taking the plunge

This injury has had me going outside the lines I had so carefully drawn for myself. And this is a good thing. I needed to expand, to spread my wings! All this time I thought running was freeing me, and in some ways it was, but the truth is this injury has revealed to me that I used it to hide and to make myself smaller in a lot of ways. It has taught me to no longer confine myself.

Literally and figuratively.

This has happened in many ways for me. I’m not going to go into all of that now, but I will share that soon. Today I want to talk about how it’s taken me into the water, and has inspired me to start swimming. To explore myself and my abilities there. I’ve put on my water wings, so to speak!

In the start of 2017, I joined a Masters Swim class and have been attending every week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 6-7:30AM. My coaches, Craig and Terri West, are incredible. I am so lucky to have found this group of inspiring athletes led by top-notch coaches who push me and believe in me.

In the start of the year Terri asked me to email her my swim goals, so she could help me. I sent her the following email:

Hi Terri,

Thank you so much for reaching out. I appreciate it whole heartedly! Working with you has given me a renewed athletic spirit and something to focus on that is making me feel strong and hopeful. Your guidance, support and encouragement mean the world to me. I am learning so much and value your professionalism and perspective more than words can say.
As a competitive runner, I discovered so much about myself and pushed myself beyond my established limits to grow and gain strength. While it’s true I accomplished more than I imagined possible, I also believe that there is still more yet to explore and achieve as an athlete. I also believe that I pushed myself too far, and that my foot injury is a sign/consequence of that. Getting in the pool was at first a way to stay fit and bide my time while my injury healed and I regained hormonal health, but it has become something so much more than that. I love the feeling of being in the water, the experience of learning something so new, and am now enjoying having the coaching and support of you and Craig to help me discover what is possible for me as a swimmer.
Right now, I am not really sure of specific goals. I would love your help with that! I think in the short term, I want to be on the path to learning proper technique and efficient movement patterns in the water, while also building my aerobic base. I do love to go hard and push myself and want to see what I can do from that perspective eventually, but for now I want to be patient in order to build a strong base and healthy habits in the water. Once I have that down, I want to push myself and race! As an endurance athlete I have always felt like I have a strong engine to “go the distance” and my hunch is that I would have the ability to do longer races like the mile or two mile … but I think going outside my comfort zone and doing shorter/faster distances would also be really good for me!
I don’t want swimming to be something I do just temporarily while my foot heals. My heart does want to get back on the roads and trails again and I believe that I will, but right now I want to focus on doing what I can and what feels good for my body. Running isn’t good for my body right now, but when I am in the water I feel STRONG. I feel like I am nourishing my spirit as well as safely building a stronger, more balanced body. So I guess longterm goals – I want to become a strong swimmer for life and to cultivate a confidence and a way of moving in the water that feels sustainable. I think of my athletic endeavors these days more as a “practice” – something that soothes my soul, clears my mind, strengthens my body and nourishes me as a whole. I am curious and open to discovering what’s possible in all areas of my life, and sport is a constant teacher for me. When I do return to running, I want to continue swimming.
So, that’s where I’m at right now! I am so thankful to have found you and Craig and I am really excited to swim with you each week. Thank you for everything! I think you’re amazing.
Jessica
Terri responded with so much enthusiasm, grace and gratitude. She was a collegiate swimmer and competed on the national level, and can relate to a lot of how I am feeling these days. Here is some of what she shared with me in her response:

Good morning, Jessica!  I am so touched and moved beyond words right now for what you wrote. THANK YOU – you made my day!  THIS is why I love doing what I do. And I know you understand that and can relate to that as a coach.

You are so grounded and have such a beautiful perspective on who you are and what you can accomplish in the future, as well as the patience to “be in the moment” – which so many people miss.  I am thrilled with your experience in the water and being willing to learn and become “one with the water.”  Growing up in the sport of swimming, I over-trained and under-performed to my abilities, and when I quit the NCSU team in 1986, I left hating the sport and myself.  I embraced coaching and became a much better teacher than a performer and gained my love of the sport back.

If I can help you in any way, I am honored to do so.  We most definitely can work on your technique and your goals together – and all while enjoying it and continuing to be your best self and good to yourself.

Thank you so much, Jessica, for this opportunity!  I will enjoy this journey with you –

Terri

Isn’t she just amazing!? I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, and that people come into our lives when and how they do for a reason. My foot injury needed to happen in order for me to grow.

So I have decided I am going to enter my first ever open water swim competition. It is a local event here on July 22nd. I am going to do the 1 mile swim option of the Triangle Open Water Swim Series here in the Raleigh area in a local lake! Terri and Craig have been helping me learn how to be efficient in the water, and have been helping me build both my endurance and speed. I am learning so much every week, and am falling more and more in love with the water the more I do it. I know that I will return to running a stronger and even more grateful athlete.

Have you ever done an open water swim? Have you ever had an injury that you feel transformed your perspective about yourself as an athlete, and made you a stronger runner and person? This experience has taught me that without a doubt, our injuries can be our greatest assets in the long run. I would love to hear your stories!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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