The doctor’s technical explanation after my colonoscopy was that I had “busted a gut,” which seems to have healed itself and incidentally is something I’ve come to live with on and off since then. Too many situps, or something like that. Anyway, no scares since then, although anytime my wife catches me on the toilet since then she asks if everything is alright. I really need to start locking that door.
Last year, I worked a lot. Just like the year before, and probably this year as well. Like most people, I went through a time when I felt like all I was doing was waking up, going to work, coming home to eat, and going to sleep. I have no objection to putting in whatever time is necessary in a crunch, but when it goes on and on you begin to ask yourself “what’s the point?” Exercise has always helped me feel like I’d accomplished something other than just working every day, and any time I’d planned on running or swimming after work but ended up not being able to just hammered another nail in the coffin. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions often, but I finally decided that the only way to beat this was to exercise before work, which was going to be tough. I can discipline myself to wake up at zero dark thirty with a little practice, but my major concern was that my job was already pretty physical, and I didn’t want to exhaust myself before I’d even showed up in the morning. So far this year, the experiment has been a huge success. First advantage: I avoid totally rush hour traffic to get to work. The pool is just a couple of blocks away from work, so I travel to my swim before the rest of Austin has hit the roads. Second perk: I feel fantastic after my workout, no matter how I felt before. That lasts most of the day, although I will admit to being pretty exhausted tonight. It’s that last very high stress hour at my job that knocks me out, but it does that whether I swim or not. Third advantage: the pool is pretty often uncrowded at that hour, and everyone who is there is totally motivated. Today was an excellent example.
I was out the door before the rest of my family awoke (one of my main functions in this household is to wake everyone else up–they are very heavy sleepers–so I had to solve this problem first with a tiny but loud alarm clock). Went to the Town Lake YMCA this morning, the one near work for me. When I walked through the door the noise was deafening, and I didn’t know what it was until I realized that the Masters group was training, and it didn’t look like any of them were in need of building up their distance. A lot of shaved heads and broad, tattooed shoulders. There were a couple of guys there, too. They were just blowing through set after set, and once again I found myself forgetting what I was doing as I watched them. Particularly when they launched into IM drills, it sounded like a jet engine cranking up. I swam at least an extra 500 yards, because I kept losing track of how much I’d done and just decided to keep going. Watching them reminded me to focus on my form, stretching myself out as far as I’d stretch, rather than trying to muscle my way through the water. Good swimmers make it look so effortless, despite moving twice as fast through the water as me. I’d forgotten this until a friend recently reminded me, but what I shoot for is getting down the pool in a minimum of strokes; the speed will take care of itself. When I get it just right, I can really feel my body catch the water inside my forearm and–bizarrely–right on my pelvis above my hip. Those brief flashes of competence, when I catch the water just right, and literally slip through the water without trying, make an hour of pushing myself hard for distance seem a small price to pay. They make me feel like the rest of the day is going to be ok.