Doing a new thing can be joyous, or challenging, or both. Doing a new thing well usually requires some time and effort. Results don’t come easily or immediately, and there will likely be some hilarious first attempts.
Case in point: becoming a good “swimmer.” A better word to describe me right now might be “blender.”
In 2011 I’ve been in the water five times, trying to resurrect my ability to swim freestyle. I’m going to participate in a triathlon for the first time this year. It’s been so long since I learned to swim as a kid, it’s proving to be an effort just to glide forward in the water. There has been some progress, however: yesterday I consumed 3 gallons of water, which is my new personal best.
The strategy has been to go down to the club at odd hours, slip into the pool when nobody else is around, and flail away. I’m not tryin’ to brag here, but I’m fairly certain I’m the club recordholder in two unofficial categories: “splash” and “noise.”
When practicing I typically start with some warm-up lengths doing the one and only style of swimming I’ve done since I was ten, which bears some resemblance to the breast stroke but also has tinges of dog paddle and sinking stone. Lifeguards would typically reach for the life hook when they see me, but thankfully there are none on duty. Once I’ve warmed up, I move immediately into my practice of the freestyle. A half length or so is all it takes to conjure up some reason to already stop midway: foot cramp, calf cramp, water down the ear canal, near-drowning, whatever it takes.
I recommend swimming as a really good cardiac exercise. Some people say it should be “cardi-o.” In my experience, the suffix is definitely “-ac.” No worries, there’s a defibrillator onsite just in case.
Despite my limited successes so far, I’m having a blast. I’ve thought about triathlons for a long time, but always put them out of my mind because swimming would be the obstacle. I will take whatever amount of time it takes to be a good swimmer again. And if I’m not ready for prime-time this year, I’ll still participate with what ever skill I’ve got.
New endeavors are important. Accomplishments help us tap into that gift from God, called “potential.” It’s located right next to the “sense of humor” and “try again” regions of the brain. Getting good at something that's challenging and worthwhile requires that you keep at it long enough to see progress. It’s the unrealistic expectation of immediate results that often becomes our undoing.