but for the chemical rush in the hour after, for the night of dreamless sleep

Exercise was always in extremes — a distance to traverse, an impossibly high number. Every summer spent in the vicinity of a pool, I was to do 100 laps per day. This, too, was referred to in a shorthand — “doing the laps” — that made it sound like normal penance for any vacation. Counting to 100 was a feat, much less swimming there, and my mind went numb with boredom while my family ate watermelon by the pool side. I associated exercise with punishment, with the glossy magazine’s injunction to achieve the perfect body, a waifish small-breasted form that no amount of hotel-room yoga would ever transform mine into.

And yet, when I graduated from college, something shifted. Left to my own devices, I discovered exercise could be as hedonic as any other indulgence. It was a matter of reframing the goal: not to become thin, which was as unlikely as tall or blond, but for the chemical rush in the hour after, for the night of dreamless sleep, for the feeling of my body, a diffuse, frontier-less thing…Exercise was time that was mine, where I owed nothing to anyone, and the next day’s aching muscles could be as secret a pleasure as bruises left by a lover.

Now every summer, whenever I can find a pool, I do the laps. The size of the pool may vary, but I always swim until 100. At the ocean, I choose a point as far away as I can — a distant boat, a rocky outgrowth — and swim to it and back. The pleasure is partly in the terror, halfway there, when the beach umbrellas are as small as glitter, that I will never make it back. The pulse of deep water, the blue-black whisper of down down down, the atavistic tremor as my body realizes, as all bodies have always known, how slight it is against an ocean. And then the adrenaline: thighs and waist and biceps concocted into ropes of steel, hands that slip and reach under the surface as softly as under a skirt, feet that pound impossibly far behind, until I am as long as the shoreline. I’m a strong swimmer but not a good one, and I gasp only to the right, eyes stinging with salt, until I can hear the shrieks and lifeguard whistles and ice cream bells, the sounds of the civilization I almost slipped away from. In the water, my body expands, loses itself, weightless. Back on the sand, blood still pulsing with the ocean’s beat, I contract back into shape, my shape, whose boundaries are finally my own.

The Hedonic Rush of Exercise” (NY Times, August 27, 2019)

 


Photo: David Hockney’s “John St. Clair Swimming, April 1972” from “Twenty Photographic Pictures by David Hockney” (1976). CreditCredit© David Hockney. Photo: Richard Schmidt.

Saturday Morning

Leave it alone…

let the bones cool…

~ Lisa TaddeoThree Women (July 9, 2019)


Notes:

  • Inspired by: “One of the most difficult aspects of the frantic rush through a busy life is that we often do not allow even the smallest notion of “completion” to enter the picture of our daily lives. We often rush from task to task, so much so that the end of one task is just the invitation to start another. There are no gaps in between in which we could take even a few seconds to sit, to take stock, to realize that we have just completed something. Just the reverse: how many times do we hear ourselves say, “I haven’t achieved anything at all today?” If you can practice cultivating a sense of completeness- even a glimmer, right now, in this moment, with the little things of life- there is a chance that you would be better able to cope with those aspects of mind that keep telling you that you are not there yet; not yet happy, not yet fulfilled. You might learn that you are complete, whole, just as you are.” ~Mark Williams & Danny Penman, Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World (via Make Believe Boutique)
  • Photo (via Newthom)

On Swimming…


…hold a fabric of silence so fine
and old that even a breath
could tear it.
I love to swim in the sea, which keeps
talking to itself
in the monotone of a vagabond
who no longer recalls
exactly how long he’s been on the road.
Swimming is like a prayer:
palms join and part,
join and part, almost without end.

~ Adam Zagajewski, from “On Swimming” from Without End: New and Selected Poems.


Notes: Poem via 3 Quarks Daily.  Art by Samantha French

Lie back daughter, let your head be tipped back in the cup of my hand.

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls…
You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea…
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

Philip Booth, from “First Lesson” in  Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999


Notes: Photo by mary-annm. Poem via 3 Quarks Daily

T.G.I.F.: Morning Swim (Post Grayson)


Source: Giphy.com

All together now…


Anna Voloshyna and Valyzaveta Yakhno of Ukraine compete in the Women’s Duet Technical Routine at the Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships. (Adam Pretty, Getty Images, wsj.com, July 14, 2017)

 

I have a room all to myself; it is nature.

Photo: A woman swims in Walden Pond in Concord, Mass., on what would have been the 200th birthday of Henry David Thoreau, author of the book ‘Walden.’ He was born on July 12, 1817. (Brian Snyder, Reuters, wsj.com July 12, 2017)


Post Title: Henry David Thoreau

 

Forget Calories. Go for Awe.

Excerpts from Julia Baird’s Forget Calories. Exercise for Awe. (May 6, 2017, NY Times):

If you joined the hundreds of people in my swim squad, you might think at first that the routine was simply about getting a solid bout of exercise before the day begins…The caps we wear are bright pink. The name we call ourselves, the Bold and Beautiful, is also quite daft, but it’s a reminder that the squad was formed several years ago by middle-aged women who were too nervous to swim the distance alone. This morning swim was never about skill, but about pluck.

Most days, at some spot along the mile-long route, heads will cluster, arms pointing down under the water at enormous blue groupers, white dolphins, color-changing cuttlefish, wobbegongs (bearded sharks), and even tiny turtles and sea horses. One summer, a white dolphin frequently appeared. At this time every year, gangs of young dusky whaler sharks swarm the bay, several feet beneath us, migrating only after they have already become large enough to make people nervous. There’s a reason a collective term for sharks is a shiver.

It’s not always sheer delight. Sometimes we emerge with red welts from stingers (usually jellyfish) across faces and limbs, and have to battle thickets of seaweed, powerful currents and crashing waves. But the daily difference in conditions is part of what makes it thrilling. One day, a whale glided into the bay and played with the swimmers for an hour — though I refuse to talk about it because I wasn’t there…My atheist friends who were there described it as like a prayer or quasi-religious experience; their faces turned solemn at the recollection… [Read more…]

3, now 23. Happy Birthday Eric!

Eric, son, swim,swimming,float

Morning Exercise (1, 2, or 3?)

#1:

ice-swim-winter-paris

#2:

ice-swim-cold

Or is it #3?

[Read more…]

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