I swim twice a week at the SLO Swim Center in San Luis Obispo. I enjoy the early morning workout, the sound of my bubbly breathing, the surreal sensation of moving through the water alongside my fellow swimmers.
I feel calm yet energized when my swim is over.
For years, I’ve been content to swim 1,800 meters per session — which translates to a little more than one mile per swim.
But then the staff at the pool instituted the 100 Mile Club. Swimmers record their distances and, when they’ve reached 100 miles, they get their names written on a white board in the lobby of the swim center and receive a little gift.
The entire swim center has been atwitter with the plan.
At first, I wasn’t interested in participating. One hundred miles wasn’t in my wheelhouse at the rate I was going. And there are times during the year when I’m traveling, not feeling well or just can’t get out of the house at 6:45 in the morning.
“No thanks,” I told myself. I’d sit this one out.
I did, however, set a resolution for the year of swimming my age (65) and I began diligently charting my mileage.
Over the course of the year, the miles piled up. I continued my biweekly swims.
Sixty-five miles came way too easily in October. Then I wondered, “Could I possibly make it to 100?”
At the same time, I started strategizing how to swim faster. I got a pair of swim fins. I stopped doing slow strokes like kicking. I arrived earlier and swam until the pool closed.
The specter of 100 miles loomed tantalizingly on the horizon.
But the closer I got to that number, the more dissatisfied I became. Enjoyment and health were no longer on the agenda.
Instead, I felt greedy, as if I didn’t have enough. My mid-lap meditative mindset was replaced with nonstop scheming about how to do more.
The capper came the first week in December, when I was within 19 miles of the vaunted goal. I calculated, “If I swim several more times during the week, plus one day on the weekend, I might be able to make it.”
Then it hit me. This was Christmas, for goodness sake! The seasonal hoopla was already in full swing.
My holiday to-do list was eight pages long. I needed to find ways to relax, not exhaust myself with unreachable expectations.
So, I engaged in some personal reflection, and uncovered the following insights:
• Swimming 81 miles for the year was a good accomplishment. Very few people ever attempt it. And, let’s be fair, it was the farthest I’d ever swum. Kudos — not scolding — were definitely in order.
• Goals are meant to guide and inspire. In my case, they’d more than served their purpose.
• I don’t want to feel bad. Self-loathing is never productive, especially when it’s initiated by something as simple as swimming.
• Goals are flexible. If circumstances change, as they so often do, goals should reflect the new situation.
• I can set new goals for 2019.
I’m currently on track to swim the full 100 miles this year. If I swim that far, yay me. If I swim less, yay me too.