It was a discovery weekend. After training intensively for about two months, my left kneecap threatened to give way. It was an ominous sign, given that my half marathon is about two weeks away. After the 13.2 mile unexpected trial run early last Sunday, I could feel at times a sharp pain even when walking. Patiently, I tried to give it time, hoping to go for a practise run on Sunday again after resting for a week.
It was to no avail. My lower back has been quite sore when sleeping at night. All signs pointed to old age. I refused to give in and saw it as a challenge from the book I am currently reading. I thought hard for a solution. Swimming. The more I pondered about it, the more confident I was that this was the answer. I searched for a nearby pool and was relieved to find one within twenty minutes of walking distance. Digging into my luggage, I managed to find my swimsuit and goggles quite easily! To me, it was another sign that I was on the right track.
I woke up on Sunday morning to grey skies and some light drizzle. Determined not to be detered, I made myself some breakfast and proceeded to pack my swimming gear. I interpreted the grey skies as a positive sign, hoping that the gloomy weather will pose a huge barrier to the neighbourhood folks who had plans for the pool as well. This will in fact work out well for me and will allow me to complete my laps smoothly, or so I believe.
I set off around twenty after eight and arrived at my destination with minimal mishaps. So far so good. Crossing my fingers for an indoor pool with warm water, I smiled to myself upon my arrival and realised that even the shower facilities produced warm water! This is in contrast with the cold water oozing out of the shower heads in Singapore even on rainy days when temperatures dip below thirty degrees. In no time at all, I was in the pool. I was dismayed by the length of the pool. It was half the length of a normal pool. 25 metres in length – for a person who has set a target of 20 laps of a 50m pool, this was a huge problem indeed. It meant I had to turn around many more times rather than concentrating on my strokes. Forty laps, I told myself, I can do it.
And so I did. To those who are not aware of my swimming prowess, I have learned swimming since primary school. I would not say I am a fantastic swimmer but I am an average swimmer who has not been in a pool since last August in Valencia. I covered ten laps and took a breather. Maybe a little out of breath but generally alright. Stretching my body a little, I went for another ten more easily. The pool is divided into eight lanes but there were dividers setting up 5 lanes. Four normal breadth lanes and one with three combined. Although it should be considered early on a Sunday morning, I had to navigate myself around to avoid collision with other bodies. Generally speaking, I was the fastest swimmer in my area focusing on laps hence I had to push myself around and at times overtake other swimmers who were blocking my path.
Mentally patting myself on my back, I finally completed the second set and scouting around for more space, I moved into the next lane to share the space with another fellow swimmers. Twenty laps at one shot, I promised myself. It worked perfectly. It did not take much effort – which I realised on hindsight, it must have been to do with the stamina that I had built up from running. True, both exercises do require different parts of the body and swimming is considered a more complete activity – stretching muscles from different parts of the body. But the breathing and technique efforts needed would be more easily executed by a person who has been actively engaging in sports of some sort. Running, but of course!
I even engaged in breathing exercises like holding my breath for longer periods of time before surfacing towards the last couple of laps. To top up the effort and make up for the distance which was “wasted” by the additional turns, I decided to perform another four final laps before making my way out of the pool.
A huge reward awaited me at the end of my swim. The niggling pain in my left knee appears to have disappeared temporarily. Excellent work – I praised myself. Although my lower back still appears to be slightly sore after the swim, I realised that I needed to be more dilligent in my theraupeutic efforts rather than expecting an instant cure-all miracle.
Nonetheless, I was still satisfied with the morning’s effort – for now.