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What I’ve Learned by Lying on My Back

written by Carol Crincoli, Pure Pilates Director

I love to swim and I have the great fortune to swim multiple times a week, all year round.  As a child, I swam competitively, but now getting in the pool is the exercise I choose to reset, relax and relieve stress.  I always swim 10 laps at a time, mixing it up between breaststroke, freestyle, and sidestroke. This allows for less counting and more problem-solving, creative thinking, and dreaming. In 30 to 40 minutes, I can create a rough outline for a future workshop, finalize the menu for a dinner party or learn something new about myself or a situation.

My swimming groove came to a screeching halt, when I developed an issue with my knee.  The inside of my left knee to be exact. I took time away from the pool, consulted with a few doctors, increased my strength training, and cultivated a solid foot, ankle, and calf routine to assist in relieving the pain. It was also recommended that I stay away from breaststroke for a while because it was obviously aggravating my injury.  My favorite stroke is now forbidden and just increasing freestyle sounds boring. I’ve had enough of swimming butterfly as a kid and I hate backstroke.  

I can swim backstroke, but I hate it because I never learned how to relax into the stroke and I am fearful of cracking my head into the wall. When I swim, I like to see where I am going and what’s happening around me.

But after a few attempts at sticking to freestyle, I decided to flip over and figure out this lifelong hate-fear relationship with my nemesis Backstroke. 

 

What I’ve Learned By Lying on My Back:

 

  • Fear will not prepare you for the unknown.

My biggest fear while swimming backstroke is when your head hits the pool wall before your hand touches.  It has happened to me in the past, it does hurt and depending how hard and fast you’re coming in will depend on the level of pain. In swimming and in life, I like to anticipate my road ahead. I am reminded not to invest in the outcome (hitting the wall) but focus on the journey (lap) and trust that you will land on your feet, or at least not head first.

  • Having a plan and being flexible helps prepare you for the unexpected.

Flags are hanging over my head near both ends of the pool.  90% of the time, I can count 7 strokes and my hand touches the wall.  The other 10%, it will take me 8 strokes. Being perfect every time is unachievable and I would argue that it doesn’t prepare you for the unexpected. I understand and accept that I may take 6, 7 or 8 strokes from the flags to touch the wall. I also have a backup plan, so if I lose count (which I do) or I don’t trust my countdown, I see that ladder and know I have one stroke to safety! 

  • A change of scenery can open your mind to a different perspective.

Do I miss swimming breaststroke? Sure do! But do I really hate backstroke? I do NOT hate backstroke, and I found out that I am pretty good at it.  As I have gotten over my fear of hitting the wall head first, I have relaxed into the stroke. I enjoy having my face out of the water, figuring out a different breath pattern and the sounds in my floating head are different, actually peaceful. It took an injury to force me out of my comfort zone. I am grateful for the new perspective I found while lying on my back.

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