Dear Women who Swim,
I’ve spent so much of my life in a pool or on its deck. Some of my earliest memories are of walking though the open-concept showers on my way to lessons or practice or camp. Hearing the happy chatter of women post-swim in this communal, safe environment. Some in their suits, but many not, I think it was seeing so many of you pragmatically going about your exercise, then showering and dressing for the day, that encouraged me to be comfortable in my body.
I will always appreciate the freedom of being able to change without judgement, next to the much younger and much older women. Of course, there are the exceptions who favour modesty…but…I think it’s something special to a women’s pool change room that doesn’t translate to every other gym or fitness locker room. I’m so grateful to have been surrounded by the many shapes and sizes, some hairy, some dangly, all human. The women who swim.
I also love our shared ability to change entirely without showing an ounce of skin — if we so choose. At the peak of my competitive days I could strip into or out of a my swimsuit in a minute flat, somehow without removing any other item of clothing. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about.
In my teenage years I watched from the deck as you swam laps after the children had finished their lessons, or pre-dawn before the school bells started to ring. So many of you so consistent in your routine, I could predict your arrival, your strokes, and your departure down to the minute.
When I first started teaching Aquafit, I overheard a few of you complaining that I wasn’t as good as the usual instructor (the woman who had been teaching for a decade or two). You didn’t see me cry for a minute as I retrieved the pool noodles and flotation belts for that workout but I took your words to heart. I was only 16 or 17 and, after all, I had bounced with you so many days of the week as a participant in the class. As I invested my weekends in the training course, I was excited to share some new moves for targeting different muscle groups. I had been writing down every action with acute attention to detail — pairing moves with songs to the precise measure so that each swivel or step matched the accompanying music. So many of you gave me good feedback those beginning weeks though. I try to hold onto that…but, like so many instances of criticism, it pulls me immediately back to that moment of feeling inadequate and undeserving.
I’m glad I now enjoy my time in the pool as only a participant — whether it be in an aquafit class or just swimming lengths. I can take in the comfort of the (usually over) chlorinated water and not have to worry about keeping everyone else happy or challenged or safe. It’s just time for me. Just time for fun.
I love to hear you discussing the days when you were devoted to training or just practicing your flip turns. I was delighted to watch your eye-rolls when you informed me that the sauna is “co-ed.” (Can you imagine?)
I can’t wait to spend another few dozens of years swimming in your company.