Roman Malanke

Ode to Swimming

Since early 2009 I meticulously kept a record of all my swimming trainings. This week it reached a pretty milestone — 700 km in total distance. To celebrate this, I want to tell a story about how I ended up falling in love with swimming and the role it now plays in my life. But before, some more stats: time period — 46 months; total number of trainings — 487; average distance per training — 1.6 km; average distance per calendar day — 680 m. Sounds serious, doesn’t it?

Unlike many people I didn’t learn swimming in childhood. Despite numerous seaside family vacations, the best I could do when I reached adolescence was to flounder about in the water as not to drown. I shied away from any water-related activities my friends engaged in, thinking that swimming was just “not my thing”.

During college years I started to come to realization that unless I overcome my insecurity I might end up living an incomplete life. Luckily, one of my roommates happened to be very fond of swimming and offered to teach me the basics. I accepted anxiously, procured a pair of cheap goggles, and horrified was looking forward to the first trip to the pool. From that first training I remember three things: my surprise that I actually could move in the water, my friend telling me that my moves were all wrong, and the incredible dizziness after going out of the water. But the most important thing was that the internal challenge was accepted by that assiduous part of me that got me A’s in my academic career.

Then there were lots of youtube videos, observing junior swimmers in the pool, and of course eavesdropping on their coach’s instructions. In the begging I needed company, so I talked various friends into going with me. Eventually, all of them dropped, so I stuck with the most reliable partner — myself. After several months I could do something vaguely resembling freestyle, and set up my first set of specific goals. I’m not sure how I figured it back then, but in my goals I focused on exactly right things: instead of speed I measured number of strokes per pool, and the distance I could swim before beginning to pant. Since then I’ve been worked diligently to reduce the former and increase the latter.

Today I can swim all four competitive styles effortlessly for as long as I want and I need only six butterfly strokes to cover 25 m pool. Speed improvement came along, and now the only guys in the pool who still beat me in that are members of Ukrainian junior team. Well, there might be a few more exceptions. ;-)

But the really important result is the effect swimming has had on my sense of well-being. It has become my favorite physical activity and an integrated part of my weekly schedule. Every other morning before work I hurry to the pool for my dose of endorphins. Swimming refreshes and develops muscles of the whole body in a very balanced way. It strengthens heart and lungs. It’s a simple, yet very deep activity that just like meditation helps refill mental energy.

Today I cannot imagine my life without swimming. As in all things developmental, there’s no end to improvement in this wonderful sport. I continue to make tiny tweaks that open new levels of understanding. I’m absolutely sure now that swimming will be part of me for the rest of my life.