physical property I’ll have more of if it takes Kneel a lot longer to get well.

Freestyle:  one of the strokes I swim, though in my case, not terribly free or stylish.

Peeing:  what I have never done in the pool. Promise.

Burping:  what I have done. You try losing your breath and swallowing water and see if you don’t burp.

Sharing:  what happens when the pool is crowded and two people swim in the same lane. Also what I’d love you to do in the comments section if you want to add to this glossary.

Surrender:  what happens once in a rare and random while. Suddenly and without forewarning, the counting and comparing and disliking fall away. I am no longer fighting the water or myself. I am pulling myself through water and at the same time, somehow, resting upon it. We are a raft together, water and body, carrying me over to the other side.

Swimming:  practice for living on dry ground.

8 thoughts on “swimming: a nonessential glossary”

  1. I ran 7.5 Tuesday. Spring break, so I waited for day light and ran at the river. I loved it. The next day my knee twinged. Twinged another day. And now I’m terrified I’ll have to don a Speedo and swim.

  2. DROWNING: What I almost did on three occasions, or so I believed. Consequently, I avoid swimming pools, oceans and other bodies of water .

  3. Well, I sure can relate to the optimism vs. reality issue. That second lap is the hardest lap. But I wouldn’t worry much about the woman in the next lane swimming faster. She probably just has meaner personal demons nipping at her heels.

  4. Labor: 1. What running feels like to some of us who love swimming.
    2. What you might go into if you are 9 months pregnant and swimming laps (as I did).

    Thanks for this, Russell. Confirmation that I need to get back in the pool. Maybe we can share a lane. I can promise that I will not be swimming faster than you.

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