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Swimmer’s high May 2, 2009

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I finally made it to the pool again after months on inactivity.  Though it felt awkward to try to work out in a bikini (pity I didn’t bring my competition gear with me), I managed to still get some decent exercise in.  I’m so used to the comfort of a one-piece suit, cap, and goggles that I didn’t exactly know what to do with myself without.  I figured I could just tread water and do some endurance exercises that way, so I started off just doing a casual freestyle kick, keeping my chin just above the water.  After awhile, that got boring, so I curled up my knees and tread with just my hands.  From there, I did variations of strokes, from a breaststroke with my head above the water to doing some freestyle kick drills on my sides.  Every time I get in the water I’m tempted to do the butterfly, which is my favorite stroke, but alas, in a suit like mine today, I was in great danger of losing my top half that way.  So instead, I satisfied myself with some simple exercises that may not raise my heart rate a great deal, but certainly required a certain amount of strength and endurance.

By the time I got out, I felt great.  My face was flushed and my heart rate had increased.  That’s one of my favorite parts of working out – getting to that flushed stage where you know you’ve pushed your body beyond its normal resting state.  I felt so at peace that I began to wonder if there’s such a thing as a swimmer’s high.  It seems pretty commonly recognized that there’s a runner’s high, but does the same go for swimming?  I have not been able to find anything online to back me up, but there’s a certain feeling that I get when I’m doing the fly and everything is in sync.  You get into a rhythm and inertia kicks in.  It’s almost harder to stop that flow of action than to continue on with it.  Unfortunately, the pool can only be so long and that stroke tends to be very taxing on the body, so at some point gravity’s influence becomes more apparent and it slows things down.  But for those couple of beautiful seconds, everything just feels so right.

If there was such a thing as a swimmer’s high, it could only really be achieved in freestyle (at least that’s how I feel).  Fly is too demanding, breast is too technical, and backstroke is too disruptive.  I’m not saying it’s not possible, but from what I understand, it should last quite a long time and for any of the other strokes, it’d be more difficult to accomplish.  To start off with, people tend to swim proper strokes in a pool, which of course requires flip-turns every couple of seconds.  That in itself, though integrated into the process, can be disruptive.  Runners can get themselves to move to a beat and maintain that for virtually as long as they want.  Swimmers must pause their rhythm to add in the occasional glide, flip, push-off, kick-off, and resurfacing.  In open water swimming, this phenomenon might be easier.  At least for freestyle, the stroke motion going into a flip-turn is similar to what you are already doing.  Maybe it’s just the way I swim, but I think it’d be easiest to get into a groove with freestyle.

I miss the lull of the water, the smell of the chlorine, and the whole atmosphere surrounding training and competition.  From wearing swim parkas and Uggs around the pool to helping be the counter for those swimming the 500 free, I really enjoyed being on swim teams.  I liked how it felt to have the water rushing by me and bubbles flowing around.  I loved playing with Sammies (those super absorbant towels) and the beauty of a perfectly executed backstroke start.  I enjoyed practicing my dives and finishes, especially when there was a touchpad present!  I liked how professional I felt when I wore a drag suit for added resistance in training.  I even had a blast at the swim camps at Mt. Holyoke, where we did dryland circuits until I could barely move, then hopped in the water for more working out.  It was a lifestyle that I will always miss, just like my track and field days and my military training days.

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, I got invited to go to Australia with other swimmers from around the country, to compete against some of the swimmers down under.  This was with the International Sports Specialists, Inc. who run Down Under Sports.  It was an awesome time, from the places that we went (Sydney, Gold Coast, and then Waikiki Beach in Hawaii) and the people we met (these guys who were there playing soccer took us around).  I don’t remember much of the meet, except that Aussies are freaking fast and we couldn’t beat them, but we had a great time and it was a great bonding experience.  I used to have a t-shirt with all the people from the New York team on it, but I lost it long ago.  I also managed to misplace the sweatshirt I bought from them, as well as the Bond University one that we girls decided to get when we went there for a visit.  It’s a pity – those were great memories of an unparalleled two weeks.

I have always had a pleasant experience with the water, from my childhood splashing around in pools to middle school when I first learned the four strokes to high school where I helped start the swim team at Brewster High School and finally when I competed on the varsity team at Valencia High School.  Though I got a late start, learning stroke techniques when I was thirteen, I wasn’t too far behind and always managed to be good enough for varsity level, even if I wasn’t a star in that realm.  Nowadays, without a team to practice with and keep me motivated, it’s hard to complete a workout like I used to.  Once I settle down somewhere, I’d like to make sure I visit the pool frequently, even if I don’t do a real workout.  Perhaps one day I can join a club or something, just to get back into it.  For now it will just be my therapeutic experience; something I can always count on to make me feel better.

Sheer exhaustion April 29, 2009

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This is the first time that I did not post my entry prior to going to bed, since I began posting every day.  I like to get it out of the way earlier in the wee hours of the day so when I get busy/distracted later on, I won’t have to worry and I would still have the entire rest of the day to do it.  However, yesterday when I got back last night, a wave of exhaustion just took over me and I curled up on the bed with my body pillow.  It was so warm and cozy and Panda was taking a nap on his end, so I just drifted off.  The next thing I knew, I was waking up to find my computer turned off.  Disoriented, I deliriously turned my computer back on to find Panda again, but fell asleep again soon after.  I can’t recall if I ever did sign back on again or what happened from there, but I didn’t wake up again until the morning, as a storm was rolling in.

I’m not sure why I was so tired – perhaps it’s a combination of lack of sleep, long days, and not enough nutrition.  I don’t feel like I have been overworked or underfed though, so I really don’t know.  In fact, there are times where I am doing background reading and research that feels like my typical internet activity.  It has made me want to get more into social media or business psychology consulting, since I love to read article upon article about those topics.  So that’s all well and good, but I guess sometimes everything in your life just catches up with you and your body shuts down.  I think all the things that were bearing down on me just caught up with me.  I’ve been getting a lot of intense piercing pains and headaches this past month; I’ve never suffered through this kind of cranial pain before.  It’s not quite a migraine – the symptoms for that are far more intense – but it’s definitely not a pleasant experience.  I don’t know why I get them or what I can do about them (I’m not one to take painkillers unless I’m desperate, which happens like once every few months).

Emotionally I have been rather drained as of late.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recover from being away from Panda.  I don’t miss him any less now than I did before.  I spend a lot of time wanting to go back just to see him, but at the same time I really value my time and experience here.  Still, it’s hard to get up and go out on the weekends when I can stay online and talk to him.  I don’t know why it’s so hard for me.  It also hasn’t been easy to find my own way here.  I’ve been trying to do more things on my own, which is good, but I’m doing it all alone.  There isn’t really anyone for me to hang out with or spend time with.  Not that I dislike anyone here, but I’m used to a lot of different social groups, all with different interests and preferences for activities.

And of course, there’s always the feeling that I don’t have a home to go to and crash at.  There is no space here that is exclusively mine, which is something I’m not used to.  It’s the exact opposite of how I grew up – with rooms to myself for most of the day and often the whole house to myself as my parents traveled around.  Even in college, when I shared my room with another girl, half of that room was mine.  I could do whatever I wanted and often had time alone in the room.  Plus, I could always go home home on the weekends.  So maybe it’s just caged bird syndrome that’s got me down.  It seems that I need to stop viewing myself so much as an outsider and guest here.  It’s hard to break away from that though, since most people I speak to outside of the office don’t seem to be able to understand me.  I feel so out of place when I’m not in the office or just alone and it’s a bit disheartening.

Marylin and I talked recently about how I don’t really interact with her parents, which is mostly why I still feel like a guest here.  I’m used to holing up in my room all day, doing my own things, so it doesn’t even occur to me to go out to the living room to talk to them, or something along those lines.  I’ve tried to greet them here and there, but I tend to be quiet when I do that and it gets lost in Marylin’s own greeting and consequent chatting with them.  So, I just keep walking and go to the room to give them time together.  After all, they hardly get to see each other, much less talk and hang out.  But it seems that my policy of "stay out of their way" is just alienating me and making them… not quite uncomfortable, but you get the idea.  It doesn’t help that I am hugely awkward with parents (or anyone I view in an authoritative position).  It took me a good 10-12 years to get myself to even be able to look them in the eye.

So, I need to work on putting myself out there more, even if it terrifies me.  I just don’t like to stand there awkwardly and not know what to do or say.  Before I left, my mom told me to offer to help with household chores, but that is taken care of the maid, so the most I do is clear the table after eating.  Starfish advised that I just ask them how their days were and I don’t know if I’m just not seeing opportunities to, but I feel like I haven’t really had a chance to say anything to them.  Either they’re watching TV or they’re not around.  Marylin’s mom will pop in on the weekends to offer me food, but by the time I go out to eat it, she’s retreated to her room or is out already.  There was one time she left it on the bed for me, so I just ate it in the room.  I usually don’t even see her dad around, but for when he’s watching a game or tournament.

And maybe it’s just me, but if I’m watching something, I don’t want to be disturbed.  On the weekends when Marylin’s going through her CSI Supreme Sunday fix, she tends to switch channels during commercials, which is something I never do.  If I’m watching something, I’m focused on it and I don’t want to miss out on any of it.  If it’s streaming live and I can’t pause it, I don’t do anything to disrupt that.  When it comes down to it, I just don’t know how to handle those situations.  When is it appropriate to say something?  What should I say?  How do I know if they’re talking just because they don’t want to be rude or if they actually don’t mind?  Sigh, I hate being awkward with older generations.  I’m not a "bring her home" type of friend.  I can’t even call them by their first names – the first time I called someone other than my peer by their first name was when I was 19.  Why am I so stiff?

Maybe this chronic exhaustion is due to too much processing for my brain.  From the work I’m doing and all that I’m learning to the struggles I’m undergoing, it’s a lot to handle.  I worry a lot because I think and analyze a lot.  I don’t like to share any of my stress though, so I’m hard-pressed to find an outlet.  I don’t like to complain and I don’t like to ask for help.  Meanwhile, Marylin will let out a sigh or talk about her frustrations with some of the work she’s trying to deal with.  Since I’m not used to expressions like that, it stresses me out to hear and see that too, especially when she taps her fingers impatiently.  For some reason, just hearing that speeds up my heart rate and makes me more anxious.  I tend to notice small details like that, which then makes things that aren’t a big deal out to be much bigger than usual.  I am a people-pleaser, but it seems that my approach in keeping to myself is not pleasing at all.  Then there are all the things I miss and want to do when I get back, but I’m trying to make myself focus on being here now and doing new exciting things.  It’s hard to be here and focused when my heart is not with me.  Whoever knew I could be such a homebody?

Gosh, I’ve got a lot to work on.

Exercising consistently April 26, 2009

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I’ve been feeling a huge lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in my life recently, which exaggerates my continued languor.  I don’t know if it’s because of my diet that I feel so tired or if because I feel so listless that I’m not bothering to eat well.  I guess both things kind of perpetuate each other, leaving me drained and nutrient-deprived.  Ok, it’s not that bad, but I do feel like my energy level has not been up to par with my old self.  Fruits and salads were so much more accessible back in the dining halls!  I know people tend to eat terribly when it’s a buffet, but I really did enjoy having a salad bar and baskets of fruits laying around.

I’ve been trying to convince myself to get back into the good old days, when a workout was routine and expected, but it’s hard when I don’t even have sneakers.  I also have this "need" to only work out when I can shower afterward, but I tend to feel like working out when I’m showering.  I hate to take too many showers in a day (why waste the water?), so I need to time it just right.  Perhaps this is why I prefer to do static exercises that don’t produce as much sweat as cardio would.  I’ve been telling myself to set aside half an hour each afternoon/evening to do some simple strength exercises, but somehow the time always flies by and next thing I know, it’s time for dinner.

I found a series of short videos online through the UCLA Rec Center, which leads me through some quick and simple "at your desk" exercises that can counteract the effects of sitting too long (something I am very much guilty of).  I did them once and it felt good, but I wasn’t able to remember to keep doing it.  Am I going to need to set an alarm to remind myself?  After all, it’s only 15 minutes – plenty short to fit into my schedule!  I always fare so much better when I have a set regimen, coach, and team to work out with.  This whole self-motivation thing is hard to do when you keep convincing yourself that your personal well-being can be pushed aside for higher priority things.  But, as many of the contestants in The Biggest Loser said, much of the reason they got so overweight was because they neglected to take care of themselves.

I have spent time reading books and articles for personal enrichment.  I play games here and there to destress and work my critical thinking and motor skills.  Yet, I do nothing for my physical health, in terms of strength, endurance, overall fitness.  So I think it’s time to get back into that mindset that everyone starts the year with and revamp my life.  I need to tone my core, I want to work on my triceps, and I should slim down ever so slightly.  Starfish brought in a machine that measures your BMI and fat percentage, which we all tried one night.  My BMI has always been within the normal range, nothing exciting, but my fat percentage is a tad on the high end.  That doesn’t come as too much of a surprise – I have very thick thighs that have quite a layer of fat on them and my belly’s got its fair share as well.

I really wish I could swim to work out, but I didn’t bring my cap, googles, or competitve suits.  Can you imagine me doing the fly in a bikini?  Especially one that has this strange flap that hangs down halfway to my bellybutton.  Let’s not even talk about how silly that would look or how easily a "wardrobe malfunction" could occur.  I was thinking that if the pool is deep enough, I could try just doing some exercises treading water.  Now I’ve just got to convince myself it’s worth it to look like a fool in a family style pool and get to it.

I want to try to do that on the weekends (or any nights that I manage to get back around dinnertime).  Days that I don’t get to do that I should be doing some basic dryland exercises.  There’s so much you can do with just your body and gravity, as I was telling Lorrie the other day, when he was asking me about how to burn away belly flab.  I still remember a lot from my years of training, but it’s no use if I don’t do it.  Pretty soon, I’ll start to forget everything I once knew, except that I once knew it.  Sometimes I get really nostalgic for those days when I used to compete and train with a goal in mind.  Always a better run, a longer jump, a faster swim, or more endurance.

I must motivate myself to work out again.