It’s Time To Jump In Feet First And Sink Or Swim

This article is courtesy of Judd Cribbs.

It’s been about 14 months since I took up competitive swimming. I grew up with a pool in my backyard, but never began training with purpose until I was nearly 53 years old.

Right now I’m only competing with myself, and I must say I soundly defeated myself during past few weeks.

Sometime in late September, I injured my shoulder. I’m not sure how, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t from swimming. I think it was when I was sawing dead palm fronds off a tree in my front yard. But swimming kept aggravating the injury, which was greatly diminishing the enjoyment of my workouts.

My wife made a sensible suggestion, as she often does.  She said I should take a few weeks off from swimming, rather than let the injury keep nagging me.  She was right, of course: I was the mouse in the experiment that gets shocked when he touches the cheese, but he keeps going back for the cheese anyway.

So I turned to my former exercise partner: running. About a month later, during my annual wellness check , my doctor said my triglycerides were too high (268) and I needed to cut back on certain foods. When I saw the list, it looked like my daily menu – bread, rice, potatoes, sweets, pasta.  By Thanksgiving, I had dropped about seven pounds and my shoulder felt better. I also feel better with the extra weight off. I’m 6-foot-1 and weigh 198 now. I have pretty much eaten an egg every way it can be eaten. And I have to say I’m not craving the 7-11 Boston Creme donut as much as I thought I would. One strategy that helps is when I go into a 7-11 for coffee, I simply don’t make eye contact with the donuts.

I do feel as if they are staring at me, though.

I was worried about going back into the pool. I was afraid my shoulder would still hurt or I would be woefully out of swimming shape after about six weeks on land. I did my first workout gingerly for about 30 minutes. I think it was about at half-manatee speed. I didn’t feel like there was much drop-off with strength, and I felt just as fit cardio-wise. After a few shaky turns, my budding flip turn ability started coming back as well.

And nothing hurt much during the workout or after. So I’m back on track to ramp up my workouts.  I want to compete in an actual event, but I want to feel as if I’m totally prepared. Some people have told me that they have never felt totally prepared.  I realize that I might have to just jump in with both feet and sink or swim, to use all the clichés I could think of.

I’m still looking at entering a meet in early 2017 or whenever the first available one is in my area. I don’t even care how I do – I just want shake off the newbie bugs. And if all goes well, I might hire someone to saw off the dang palm fronds next time.

Judd Cribbs is a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. When he is not swimming or teaching, he enjoys gardening, playing the piano (poorly), and chasing his two kids around the house.

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Matthew Connery
3 years ago


Great job starting something later in life! From what I have read in various sources, no matter when you start, you can look forward to 10-15 years of improvement. How great will that be? This running coach and inspiration person ( has a great quote: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” So do that first race, and begin your journey.

I would also recommend “Staying With It: On Becoming an Athlete (

It got me back in the pool for all the right reasons, and helped me enjoy the process. Good luck!

Matt Connery