I have been doing sports for more than 40 years, which was one of the legacies of my late father. Since I was a child I played tennis, ran, did Olympic gymnastics, skated and swam. For almost everything he was somewhat clumsy but enthusiastic. In adolescence came the fever of aerobics. It was the ’80s. Looking back, those classes weren’t too hard, but it was fun to put on leotards, leggings, and leg warmers and dance to the Pointer Sisters.
In the 2000s I started running recreationally and then I became obsessed with long distances. Although it was terribly boring, the euphoria of endorphins kept me running for a decade. I ran two marathons, the first I suffered and the second I enjoyed. Later I tore a meniscus and although with surgery it was as good as new, I lost the vocation to invest so many hours in running. Five years ago I started swimming and I realized that the pool was the place I needed to get tired, to exercise without injuries and even to learn empathy, because swimming in a lane with people who have different levels of training is an opportunity to develop gentleness, consideration, patience and tolerance. The lane is a microcommunity that has its rules. Those who swim faster go to the front and behind them, the others. There are those who are sweeping their way, as if they were going to break an Olympic record. Sometimes they hit you with the training paddles or do the bell flip an inch from your face, so you know who’s boss. In the pool nothing is personal and the rules that govern the lane remain in the lane, although you can be an educated swimmer or a lout. Swimming is a democratic sport. Height and weight don’t matter. Neither do knee or back injuries. Everyone is welcome at the pool and the age range is from teenagers to seniors over 80.
I left the pool during the two years of the pandemic and it was one of many losses. The pool was closed for a few months, when it opened, I was already infected with contagion terror. I decided to return to swimming a few months ago because I needed medicine for the body and for the head: the obsessive traits emerge free to count laps, strokes, series and breaths. Five strokes and breathing on the right side, 5 strokes and breathing on the left side; come out for breath every 2, 4, 6 and 8 strokes. Count the touches to complete two thousand meters. In short, from counting so much, swimming becomes meditation because you can’t think of anything at all other than swimming and counting. The neurotransmitters that are generated in the pool work as anxiolytics and antidepressants. Swimming tames the neuroses and the madness with which we torture ourselves. You leave the pool with a clearer mind, a tired body and the pride of having beaten yourself another day. Apparently I’ve become a Jehovah’s Witness of swimming. It is that life without the exhaustion that occurs after swimming is rougher, more angry, less patient, more anguished. I tell you, I am a swimming fanatic.