Get Back In the Pool

You may have checked out my last post about being diagnosed with PCOS — a common hormonal disorder that can lead to infertility, insulin resistance, and weight gain – particularly in your midsection.  In the last six months or so the challenge of losing weight and staying in shape has been harder, due largely to factors outside of my control. Since I’ve been back at the gym regularly I’m getting stronger but I’m not as slim, lean, or fast as I was a year ago. It’s discouraging.

I decided to join the latest edition of the Summer Slim Down Challenge at my gym despite feeling like a failure the last time I participated in the fall/winter of last year.  This go-round, more than ever, I’m competing against myself.  I am no longer among the elite workout warriors with body fat percentages in the teens and dress sizes in the 2/4 range.  Comparing yourself to others can mess with your head if you let it.  And if you’re not careful it can discourage you to the point of making you want to sit out on the sidelines.

Now, I’ve never been an athlete or much of a physical competitor.  My team sport experience is pretty much non-existent.  However, once upon a time, for one fleeting summer back in third grade, I was a member of the North Creek Neptunes Swim Team.

I’m not quite sure what made me decide to join the swim team.  I was passing by our local pool one day when the blue and white sandwich board painted with an image of King Neptune caught my eye.  The North Creek Neptunes.  I decided I wanted to swim.

And swim I did.  Like Michael Phelps…. Ok.  No.  Not like Michael Phelps.  More like a duck with a broken wing.  There was nothing graceful about my entry into the water. It was sort of like a bellyflop followed by a desperate attempt to get back to the surface so I could suck in air before unleashing a fury of kicking and splashing. But my legs were strong, my cupped hands sliced through the water, and I had adrenaline on my side. Backstroke and freestyle were my strongest events. I won blue ribbons and qualifying heats and was often chosen to swim anchor in relay events.

I was the best of the B Team.

The following summer my mom and dad took me back to the pool for tryouts. But this time things were different.  The A Team was there. I became painfully aware of my B-team status. My electric blue one piece clung to my chubby 10-year-old belly and thighs.  I froze. And then, I started to panic.

I refused to get in the water. I just couldn’t.  I could not compete with these kids.  They were better, faster, thinner, more streamlined.  I would not get in the pool.  I begged my parents to take me home, refusing to explain what was wrong.  Eventually they relented though I knew they were disappointed. Not only did I never swim competitively again but I didn’t really do any type of sport, exercise, or physical activity again until I started going to the gym with my friends freshman year of college. By that time I was obese.

I want to tell you that 23 years later that chubby 10-year-old with the shaken confidence is long gone. But I realized there’s a little of her left when I considered whether to throw in the towel on my whole health and fitness goal after my PCOS diagnosis. The only difference is now there’s another voice in my head.  The one that says “Get back in the pool, Jackie.

“But I can’t…they’re faster than me.”  Get back in the pool, Jackie.

“I’m not as good as I used to be.”   Get back in the pool, Jackie.

“I just don’t think I can do this anymore.  I want to quit.”  Jackie, GET BACK IN THE POOL.

Believe me, there are plenty of days when it would be easier to make excuses and I have to choose to make progress instead.  And progress is slower these days.  It’s harder won than any blue ribbon in my B Team glory days.  It’s like swimming against the current with one arm tied behind your back.  But at least, for now, I’ve decided to keep treading water.

So as we head into the summer if you are feeling like you’ve lost your nerve, like you’re not good enough, like you’re never going to achieve your goals….

My advice to you would be this: take a deep breath, get back in the pool, and swim your heart out.