When I was five or six years old, I ended up at the doctor's office suffering major breathing problems. While medications helped the immediate symptoms, they were not considered a permanent solution. The doctor actually "prescribed" a different approach: swimming. Swimming, he said, would naturally increase my lung capacity and keep asthma attacks at bay; so off to the park district we went.
Within a year or so I had sailed through all levels of swimming lessons and by age seven I was signed up for the swim team. I swam competitively for the next eleven years and, while my breathing was not perfect all the time, I never took more medication and didn't use an inhaler at any point. Only my hair really suffered, being wet for the better part of a decade and turning to straw every summer.
I have no regrets. Along with the obvious health benefits, swimming challenged me to stay committed to something even when it was hard, and it gave me opportunities to be a team leader, as I was honored to be a captain of my swim team as a senior in high school.
Out of high school, I was quickly hired as a life guard and swim instructor for five summers, paving the way for me to pay for college. One fun benefit of so much swimming has been the cultivation of broader shoulders; now that my bottom half has widened a bit over the years, I still appear fairly proportional because my shoulders are so wide. I never need shoulder pads!
My high school coach gave me a gift that I still have: the nickname "sweet pea," a reference to the neon green swim cap that turned a grotesque, pea soup green in my swim locker, that I wore anyway. I gave that cap to my coach when I graduated and for years it was tacked up in his office.
Now I watch my daughter swim and can relate to the highs and lows of competitive swimming: goggles that flip off at the start, stifling and freezing swim meets, missing the wall on a turn, doing 200 laps at practice, beating personal best times and all the fun with friends in between races. I'm curious to see what vegetable nickname she might be given; sweet pea is already taken. Happy swimming!
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