This is Part II of a series, courtesy of Chris McClelland, on his journey back to the pool.
I am in the Emergency Room at the local hospital, with severe chest pains. The doctor says that it is inflammation caused by my sternum healing from my surgery, but my surgery was months ago. Still, the kind of surgery I had, the road to recovery was going to be a long one. I still haven’t even started practice in the pool. All my exercises are still dryland.
I see my cardiologist a few days later, and he prescribes me an anti-inflammatory and suggests I don’t do any upper body exercise for a few weeks. I still am to maintain my cardio workouts on the bicycle, five days a week, 30 minutes a day on the stationary bike. I continue my daily routine and the prescription helps with the pain so that I don’t have to endure it for long. Meanwhile, I gradually feel stronger as I exercise. My cardiovascular system is obviously getting better, and I generally have an overall feeling of well-being.
Still, I yearn to be back in the pool, swimming repeats, keeping track of my times. That was probably the most satisfying part of swimming, dropping times, especially in meets. Personal Bests always gave me the adrenaline I needed, and the re-enforcement, to keep working hard. I was looking forward to compete in meets again, but I was worried about my lung capacity. I was confident that I could perform in the dry land exercises, but thinking about swimming in the water gave me a healthy fear. When I competed in Masters’ meets, not only were my times sluggish, but in some of those races I truly felt like I was drowning. I would have to face this fear, and I knew the only way to face this was to swim. I couldn’t put it off forever.
Of course, a part of this seemed ridiculous. I had swum with Olympians, had been one of the best sprinters in the state of Florida in high school. What did I have to be scared of? It seemed downright silly. I had nothing to worry about. I figured I would start back on my strength training, continue my cardio, and see what could be done to boost my confidence.
I love the water, and it’s there that I feel my best, despite my gnawing fear of drowning. I can’t wait to get strong enough to get back in the pool, flexible enough to do proper warm-ups and I am looking forward to the competition. All during high school I thrived on the competition, and the biggest competition was with myself. The margin of improvement was near infinite, every race an opportunity for another Personal Best.
But first I must heal and strengthen myself. I have been careful when deciding when to take my pain medication. I do not want to get myself hooked on anything. It is a delicate balance. I find myself drowsy most of the time, and as I continue my exercise routine, I realize how out of shape I have been for all those years. I should never have taken my excellent health for granted. Now, most days I am sluggish and in a daze, barely able to get anything accomplished from day to day. Even with this, I manage to exercise every day, and it becomes clear that if I just keep pushing through, I will eventually regain my energy. Until then, though, it’s going to be rough going.
I am developing a healthier, heart-strengthening nutritional diet that focuses on combating my diabetes. I find myself eating a lot more vegetables and making protein shakes a regular part of my diet. This helps me to progress, and to burn off weight in conjunction with the exercise. I find myself losing more weight, and it is promising to be a good routine overall. For now, this is where I find myself.
About Chris McClelland
Chris McClelland spent his early childhood in New York and southern Georgia, before moving to central Florida in 1975. He studied engineering at the University of Florida, where he spent months training with the world-renown Florida Gator swim team. He recounts this experience in a previous article in SwimSwam called “Swimming Among the Olympians”. He holds a BA and an MA in English from the University of Central Florida. He spent seven years teaching as an adjunct professor at various colleges around central Florida. In 1999, he was a contributor to the prestigious Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. At that time he worked as a technical writer for Siemens Westinghouse. In 2004 he became a regular contributor to Narrative Magazine where he worked as an assistant editor. His writing has appeared in Harper’s, Puerto Del Sol, and Mid-American Review. He recently co-edited The Provo Canyon Review with his wife, Erin. His novel, In Love and War, has been published to many positive reviews. He currently lives with his wife and sons in Utah.