As I’ve mentioned a few times (here and here) my left ankle is sprained. It is interfering with my life and I don’t like it. I am very much inconvenienced by how long it is taking for it to heal and I find it frustrating that perhaps the length of time it is taking is in direct proportion to my age. Hmm…..
I have barely been able to workout for 6 weeks now. Immediately after the sprain happened Dude and I went on vacation and I didn’t workout at all, although I wasn’t exactly sedentary either. Casual walking at most, which to me isn’t a workout.
After seeing a doctor when we returned he suggested two weeks of no activity (except walking from the couch to the bathroom and to the kitchen and back, plus physical therapy). Talk about a drag. I mostly listened, although I started going back to Pilates because nearly nothing we do there involves my ankle and the few things that did I either modified or just didn’t do. It felt good to move my body again and challenge myself and be sore after doing something. (As an aside, isn’t it weird how you miss the soreness? Maybe I’m just an oddball.)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pilates. I have the best instructor in Pittsburgh and classes are hard. But I’m used to a combination of CrossFit, running, and Pilates and not being able to do two of my three favorite things was starting to bring me down. I started getting depressed and feeling grumpy. All I could do was follow my doctor ordered physical therapy and wait. My spirits were flagging. I was hoping my quest for a pull-up would buoy my mood, but it really didn’t. I was losing my drive to do anything.
I posted a question in the Facebook forum for the Steel City Road Runner’s Club. Certainly someone there would have had a similar experience with a sprained ankle and impatience with it healing. I asked for advice on what to do and more than one person suggested biking/spinning and swimming.
My Dude works at FancyPants U and they have a pool and as the spouse of a staff member I am eligible for a “sponsored” ID card and can use many of the campus facilities for free.

(Not the worst photo! I’m wearing my lucky necklace too.)

I got very excited and started researching pool workouts and looking for advice on swim caps and all that jazz. I was INTO it! But then I stopped to realize that although I do know how to swim, I was not sure just what I could do. This was foreign territory for me, for the most part. I had taken swimming in lieu of traditional “gym” in junior high school, but that was 25 years ago. My swimming life has mostly consisted of sunning myself poolside or oceanside and splashing around in the water to cool off. I wasn’t even sure I could swim a lap.
But this isn’t the time to be milquetoast about anything. I had to keep in mind everything that Coach Matt had pointed out to me. I lack confidence, I short change myself, I mentally quit and check out when things get tough or even when I perceive them to be tough. I need to conjure up some focus, determination, mental toughness, and intensity in all my workouts. Maybe I would really stink up the pool but I can’t let that stop me from trying. Life-long fitness is something I want and being a baby about swimming (or any workout) won’t get me there.
I showed up on campus, went to the fitness desk, showed my cute ID card, and got a wristband to wear that lets everyone know that I’m a swimmer. I had packed my sweet little gym bag with my suit, a towel, comb, hair dryer, my new swim cap, and goggles. I was SET. I had all the accoutrements and was accessorized properly. But I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for what happened next.
First of all, this was the first time I was in a locker room since high school, and duh, there were naked women in there. Now, I’m no prude and the sight of a naked woman didn’t faze me one bit, but the thought of me having to be naked in front of strangers did. There is an extremely small set of people who regularly see me naked these days and they include someone I’m married to and others to whom I give a copay before shedding my clothes. That’s it. I didn’t even consider any of this before getting there.

(Fresh green pedicure for pool workout one. These feet helped propel me a long way!)

But I just figured, “What the hell.” and took my clothes off and put my suit on. We’re all human females with all the same parts and nobody is really looking. Plus I routinely wear a two-piece swimsuit so I had no reason to feel exposed or anything. I got over myself quickly, showered off before heading out to the pool, and headed for the door.
I asked a guy wearing glasses while swimming (?) if I could share his lane with him and got in. I know most people swim the front crawl/freestyle, but I’m partial to breast stroke. It’s easiest for me and at this point I was looking to get to the other side of the pool and back any way I could to see how easy or difficult it was going to be. I just had no idea if one lap was going to be a piece of cake or a grueling, breathless pain in the fanny.
It turns out it was somewhere in between. My form isn’t the prettiest, nor am I fast or sleek in the water, but I made it. My ankle made its presence felt, but it wasn’t painful at all. I was being lapped by the man I was sharing a lane with plus the collegiate athlete in the lane next to me, but that was fine. I was in the pool pushing myself to get it done.
I’m not going to lie, there was some wheezing and some coughing and some panicked thoughts about getting to the other side without having to call upon the lifeguard’s expertise, but I did it. Several breast stroke laps, several freestyle laps, and two backstrokes for good measure. I channeled Coach Matt’s words of advice and encouragement and I have to say that I am kind of proud of how I did.

(I was in the lane on the far left. I figured pool workout one called for me to be in lane one.)

I admit to getting quite discouraged when I try something that is new to me and I’m not great at it right away. I also admit that when I want to accomplish something, I really have to push myself to do it. I’m not as naturally driven as some. But I am determined to make this work for me for several reasons.

  1. I don’t have many workout choices due to my ankle. I am back to Pilates and probably to CrossFit next week, although I cannot do everything I used to do there quite yet. Running is still out of bounds for me for a while and I want to keep improving my level of endurance (which is still quite sad in spite of running a half marathon).
  2. I need a challenge. What kind of life is it if there are no challenges in it? I don’t want everything to be easy for me because that means that I won’t accomplish anything. Plus, as I stated above, my default is to generally avoid challenges and I don’t like that about myself. Time to change that.
  3. It’s there. I have free access to a really nice pool and a swimsuit. Why NOT do it? It shakes up my current state of working out affairs and I can’t think of a reason not to give it a go.
  4. I want to prove myself. If Coach Matt saw my weaknesses then others saw them too. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and trainers who like me and care about me in spite of my flaws so it’s not as if I am being shamed or called out all the time. But I don’t want to be the girl at the gym who is known for not giving her all. Plus, I’m a health coach, after all, and it’s my job to show others that challenges can be bested and obstacles can be overcome. I can do this.

So that is swim workout number 1!! In the books! The Thorpedo I’m not, but I’m out there trying.
Now, it’s your turn – What are the challenges you’re facing lately? What are you doing to overcome them? Who are my readers who are swimmers and what advice can you offer to a total newbie like me? Share with me in the comments below or on Facebook.


  1. Kelly
    July 20, 2012 10:36 am

    Great Job Jillness….oh and I love the Thorpedo! YUM…

    • Jill
      July 20, 2012 10:56 am

      I love him too! Michael Phelps just doesn’t do it for me. I was sad when the Thorpedo didn’t make it for London. I was also sad that the full-body suits were in vogue when he was at the height of competition. 🙂

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