I have been going to the gym for about two months now, off and on.  The location I go to has a full compliment of weights and machines, along with all the cardio machines you could ever want, and up until today, I’ve been enjoying all of these pieces of equipment.  I have been doing a pretty regular routine of shoulders/back, triceps/legs, chest/biceps, starting off with 10-15 minutes of cardio and ending with 10 minutes of cardio each workout.  It’s been great, and I’ve really started to notice some changes in my physical body since doing this.

Along with visiting the gym, I have also been running with some regularity, since July.  I had gotten myself up to running ten miles, which I met as a birthday goal for myself.  Since turning 35 at the beginning of last month, I’ve since moved into Denver proper, and have been discovering new places to go running and such.  It’s been great, with an average run taking me about 5-7 miles.  Last Thursday, however, I went out for a run and something went wrong.  My left knee really started acting up, and it made me think that maybe I needed to find a new way to do a cardio workout that would supplement my weight training and such.

At my gym, there is also a full-size lap pool, with three lanes for swimmers to use.  I saw it when I got my first tour of the gym back in August, but I never thought about using it.  That is, until last Thursday, when my knee was reminding me that jogging can be rather tricky on the joints.  I don’t want to forgo cardio of any intensity all winter long, and get back to zero stamina as I had allowed to happen last winter.  I want to keep up with the progress I’ve made.  So, today, for the first time, I took to the pool.

It wasn’t much, only fifteen minutes of hard swimming – about eight laps or so, I think, with rest of 30-60 seconds between laps.  It took only one lap, however, to realize how much of a workout swimming really is.  I think I’ve found a new sport to get into, and I think I will really enjoy it.

Thing is, there was a lot more going on in my head with regards to swimming than just seeking an alternative to running.  You see, ever since I hit puberty, and became more self-aware of my body, swimming has always been a psychological challenge.  I was always the fat kid at the beach.  Then, as my body hair grew in, I became the fat furry person at the beach.  I was the guy that was often the target of the ever-present sweater jokes.  I was never comfortable taking off my shirt, and eventually, I just stopped going.  I had become that guy you see walking the beach but never going in the water.  The fact is, I love swimming.  I have ever since I was a little kid.  I’ve been half-fish all of my life, but let the insults and self-hating body image bullshit get in my way.

Today, I faced all of that down.  In one swoop, my shirt came off, and I got into the pool.  No fuss, no mess, no pausing, just into the pool.  And I swam.  I swam for my life, pushing my ability, like I was escaping something fierce on my heels.  In the end, as I climbed out of the pool, my body was shaking.  All over.  Not since running the ten miles before turning thirty-five had I gotten to that level of exhaustion and exhilaration.  Not only had I pushed myself physically during the weight training (I upped my resistance by 10-15 pounds on every machine and weight I lifted), but I had faced down a demon.  A real, honest demon in my life.  And I succeeded.

I wil do this again.  I need to get ahold of some goggles for my eyes, and perhaps a better fitting pair of swim trunks.  What I don’t need, though, is the blanket of shame and self-hatred that had always been part of my swimsuit.  That, for now, remains in my past.  I’m a furry guy with soft edges who swims and if those in and around the pool or beach can’t handle that, then it’s their problem, not mine.  Not anymore.

Welcome back, Confidence.  Stay a while, will you?

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