A few mornings a week, when it's still dark outside, I drag myself to an indoor swimming pool to exercise before I get to school to teach. I watch the long lean high school swimmers, silicone caps on head, rearrange the swim lane lines from the 50 meter distance to the 25 meter distance after their 5:30 am workouts. They're readying for us; the mostly recreational swimmers. I watch the masters swimmers, with their tight swim caps, their special goggles, their individual sets of fins, kickboards, their structured workouts and water bottles get to the pool edge just as I do. I grab a kickboard from the bin, pull out my water bottle, stretch my goggles over my head and hop in. I can see the other swimmers when I turn to breathe on one side. Their precise, sleek strokes are propelled by quick kicks. They look smooth. I make a mental note to get my elbow a little higher before my hand breaks the surface.
After many summers swimming competitively as a teenager, some of it is like riding a bike. Some of it isn't. I don't do the butterfly stroke for more than half a lap these days. But, I add a few more laps each day. In the middle of my swim I add 1/4 mile of anaerobic laps to get my heart rate up. Way up. Even though my swim isn't as structured as it might be, I get the same satisfaction from the time in the pool as I did when I was much younger. And even when I'm working hard, it still feels like playing to me.