I had an anxiety attack at the gym. Then I went swimming.
The indoor pool has been closed for the last two weeks. The outdoor pool has been open, but it has also been dumping down rain the last two weeks because… well… this is Washington.
I knew it was going to be a bit hard to go. I hadn’t been swimming in over a week. When I get out of the habit of doing something it is always a bit harder to start again. But, I was aware I would feel that twinge of doubt and so when it happened I observed it but did not placate it. I was also aware it might be a bit busier than normal, as everyone who normally swims laps had the same restraints I had and presumably would all want to come back and swim just like I did. I was not aware of what that would actually look like.
I checked the lane reservations half a dozen times before I left. I think I even checked them again once I was sitting in the gym parking lot. It was a nearly completely empty day. And I timed my visit right at the peak of unscheduled activity. I had been there at this time before. I was fairly sure I would get a lane to myself.
No. Such. Luck.
There is a little window into the poolroom that you can peek into on your way to the locker room. As I walked by, I looked, expecting to see people, but not too many people. There was splashing in every lane! Lots of splashing! I sat down on the seat by the window. My mind spun. There was so much activity I couldn’t be sure there would even be room for me even if I shared a lane. I felt sick. I noticed a person walking down the hall towards me. I avoided eye contact and rushed into the locker room. I made a beeline for one of the changing stalls. I jerked the curtain closed behind me and sat down on the little bench, smashed up against the lockers. I could feel my heart pounding in my ears. My breath was coming fast and panicked. My stomach dropped out and my skin crawled. I could hear more people in the locker room. Jesus! I thought, how many people are here today?
I tried to take deep breaths. I bit back the tears. I wanted to shrink into the locker behind me and never come out. I wanted to run out the door and back into my car. I considered this second option, very carefully.
The conversation with myself went something like this:
There are just too many people. It’s perfectly understandable if you leave. This is just too much. You could come back tonight.
No, there were actually lane reservations later tonight and if it is this busy now, it will be even busier when there are only two lanes free.
Ok, well you could go home, run on the treadmill and come swimming tomorrow.
But you have spent all this time driving down here today. If you go home now you will have lost an hour at least with nothing to show for it. Besides, why would tomorrow be less busy than now?
Don’t worry about the wasted time and don’t come back tomorrow. Come back next week! The crowds will have died down by then.
You don’t know that, and it would mean another week of only running and I don’t want that. Besides, remember what you learned? You have to be willing to share a lane if you want to swim. You can’t put conditions on it or you will never go.
But what if there is no room?
Even if there is no room you can sit and wait and someone will leave. The likely hood that all six lanes are filled with two people and that they all will be swimming for the next hour are very low. Most likely there will be at least one lane you can share with someone. If not right away, then very soon. It won’t be weird if you sit and wait. Everyone is there for the same reason. They wont think you are weird.
Ok, but… but…
It will be fine. We just have to go and do it.
And as that decision solidified in my mind, my stomach calmed down, my skin quit squirming, and my heart took a breath. I felt like I had jumped up to meet a giant wave and my head had just cleared the top. It may be a rough ride down, but I knew the wave wasn’t going to drown me.
So, I took off my sweats and got out my towel and I went out into the giant room filled with other people.
It turned out I was not the only one looking for a lane. As I hung up my towel a man was nervously scanning the options. Our eyes met and we exchanged “doesn’t this suck” looks and I felt better. He looked just as unhappy as I did at the thought of sharing a lane!
Out of the six lanes there were three that only had one person, two with men and one with a woman. The man picked a lane with a man and stood at the edge, looking awkward and uncomfortable. I situated myself in front of the lane with a woman and waited too as she made her way back to the side of the pool.
She smiled and I waved and when I asked if I could join her she said, oh of course and she was just getting out anyway. What luck! I hopped in and began my laps. I hadn’t even been swimming for five minutes before someone else asked to join, but such was the day. She was a nice person and we had a good rhythm together.
I swam for over an hour. I was still swimming for a good ten minutes after my second lane-mate got out. It was then I really could let loose. It wasn’t so much that I was scared while someone swam next to me. It was just that it was… constricting. I kept my hands and feet close together. I looked around more to make sure I wasn’t drifting too close to her side or to the lane divider. I honestly didn’t notice how much I was doing that until she got out and I had the place to myself. Suddenly I could spread out and just move without thinking. That was nice. That was really nice.
So, I did it. I am glad I did it. I am glad I didn’t allow my fear to take it away from me. I was pretty beat afterwards. Emotionally. Not physically. I came home, curled up in a blanket and whimpered for a bit. And then when I had to get up and finish the day’s tasks, I did. I don’t think I will be swimming today though. I think I will stick with running today. I can’t wait until the pool quiets down again. If it doesn’t thin out soon I will look into going super early in the morning, it would be worth it to have a lane to myself.
Oh yeah, and swimming didn’t burn nearly the same calories. My heart rate was in cardio practically the entire time!