Time to get back into the swim of life now

Thirty-six laps!  

The “kid” still got it. Swam 36 laps this afternoon, the first time I’ve exercised in four months.  

What? It’s been four months since I been to LA Fitness? Four months since I hit the Olympic size pool, take in the whirlpool, as well as spend time in the sauna? Actually, spent more than 15 minutes in the sauna to get rid of all the “toxins” people tell me I need to get out of my system.  

Well, a doctor advised me not to swim when I got the detached retina in January. In addition, I had skipped the three-times  a week water aerobics when I committed to writing at least one post a day for 30 days sometime in December, 2009. I know, it sounds like excuses. But, I ain’t lyin.’  

And, if I have my way, I’ll continue to swim on a regular basis. Why? Because I told a Veterans’ Hospital nutritionist I would meet her and discuss my bad eating habits and lack of exercise. That’s 10 days from today. The least I can do is to say I got back on track. Tell the truth. And mean it.  

Now, I met a woman in the pool named Linda and I am going to challenge her to swim with me the next eight weeks. She’s retired. Was a Latin teacher. Wants to lose weight just like me and half the population of America. She’s a care-giver, and if I know anything about caregiver burnout, her family needs to let her “go out” for her own mental health, if they “care” for nothing else.  

If you have trouble breathing “over-hand” you can swim on your back

I will appear at the Roxborough gym (Philadelphia, PA) at 12:15 pm every Monday through June, unless Fate calls me to visit India sooner than expected. You got that my friends in the Universe? I’ll be swimming a half mile each time I show up, and try to memorize the phone number for “911,” should I need someone to get me out of trouble with my ticker or high blood pressure.  

Will swim “over-hand” at least four of the 36 laps, and go non-stop unless an ear-plug pops out like it did before, causing me to search the entire length of the pool, eventually finding it drifting near the edge. Non-stop swimming gets my heart-rate going extra strong. I usually tire after two or three initial laps, but find that an extra “wind” starts to kick in around lap number eight, and I’m good to go until I get up to 20. By then, I figure I’ve invested so much of my time into this exercise, that I can’t give up now. Only 16 more to go. And then 10, six and finally that last one, when I go “all out,” swimming with gusto, breathing from side to side, looking toward the hot, steamy whirlpool at the side of the pool that’s beckoning to ease my soreness and let me melt in the seated position, head bowed in exhaustion and surrender to the moment. No thoughts. No emotions. Just catching up with my breath. Focusing on my breath. In and out. Counting to 20. And reaching that state of “nothingness” that extinguishes all desires, fears  and . . .  

Well, just take a dip and see what I mean. You’ll have nothing to lose but a sluggish metabolism. And a few extra breaths.

11 comments on “Time to get back into the swim of life now

  1. Athena Grace says:

    Yes, I realize that you swim… I read this post the other day. I LOVE swimming. Do you ever swim sheerly for the sensuality of it? Sometimes when I’m in the water, I notice that I’m thinking about how much more time before I’m done. Thumbs down. That is an indication to me that its time to FEEL. Swimming feels like flying. Being in water feels like being held in God’s gracious arms. Swimming is poetry without a single word.


    • contoveros says:

      You are into the swim of things, Athena. (I love that name, by the way. What Greek of any stature, including short — 5’6″ — ones like me, would not. Athena and Helen. A goddess in one, and the daughter of a god in the other)

      I feel I re-entered the womb when I swim. I too feel as if I am in God’s hands, His “gracious arms.”

      I count to 36. I choose a view subjects to “think” about and let my mind wrap around them in the water. I’ve come up with some good long-term goals and some not so good short-term ones.

      It’s when I stop the chattering mind, forget about completing the 1/2 mile stretch that I’m really “into” the swim, feeling like I have returned to that evolutionary beginning when I lived full-time in the water and loved every minute of it.

      Flying? Yeah, kinda like “gliding,” suspended above the ground, moving in an environment totally different from being on land.

      You’re pretty cool, Athena. Think I’ll keep you as a friend.

      michael j


  2. Linda Rowland says:

    Kim, I just spotted your comment about the water aerobics and dancing. I see you are getting in the pool and being joyful. You must go through the days feeling grounded and centered. With dancing, I find it can’t be done with a heavy heart. Getting in the pool doesn’t require anything of me. The water works its magic all by itself. Good night, again. Linda from LA


  3. Linda Rowland says:

    Michael, I intend to enjoy browsing your blog. As for your challenge, my free time is purely happenstance. I never know for sure what hours of the day or days of the week I can claim for my own. This is not a complaint. I like my life.
    Kim, I so relate to the things you write. But do take a leap of faith and put your glasses and hearing aids in the locker and get in the water. It is so purely joyous even just to be in the shallow section splashing around and you are such a beautiful soul I don’t want you to miss it. Sorry, we caretakers are a bossy bunch. Thinking of water- Has anyone here read “The Secret Life of Water”? Well, it is growing late and I am off to feed the cat and go to bed. Sweet dreams, everyone. Linda from LA


    • contoveros says:

      Come out to play Linda from LA

      Even if it’s just to kick back your legs while holding on to the side of the pool. You’re out and in good company, even if you are simply by yourself.

      But, come 12:15 next Monday afternoon, look out Linda of South Philly. This North Philly boy is going to make a big splash.

      michael j


  4. kim says:

    Good heavens! You must be in great shape! 36 laps and you haven’t exercised in four months??

    I don’t swim. It required taking both my glasses and hearing aids out and then I feel like Helen Keller. I NEED to see. Someone told me there are special prescription goggles you can get if you’re a serious swimmer though. Someday– maybe I’ll splurge for something like that. I DO love being in the pool in the morning. My water aerobics class is an awesome way to start the day. The rest of the time I dance.

    We have lots in common. I met with the ‘lipid’ people last month because my triglycerides were too high. Hence the daily one-hour workouts.


    • contoveros says:

      Feeling the water surround me kinda makes me feel as if I was back in somebody’s womb. Protected. Expected. Fancy-free. (Not a term I generally use, but feel it’s right somehow.)

      Enjoy the aerobics. I did for several weeks, but miss being “alone” with the swim. Not “lonely,” but “a lone” with that something inside of me that enjoys the solitude, the quiet, the sense of just “being.”

      Dancing sounds like fun. So does a splash or two in your direction – – – – – –

      michael j


  5. Tess says:

    Great post. Swimming definitely can be a vehicle of being in the moment, when, as you describe, you begin to focus on your breath. I love the feeling of being surrounded by water- it creates a beautiful contrast to the air within and brings new awareness of breath.


    • contoveros says:

      You know you’re right! I kinda felt like I was doing some sort of “swimming meditation” by the 20th lap and onward. I’d just count and not have thoughts. Enjoyed the feel of the water and the nice flow of breath. Different from walking and sitting, but definitely in the moment.

      Thanks, Tess. You put your finger on it.

      michael j


  6. saradode says:

    Hi, Michael,

    Try it with snorkelling fins on your feet. It’s great exercise, but you feel like you’re just flying through space.



    • contoveros says:


      Do you mean swimming like that great looking couple in the photo above? Will give it a try. With the fins, not the couple.

      michael j


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