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An accidental swimmer takes the plunge into daily workouts at Arlington Park

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arlingtonpoolbackstrokeYou want to know the best part?
Everybody knows swimming is a great workout, good for sore knees and strained muscles, but there’s a fringe benefit that took me by surprise.
Here it is: I sleep like a baby.
Even when I was in great shape — running marathons and playing all kinds of sports — I never slept this well. For me, at least, there must be something about the whole-body exercise of swimming. When I lay down to sleep, there’s a pleasant fatigue from my shoulders to my toes. When I close my eyes, I drop off right away.
Like I said, this is the best of part of my brief swimming career.

Kale smoothie swimming
It’s not fun, though. Did I mention that? I’ve gone swimming almost every day for the last month, but I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed it. It’s more like the exercise equivalent of nutritious food. It's healthy, and it makes you feel good, but it doesn't taste good.
A kale smoothie — that’s what swimming is for me.
It’s boring and repetitive. I reek of chlorine most days. My hair got so sticky and icky that I finally bought one of those ridiculous swim caps.
The only reason I started swimming is that I kept straining and restraining my left calf. Every time I thought it had healed, and every time I was wrong.
Finally, I took the plunge.
swim book jacketTo help with motivation, a buddy of mine recommended a 2012 book called “Swim: Why We Love the Water.” Lynn Sherr, a former TV journalist, does a nice job writing about the passion of swimmers such as herself. She traces the history of swimming from the ancient Greeks and Lord Byron to Esther Williams, Johnny Weissmuller and Michael Phelps.
It’s a good read, but I clearly lack this kind of feeling for the sport.
My whole life, I’ve wanted to swim the Mississippi River, but that’s more about “Huckleberry Finn” than “The Science of Swimming.”

Crummy strokes
I’m a bad swimmer. Did I mention that? When I go to the Arlington Park pool, little kids are faster than me. Little old ladies are faster than me. Everybody is faster than me.
The great temptation is to try and keep up, but that’s a disaster. I end up flailing around, exhausting myself and falling even farther behind.
What I try to do is swallow my pride — instead of pool water — and focus on my own crummy strokes. My buddy says it’s all about relaxing in the water, which is easier said than done.
Just last week, I was starting to feel more comfortable with the freestyle. But then I decided that I better learn to breathe on both sides, so now I’m back to awkward and tense.
My daughter took a goofy picture of me in my goggles and cap, then posted it on Facebook. That was bad. Then somebody thought it was a selfie. That was worse.
Pretty soon, I hope to start running and playing tennis again. Going to the pool every other day might offer the best of both worlds.
As for now, I’m swimming into 2014. My New Year’s resolution is to learn a flip turn.

Last modified: January 9, 2014
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