The Age of Aquarius

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PSSSSSSSSST! Guess what??

A few weeks ago, I started a new “thing.”

I was hesitant to tell anyone about it at first because I didn’t want this to be a short-lived fascination, but now I think I can safely say I’m still very much happy with my new hobby/activity — I started swimming again on a regular basis and I’m super geeked!

I’m an Aquarius, so it makes sense that for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the water. I had a tiny blue wading pool growing up in Pittsburgh’s south side, and was thrilled when we moved to the suburbs and our new house had an in-ground pool. Every summer, me and my sister would spend every waking minute swimming, splashing, playing Titanic, and lounging on rafts, our skin growing darker and darker to the point where my Grandma called us teddy bears.

As I got older, I came to love the swimming in the ocean just as much – riding the waves, feeling the sticky salt on my skin, even getting wiped out in the grainy sand. I also have fond memories of swimming in the Allegheny River in the mountains near the cabin belonging to family friends, jumping off old bridge pylons, fighting the current, and shimmying across fallen logs.

Growing up, summer meant one thing – swimming. It was the one thing I could count on, the one thing I was good at, and one thing I loved.

But a few years after I graduated, my parents made the decision to fill in their pool. My sister and I were out of school, working our first jobs, and becoming adults who had little time to spend swimming, and the maintenance was becoming too much.

After my parents closed their pool, swimming became a thing of the past for me. I had to settle for the occasional vacation or trip to a nearby wave pool or water park to get my Aquarian fix. And even though my husband and I started kayaking regularly a few years ago, it wasn’t enough. While I enjoy paddling and exploring the lakes and rivers aboard my sturdy coral-colored Pelican boat, I always get the urge to just slip out of my seat and dive into the water.

I missed the feeling of freedom swimming gave me, and so a few weeks ago I finally decided to do something about it.

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I spent some time researching nearby pools and fitness clubs, but I was hesitant to spend the big bucks on a traditional gym when I knew I would only be using the pool. If you know me at all or have read any of my “curvy” posts, you know that the thought of exercising on a treadmill or elliptical in public is my idea of a nightmare. So putting on a bathing suit and attempting to swim laps in a place full of people who look like they walked off the set of Jersey Shore or American Ninja Warrior wasn’t my cup of tea.

Instead I opted to join the fitness club at my local library, a hundred and twenty year old building commissioned by Andrew Carnegie that houses not only thousands of books, but a theater, gym, and, much to my delight — a pool.

While the pool isn’t anything fancy, it provides the basics I need to get back to doing something I love that used to be a constant part of my life. And even though the first time I ventured into the pool to swim laps, I was quite obviously out of practice, I was still smiling the whole time I struggled from one end of the pool to the other. Instead of feeling intimidated or like I was going to pass out from pushing myself, instead of feeling inadequate and sweaty and disgusting and out of shape, I felt truly comfortable.

I love the feeling of being supported by the water, feeling it cascade around my body. I love striving for lap after lap, keeping focused on the notch in the tile at either end. I love the muffled sounds of fellow swimmers when I’m under water, the rush of bubbles past my ears, and the smell of chlorine on my skin.

I love the seclusion of the little-known about pool, the calm, mostly quiet environment, the non-intimidating  fellow patrons, and the old-fashioned locker room which makes me feel like I’m a boarding school girl in the 40s. I even love the lifeguards who look like they’re no older than thirteen, minding their own business and letting us swimmers do our own thing too.

I love that this is something I’m doing for me – not to lose weight or to impress someone or fit into a smaller size clothing, but to be healthier and have more stamina and muscle and give myself some quiet, calm thinking time alone after a long day at work or a hectic weekend.

I’m looking forward to visiting the pool more often once yet another Pittsburgh winter descends its gloom and doom upon us in a few short months, but most of all I’m looking forward to see what benefits I reap now that I’ve stopped denying the Aquarius I undoubtedly am!

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