Lisa's workout: Just add water

Guest Post: Lisa
I had surgery back in April–doctors went up my nose to remove a benign brain tumor that had been playing merry havoc with everything from my metabolism to my reproductive system–and naturally, there were side effects. Some were unpleasant, like having a stuffy nose and the spins for four solid weeks while my sinuses drained, but the one that I chafed against: no swimming.
You can’t go anywhere near the water until all the post-op drainage is finished,” a nurse said when I called to ask about swimming approximately four weeks and one day after my surgery.

“Have you stopped blowing your nose yet? No? Then you can’t get into a pool,” a nurse-practitioner said when I called to ask about swimming approximately six weeks and one day after my surgery.

“So long as you’re still getting a little sinus pressure, then you shouldn’t swim,” my doctor said when I asked about swimming during my follow-up appoiment seven weeks and one day after my surgery.

Later that week, I decided “a little sinus pressure” was a highly subjective metric. So I pulled my Tyr on, and I jumped in the water
for the first time in two months. I had missed swimming, but until I hopped into the diving well and felt the water rush around my head, I hadn’t realized how physically deep the craving went.

I’ve tried running; I have two USMC marathon medals and two blown-out knees to prove it. I’ve put in time on the stairmaster and the elliptical. I’ve tried classes in aerobics (it was the early 90s, y’all). I got some small measure of mental satisfaction by making myself do something I really didn’t enjoy. Who doesn’t love the chance to be smug over how disciplined they are? However, I have rarely felt any sort of physical satisfaction with any exercise other than swimming. Some people get runner’s high. My exercise high apparently requires me to add water.

In my single days, there was no better way to end the work week than by hopping in the pool and knocking out a fast 1650. I wasn’t available on Friday nights; I was home washing (the chlorine out of) my hair. If I’m traveling, I feel twitchy and ill-prepared unless I’ve got my suit and goggles with me; I’d rather go without clean underwear than bypass an opportunity to swim. When I moved out to California, it took me six days to find an apartment. It took me six hours to find a health club with a pool within two blocks from work. The monthly membership cost about half as much as my rent. I didn’t care. Even on my worst days, I finish my laps feeling simultaneously calm and energized; that feeling is worth a lot to me.

I know that swimming stresses some people out. I used to teach adult swim lessons, and I know that for some, not being able to stand steadily on your feet is a big deal. For others, it’s the horrible uncertainty of not knowing when you’ll suck in a snootful of water. But that’s what I love about the sport. For a klutz like me, swimming is the only time I feel completely at home in my physical self. And focusing on the syncopation of stroking and breathing is a great way to push your attention into the present–not the past that you can’t change or the future you can’t control, but the here and now, where every pulling stroke through the water is one more chance to get it right.

The doctor was right to caution me not to swim while the incision was healing and my tender sinuses were recovering. But the real recovery, I think, began happening once I could get back in the pool. I got my equilibrium back the minute I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool anymore.
Thanks so much Lisa for sharing this with us. If anyone is interested in writing a guest post for Go Fit Girl! let me know via comments or send me an e-mail to: