A friend sent me a note a few days ago that made me stop and think.
…you might be experiencing the high from the wonderful feeling of floating and not being constrained by gravity. I have always like to swim (especially when pregnant) and love the feeling of gliding through the water. I think it is an interesting juxtaposition that you have gone from getting an athlete’s high from lifting heavy weight and certainly feeling gravity to being in a pool where you can doing things you can’t do outside of water.
And you know, it is interesting. I fought gravity every day as I forced my body to respond to heavier and heavier weights. Ultimately, the weights beat me (but not for good). I’ve never been a swimmer — I can get around in the water with an undignified doggie-paddle kind of thing — but I’ve really come to love the feeling of slipping into the heated pool I go to nearly every day now as part of my physical therapy, and stepping out of gravity’s grasp.
Even on days where I just don’t feel like going to the effort of getting ready and making the drive, when I haven’t been able to fight off the sadness and heartache that came with this injury and I don’t see the point in bothering with the pool, I’ve made myself do it. And I’ve always been glad. It doesn’t always ease the pain, but if often does. And in that moment of giving up my own weight to the water, I feel like my body is thanking me.
I feel bad for what I did to my body. I hurt it when it was just trying to do what I wanted it to do (I’ve noticed that pain makes me think of my physical body as almost a separate entity from my mind) and this is my way of making up for it. Walking through the water I breathe easier. I can let myself go. My physical therapist commented the other day that he suspects I remain ‘engaged’ (my muscles active) all day, and it’s true. I never really relax until I’m asleep. Except in the water.
I don’t have to words to explain what it is, but part of it may be that I’m showing my body some compassion. Fighting weights was almost like fighting my body, always pushing it to do more, work harder. Letting the water carry me it’s almost like my body is one giant sigh of relief.
Some days, the days when the water absorbs the pain, I do some work because nothing erases my fear of atrophying muscles. Using the foam dumbbells I’ll do aquatic versions of some curls, some tricep work, whatever I can make up until I feel the familiar burn in my muscles that I miss so much. It’s really surprised me how effective water resistance is. And when I’m done — I only do a few sets, ever mindful of not overdoing it — I resume walking along in the water, twirling my hands behind me, letting my body just relax.
I’ve thought about taking up swimming, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll leave water as the place I go to just breathe, and be kind to my body. There are plenty of sports I can do — and will do — on land. I might just keep this one sanctuary.