I recently realized that, because I am out of my element, I compensate for my insecurities by pretending well, all sorts of things. I’m sure that if you incorporate these high-level skills into your swim workout, you will find that you look completely self-assured as well.
Things I Pretend Before, During, and After a Swim
1. I always know exactly what I’m doing. I think, because I am still in shock that I am actually training for a triathlon, I feel more convinced of my capabilities if I pretend that I’ve been doing this sort of thing forever. If I take on the persona of someone else (like the lady who likes to run, who has no insecurities, and is happy in a bathing suit) then maybe her qualities will rub off on me.
2. I know the tricks of the trade. This past summer I got a tip from a seasoned swimmer about saving your hair from chlorine. She told me that if you slather your hair with conditioner before you put your swim cap on, your hair won’t absorb as much chlorine. I thought this was a good idea, so, yesterday after I suited up and put my bag away, I headed over to the mirror to slicker-up my hair.
There were a couple of other ladies walking around, so I had to continue my “happy in a bathing suit” mantra. Feeling a little pressure from their presence, I felt the need to sell what I was doing. As I applied conditioner to my dry hair I sent out the vibe that this is not strange at all and I do this all the time. As long as I look like I know what I’m doing, then what I’m doing is not crazy.
Everything was fine, until the time came to put the swim cap over my deeply conditioned head. I couldn’t get that thing to stay anywhere close to my head. Finally, to save face, I went into a stall and used my goggles to attach the thing to my head.
3. I’ve come a long way already. I like to pretend that I’ve been on this road for a long time and maybe…I’ve just lost 100 pounds! In which case, I look pretty, darn good. So, I’m actually 100 pounds under weight. Who’s to say I’m not?
4. I always take a soapy shower before entering the pool. While I always appear to have taken a soapy shower before entering, in actuality it’s a bunch of strategically placed water droplets. I do the sprinkle and swipe so that if the Shower Nazis happen to question me, I can easily display shower effects. The soapy smell is just a result of my heavily conditioned swim cap.
5. Slowing down in the water is part of the workout. The idea here is that everything that takes place in the water is planned. So when I start to slow down towards the middle of my workout, it’s not because I’m tired or my ribs hurt… it’s just the “tapering” part of the workout, which I had factored in already.
6. I choose not to do flip turns. I like to pretend that I’m totally competent in my flip turn abilities… I just tag the wall because, for me, it’s more efficient. (I have been spotted flipping in one lane and turning into another…under the lane line.)
7. I always know where the wall is when I’m doing backstroke. After I see the flags over head, I know (like any “seasoned” swimmer would) that I’m close to the wall. But how close? That’s a great question. I try to keep track of my strokes, but sometimes I forget and reach for the wall…and reach…still kicking and pretending this is, again built into the workout…reach some more and…ah yes, there it is! Hoping nobody saw, I nonchalantly adjust my swim cap, which by now, has slipped right off my head and is hanging on by the goggles.
But worse than that is when I try to prevent the previous scenario from happening by taking one more stroke and then proceed to BANG my head on the wall…in that case, I just pretend it didn’t happen. I don’t even take time to see if anyone noticed, I just push off the wall and move on to the next stroke praying that no one saw. Never mind that I’ve just suffered a minor underwater head-injury.
8. While swimming, I focus on scaling seconds off my time and improving my technique. In all honesty, if I’m not completely wrapped up in this fabricated athletic persona then I’m probably just memorizing my locker combination. I have this fear of being off by a number or two, which would be bad because then I wouldn’t be able to get my keys, to drive on home, to make the dinner, to kiss the kids, to diaper the baby, to put them to bed, and to clean the house that Jack built. (Just kidding…my house is not clean.)
9. I know my way around. Let’s say that I’m walking out of the locker room and I turn the wrong way and walk into the basketball court, I just pretend that I’m “checking something.” Maybe I needed to look at a bulletin board or examine the color of the brick to see if it’s the same on every wall…you never can tell.
10. I pretend that I didn’t forget my bra. Oh yeah, I always cross my arms when I walk out of the locker room…doesn’t everyone? Just…casually…strolling down the hall…never mind the lack of support…nothing weird, breezy or floppy about this AT ALL.
The bottom line is this, no one likes to look like a fool, but it’s hard not to when you don’t know what you’re doing as a beginner, so if it helps, go ahead and pretend. It’s likely that everyone around you is equally as unsure, and if they’re not, they have been at some point. If there’s a choice between looking like a fool, and fooling other people… I choose the latter.
Published in beginnertriathlete.com (February 2007)