Water is just a tough medium. There’s no getting around it. It’s a matter of moving straight through. It’s a matter of keeping your head down or, to be more precise, keeping it in line with your body so you don’t give yourself any more work than the water is already giving you.
I spent 2 to 4 hours a day in the pool, year-round, from age 8 to 23. I first jumped in because one of my older sisters was on the swim team and it looked like fun. It never really stopped being fun, although the emotional cadence of the sport went through many cycles over the 15 years. Results ebbed and flowed. Bonds with teammates grew and paused and grew again. My best friends today are mostly my old swimming buddies.
There are a couple rowers and cyclists in that circle, too. I got into rowing as a cross-training method during college. I experimented with triathlons. I remember my first day-long bike ride with a rowing friend who had spent as much time on his road bike as I had in the pool. I bonked. I was in good shape but the way that machine keeps your legs moving, far beyond what you thought your body could do … I had never really experienced that before.
I’m 37 and I haven’t put my competition days behind me yet. I don’t have a family of my own. My parents are healthy. I have a flexible schedule. I train all the time, and I actually think I’m a better athlete than I ever was in my teens, my twenties.
Part of this is barbell training, which I only added to the mix a year ago. It has made me far less vulnerable to injuries, especially lower back stuff.
Part of it is psychological training and the accumulation of knowledge. I know what recovery is. And I know what drives me.
A larger part of what keeps me training hard, however, is community. I feel more connected than I used to feel, during those years when I was head down in the pool. More connected with the relatively small but globally significant subset of human beings who know deep down that endurance is life. I believe endurance humans are the strongest humans, the smartest humans. Even if they are a little crazy.
If you can move through water, you can move through anything. If you can just keep moving, through whatever medium you’re in, life always gets better. The contribution I want to make to this world is showing more and more people exactly why that is true.