For a duration of 37 days, I will undergo an Olympic swimmer’s training schedule in an effort to recapture my childhood dream of going for gold. Throughout this time I will document the changes in my body through a series of photographs. The 37 days refers to Eleanor Antin’s pivotal 1972 piece, Carving, where the artist documented the sculpting of her body through a self-imposed diet. I take this as a starting point to revisit the female form as a powerful machine and the struggles she faces in light of the competition of being in a man’s world.
This project is sponsored by the Taos Youth and Family Center and Taos Art Experiences.
Additional support provided by Taos Tennis at Quail Ridge
1. I will swim for approximately 2 consecutive hours each day for a period of 37 days beginning June 13, 2011 and ending July 19, 2011
2. I will follow a swim program derived from a training regimen for Olympic competition preparation
3. I will upload daily images to the blog which serves as a platform to track daily physical and emotional experience, thoughts, and related links to the project.
Day 1 – June 13, 2011
12×12 laps +2 (146 laps or 3650m or 2.27miles) 1 hour 35min
Today I started my 37 day journey of attempting to rediscover my dream of being an Olympic swimmer as I approach the age of mourning the loss of childhood dreams that failed to be realized. I take as a starting point for this project, Eleanor Antin’s pivotal 1972 performance/photography piece, Carving: A Traditional Sculpture (http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/feminist_art_base/gallery/eleanorantin.php?i=747), where Antin placed herself on a self-imposed 37-day diet that she documented through a series of 4 photos per day displayed in a grid formation. Antin aimed to address the pressure put on women throughout the ages to conform to physical standards that constantly change according to sociological fads and trends. The title references the way a sculptor, often male, in the canons of art history carves out his ideal form. Whereas Antin carved out her ideal form through a process of dieting, I am taking the approach of empowering and building my own body through the active struggle and discipline of athletic achievement. The US Olympic swimming trials for the 2012 London Games will take place a year from now in June 2012. I feel this is the ideal time for me to test my own boundaries, to push through my own fears and to discover a new way to achieve my own championship.
I am simultaneously incredibly excited and nervous about this project. I haven’t been in a pool in nearly 3 years, and certainly not so publicly. What if I just can’t do this? I’m mortified at the fact that I am taking photos of myself after each training and making them public, but it is important for me to acknowledge and honor my own personal starting point and be open to where it can take me. As a child I was involved in many competitive swim programs and excelled. Now, I am dealing with a 35 year old body and the ghosts: Could’ve, Would’ve and Should’ve.
Actually getting into the water was exhilarating! Swimming has always been a form of meditation for me, but like the typical Type A personality I often turn the experience of counting laps, strokes and breaths into a personal competition. Despite the burning pain in my forearms that haven’t practiced freestyle in years, I pushed through, challenging myself with “..just another set of 100m.” I shocked myself when at the end of almost an hour and forty-five minutes I had completed a total of 146 laps! I’m motivated by the commitment I have made to myself and the accountability of making this project public.
I am taking the photos of my progress against a wall in the women’s locker room. I try to wait until people have left, but when there are women there and they see the camera I explain the project and what I am trying to do just so they don’t think I am completely crazy. This is actually one of my favorite parts of the projects. The women I have spoken with have been really supportive and interested in the project and the questions it raises. In a way, I am building a community within a community in that locker room which is a rewarding aspect of the project.
The US Swimming website is helpful for information on upcoming trials, coaching, clubs and just general information on swimming organizations.http://www.usaswimming.org/DesktopDefault.aspx
Day 2 – June 14, 2011
35 sets of 100m swim + 5 x100m breaststroke kick + 5x100m freestyle kick (180 laps or 4650m or 2.89miles) 2 hours
I intended to hit an earlier practice, but I really didn’t sleep well last night with all the anxiety and nerves I’m experiencing. Why am I doing this? Am I crazy? Apparently I am because I actually got in the water for 7am and seemingly ignored my oh-so-sore muscles. My goal for this week is just to get reacquainted with swimming, with the water, with my body. I had forgotten how much the altitude here in Taos affects stamina. The last time I really swam was in Boston. Sea level is much easier! It’s funny how muscle memory functions – every time I get back in the pool after long periods of not swimming, my body seems to instinctively know what to do and returns to those long training periods I underwent as a child and teenager on the swim team. My aim is endurance – go a little easier on myself to make sure I can go for the long haul. I just couldn’t manage flip turns today so opted, grudgingly, not to do them. I slowed my strokes down, tried to concentrate a bit more on technique and told myself I would just swim as long as I could without overdoing it. To my surprise, I actually made it the full 2 hours, logging almost 3 miles! This makes me feel like next week I will be ready for a more rigorous regimen that Taylor Jaramillo is helping me to develop.
Day 3 – June 15, 2011
12 sets of 10 swim, 2 sets 10 pull, 2 sets 10 kickboard (140 laps total 2.17miles)
This morning was a slow start. Not only did my phone, which I use as an alarm clock, turn itself off in the night, I was really sore and sluggish today. I still got myself in the water by 6:50am. I started out slow, and again decided to forego the flip turns because I was just so exhausted and sore. But, I pushed through it and decided to do sets of 10 laps. I notice that my insecurity about my body and skill level has me seeking out the higher numbered lanes away from the better swimmers. Counting laps has been quite helpful in keeping me centered and present. If I let my mind wander to all that I need to do or my worries, I forget what lap and set I am on, throwing off the routine. Brian Greer came by to see my progress again, which I really appreciate. It pushes me forward and the support that he, Taylor Jaramillo and the rest of the Taos Youth and Family Center staff have shown me has been a tremendous boost. The first week of establishing a routine is often the hardest, and I would say that as a result of the support I am making a relatively smooth transition. I’m looking forward to not being exhausted for the whole day after 2 hours in the pool! Next week, Taylor will be helping me improve my technique and provide me with a regimen that will kick me up to the next level. We’ll see if I survive!
DAY 4 – June 16, 2011
14 sets of 8 +2laps, 2 sets 8 freestyle kick, 2 sets 8 breaststroke kick,2 sets 8 freestyle pull (total 162 laps or 4050m, 2.52 miles)
I was wide-awake starting at 4:00am today, but that didn’t seem to make getting to the pool any easier seeing as I’m not an early morning person. It’s those five minutes I spend laying in bed deciding if I really want to get up and do this that seem to be the most crucial and set the tone for the workout. I did get up and had a pretty consistent swim today. Giving myself sets of 8 or 10 laps seems to keep me going and is easy to keep track of. I’m adding in some laps of just pulling to try to work on my technique. I know it’s a little rusty and is making my training less efficient. I’m getting ready to start a more rigorous routine next week, to push and challenge me and see how I handle it.
I met some new people in the locker room today and explained why I had a tripod. It’s definitely not what you expect to encounter after coming out of the pool or shower. It was great to connect and talk about our feelings on the subjects of trying to reclaim lost childhood dreams as well as the pressures on women to conform to particular body images. This is where taking art outside of its typical contexts of galleries, museums and other institutions is really important to my practice; using art as a means to engage and expand the conversation. I hope to see this continue as I continue on this journey.
DAY 5 – June 17, 2011
10 sets 8 freestyle, 2 sets 4 freestyle, 2 sets 8 kick, 2 sets 8 breaststroke kick, 2 sets 8 pull (total 136 laps, 3400m, 2.11 miles)
I was feeling completely off today. Normally I can shake that feeling when I get into the pool, but today was not one of those days. I just feel mentally, physically and emotionally drained. I did manage to do a decent workout, but my heart just wasn’t in it and I ended up stopping after just over an hour and a half. I took my photos, had a shower and was glad to leave the pool and even more glad that lap swim doesn’t start until 11am tomorrow!
Being present at the pool every day is also allowing me to meet different “regulars” and have some wonderful conversations. Today I was chatting with a woman who had been a swimming coach years ago and is now learning the new methods in swimming. I also spoke with a woman who lost her job last year in the economy and has gone back to school, but expressed her concern about being removed from the workforce at 59 years old, and what the future looks like. She talked about how as women we face difficulties with having to adapt to changes like this, but the changes can be blessings in disguise that offer us new opportunities and the chance to spend our time in ways we couldn’t have in other circumstances. The sacred space of the women’s locker room is becoming an arena to share much more than temporary storage space.
Day 6 – June 18, 2011
7 sets of 12 freestyle, 1 set 12 freestyle kick, 1 set 12 breaststroke kick, 1 set 12 freestyle pull (total 120 laps, 3000m, 1.86 miles)
I woke up feeling really ill today. I was actually afraid that I wouldn’t be able to swim, but I decided I would show up and do what I could – whether it was 2 hours or 10 minutes, but I needed to show up. It certainly wasn’t my best day, but I did manage to persist for almost an hour and a half and swam 120 laps.
Day 7 – June 19, 2011
10 sets of 12 freestyle, 1 set of 10 freestyle, 1 set of 12 breaststroke kick (142 laps, 3550m, 2.21 miles)
Today wasn’t my best day. I was exhausted and really unfocused. My muscles are getting used to having to work like this, yet my whole body is limp with fatigue. It could also have to do with the fact that at the same time I am working on this project, I am also sorting all of my belongings and preparing for a move to the UK. The emotional impact of delving through childhood toys, journals from my teens and everything else I have collected through the years is affecting my overall condition. I decided at the beginning of this project, that this first week I would give myself permission to ease into the routine, get used to the activity level and the altitude, and just show up every day. I have done that and more. It has been surprising how, given that I have not been an active swimmer for quite a few years, I am able to push through my own limitations and have accomplished quite a bit. I am excited to see where this process takes me, what I learn from it, and how I grow physically and mentally.
As I was swimming today, I cast some thoughts to the famous artist known for her minimalist grids who also made possible the construction of this pool. In a way, the process of swimming back and forth, lap after lap, creates a rhythm and structure that is similar to her beautiful and delicate line paintings. In both our practices there is a strong focus on process. Art becomes much more about the activity than the object, and I am reminded in the midst of the fatigue that the very reason I am doing this is because I just have to. I just have to.
Day 8 – June 20, 2011
60 laps freestyle, 10 laps breaststroke kick, 10 laps freestyle kick, 10 laps pull, 50 laps catch-up stroke (total 140 laps, 3500m, 2.18 miles)
Today, Taylor Jaramillo coached me with my stroke, suggesting that to prevent me from dropping my arms and losing the initial pull that I try a catch-up stroke, waiting to begin the next pull until my hands touch in front of me. It really helped increase efficiency, but good lord did it tire me out! I started alternating catch-up with normal strokes, paying close attention to form and I saw a dramatic improvement. Improving my form also led to an increase in speed. Although I only did 140 laps in 2 hours, I really felt like those small changes dramatically increased the intensity of the workout. Now I need a nap!
Beginning tomorrow, we will be increasing my distance to approximately 4000 meters and adding in skill drills. When I initially spoke with Taylor about this project, she suggested that I train for the 50 meter freestyle event. Fortunately, she says that I have a natural sprinter’s stroke, so I think this might be the ideal event for me to focus on and push toward. I’m excited to see how upping the intensity this week affects my endurance and the effectiveness of my stroke.
Day 9 – June 21, 2011
200 swim/kick/pull, 8×50 kick, 4×200 IM or free, 8×100, 2×400, 1×800, 200 cool down (total: 160 laps or 4000m or 2.49 miles)
Today was my first day swimming with the Masters team and following a regimen that includes interval training. We started at 6am with a 200 m warm-up of freestyle swim, kickboard with fins and finally pull. Taylor had me continue with the freestyle catch-up drill whenever I had to swim freestyle since I do well with that but tend to drop my arm when I am not focusing on form.
Each segment of the workout was timed so that I had to push myself to complete the required number of laps within the assigned time. This was great as I was motivated to speed things up a bit. Adding the individual medley component where we swim each stroke (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle) is also helpful since I tend to shy away from butterfly and backstroke because I am less confident with them. Taylor and I are going to build my skills and confidence level with butterfly, so for now I am substituting freestyle for butterfly components of the medley.
Training like this brings back vivid memories of training as a child and swim meets. Swim meets were actually my least favorite part of swimming. I would be overcome with nerves and anxiety, and it became more of a dreaded requirement than it did the thrill of competition. For me, swimming has always been about competition with myself – how far can I push myself, can I beat my last time, can I endure more than I thought I could? I am trying to retain focus on what this is all about for me and not get swallowed up by what I think I should be doing or how I should be advancing. I was definitely slower than the other ladies today, but not by that much. I was definitely proud of myself for hanging in there, pushing through, and actually feeling excited about going back tomorrow.
Day 10 – June 22, 2011
I have a bit of a stomach bug today, so did not make it to the pool for my daily swim. I plan on being back on schedule tomorrow!
Day 11 – June 23, 2011
2000m (total 80 laps, combination kickboard and freestyle swim)
Still recovering from the horrible stomach bug that is going around, so I took it easy today. Not feeling 100%, but glad I showed up. I’m taking the approach of the turtle over the hare to make sure I can do this for the long haul. Good thing turtles can swim!
Day 12 – June 24, 2011
4200m, 168 laps, 2.61 miles (200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull, then combination of 200s)
As I am writing this, Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is playing on Pandora and it’s a fitting anthem for today’s entry.
Building back up after being sick this week and getting ready for a more intense week starting on Monday. I think I finally got what Taylor has been talking about as far as extending my glide in the freestyle stroke. I have the tendency to drop my arm and not take full advantage of the initial pull that will propel me farther and make the stroke more efficient. Since I still wasn’t feeling great, I slowed my stroke way down and concentrated on the glide and it seemed to work! Alternating freestyle with breaststroke has also helped to prevent me getting in a rut and really feel the various types of pull I can generate. So, being sick has been a bit of a blessing in disguise.
What I love about process-based art is that you really do have to open yourself up to the process. When I started this project, I had the parameters I wanted to work within, but I could not anticipate the range of emotions I would feel in the process. Today was really good for me. I let go of the guilt and fear around “I can’t believe I’ve missed a day already!” and let myself be in the moment. In doing so, I actually had one of the best days so far in terms of number of laps and improvement in form. This isn’t about a competition, and I am certainly aware that I have to give up the dream of being an Olympic swimmer – I’m not even an athlete! But it is about setting personal bests, showing up and being present, and pushing beyond the limitations I have set to explore new and unfolding aspects of myself.
Day 13 – June 25, 2011
5000m (200 laps, 3.11 miles)
Today I swam the most in terms of distance since I began this project! I started off with a warm-up of 200m swim/200m pull/200m kick and went from there, combining intervals of quick 50m with distance swims. It felt amazing! I decided at the half-way point at noon after an hour in the pool that I was going to go for 4500m and would be happy with that. At about 12:40pm I had actually made it to 4600m! Brian Greer stopped by the pool to visit after completing a fundraising walk for cancer, and I was motivated after his pep talk to push a little further, completing an additional 400m in less than 15 minutes with no time to spare as the lap swim session ended.
It was a good day.
Day 14 – June 26, 2011
3500m (140 laps, 2.17 miles)
After yesterday’s swim, I was a bit tired. I didn’t seem to have the endurance that I was hoping for, but still managed to clock in a good workout. I don’t know why, but I seemed to be catching my breath a lot more today than even yesterday. Tomorrow it’s back to working with Taylor, so I decided it was ok to have a slower day.
I’m noticing how improving my form is working my muscles in new ways and really making for a much more enjoyable swim. It’s harder in many respects in that my muscles are really straining, but I definitely feel a lot more powerful. I’ve been practicing adding in some sprinting intervals to see how I am able to hold the form as I increase speed. That has been feeling incredibly good and I’m surprising myself at how well I’m holding the correct form. I still add in a large section of catch-up drills to keep practicing, but all in all, I do feel I am becoming a better swimmer through this and I’m feeling a lot more confident. I can’t believe I have completed two full weeks already!
Day 15 – June 27, 2011
4700m (combination of swim, kick, pull and drills), 188 laps or 2.92 miles
There is a bit of poetic irony in fact that as I was swimming this morning I could see the smoke-filled skies as a result of the various fires that are cutting across New Mexico.
I followed the Masters swimmers’ workout today: 50 swim, 50 kick, 100 swim, 100 kick, etc. Taylor set them up on a 3200m regimen today, but I finished it in just over an hour so decided to add in additional laps as well as drills to continue working on technique. I feel really good other than a pulled muscle in my thigh. Not sure how I did that, but did some extra kickboard laps to help with it.
If I can manage it, I will try to add in extra workouts some evenings. Part of this project is acknowledging all that it takes to be a professional athlete and realizing my physical limitations as well as life limitations. How can I best follow this regime and still take care of all the responsibilities I have in my life? It’s an impossible task. Professional athletes have a team of people helping them, they have sponsorship so they don’t need a job, and they have open access to their pools and gyms. I am following a modified regime in all aspects and am creating a schedule that challenges me but also recognizes that my circumstances are much different to those of Dana Torres. Regardless, I am doing my personal best, and that is all any of us can do.
Day 16 – June 28, 2011
Second round of horrible stomach flu that is going around. I thought I had avoided it, but as I got up to go to the pool today, I realized the only water I was going to see was the water at the bottom of the porcelain god.
Day 17- June 29, 2011
Recovery day from stomach flu. Finally able to get out of bed around 3pm.
Day 18 – June 30, 2011
3100m (124 laps, 1.93 miles)
I was really disappointed to be knocked out cold by the stomach flu for the second time in 2 weeks, but apparently that’s the bug that is going around here. I definitely don’t feel great today, but I just showed up, was greeted by the little prairie dog who likes to let me know my parking space is on his property, and got into the water. As my alarm went off today, I seriously thought of just ignoring it. I mean, I was sick, so it’s ok to take it easy, right? Then I reminded myself that I can do this. Even if I do one lap, I have to show up. A few days ago, Brian Greer sent me a thought for the day that helped me get going:
“Happiness keeps you sweet, trials keep you strong, sorrows keep you human, failures keep you humble, success keeps you glowing, but only friends keep you going!”
How very true! So, I got out of bed!
I didn’t follow a particular regime today, just paced myself. I started with my usual warm-up, which was helpful since every muscle in my body is so sore from being sick as well as the workouts I have been undergoing. My goal was to do 2000m and see where I was at. I felt like I could push a little more, so I did, but after 3100m I was completely exhausted.
I spoke with a woman in the locker room who asked about the progress of the project and I mentioned how being sick has knocked me back a bit, but that it’s part of the process. Professional athletes are only human, too, and we end up having to obey our bodies even when it interrupts our plans. The key is to find that balance between listening to your body and knowing when it’s ok to push, and when we need to just slow down. I keep listening, and just keep pushing on!
Day 19 – July 1, 2011
3500m (140 laps, 2.18 miles)
Wow, I can’t believe it is July already, and I am officially over half-way done with the project. Goal today: stay focused. I was struggling to find my groove this morning. It could be that I haven’t had caffeine since I got sick earlier in the week. I still get bouts of nausea and have been afraid to drink coffee, but apparently I need to get over that fear and grab myself a vente before I hit the pool!
I started with my usual 200m swim/200m kick/200m pull, and once again told myself I’d hit that 2000m mark and decide how I was doing. At 1500m after about one hour, I was feeling pretty good so added in some intervals: 10 sets of 50m as fast as I could manage. Dear lord, what was I thinking? Every muscle still aches from being ill, but I made the choice to ignore that and hold mini swim meets in my head. After I accomplished the 10 sets, Taylor suggested I add 10 more, doing each set on 50 seconds. That meant I had to swim as fast as I could so that I could have a bit of a breather before starting the next set on the 50 second mark. I held that pace for the first few, then had to do each set on the one minute mark, but I survived! My arms feel like jello, but I survived!
A nap is in order today…
Day 20 – July 2, 2011
3600m (144 laps, 2.24 miles)
Lightning strikes! Literally! The lap swim session ended early today because lightning strikes were seen. Fortunately, I finished my workout and was fully exhausted by the time that happened. Still getting over this stomach bug, I’m reaching to push my stamina this week and expanded the number of drill laps I did. In addition, I’m increasing the number of intervals I am doing, increasing the speed as well as the distance.
My biggest obstacle is my mind. If I figure out ways to trick myself, or play a game with my mind, I can push beyond what I think I can physically manage. Staying focused is also key. When my mind wanders my form falters and I also forget what lap I am on! Giving myself sets to do seems to help with both factors. Adding in the intervals has also helped because I push myself with a clear end in sight, and I rack up the distance so feel I have a sense of accomplishment. I try not to anticipate what I am going to swim before I get to the pool. That just allows me the opportunity to psyche myself out. I get into the water, look at the workout board Taylor put together, and just do it. It satisfies that part of me that loves crossing things off lists. I cross off the warm-up. Check. Cross off the initial sets of 50. Check. Move on to the sets of 100. Check. And just see how it goes. That’s all we can do: show up and just do it.
Day 21 – July 3, 2011
3500m (140 laps, 2.18 miles)
Competition was in the air today. There were quite a few people at the pool who participate in competitive swim programs – from the Masters team to what appeared to be high school or college students. I split the lane with a young woman who was an absolute dynamo doing a prescribed routine from some team training. I didn’t get the chance to chat with her, but she was an incredible swimmer and certainly put me to shame! Clearly she has been doing this for years and again, I was reminded that I have to reformulate my expectations and dreams. We can certainly beat ourselves up in this culture that promotes competition and drives us not just to be the best we can be, but literally THE best. Rather than be swallowed up by negative feelings or self-pity, I watched her technique and pushed mine to be better than it was yesterday. I have to be realistic. I haven’t been swimming in years, and although I am already on day 21 of this project, I’ve only been back in the pool for 21 days. I can’t expect to immediately be super fit, to have the perfect stroke, or to win a gold medal after only 3 weeks of getting back in the water. I am also not really doing this with the intention of going back to swim meets. This project is a journey with an open end. Although an aspect of it will be completed after 37 days, I really have no idea how it will impact me over the long haul. Who knows! After a little while, I just might be that dynamo sharing a lane with someone else revisiting their own dreams!
Day 22 – July 4, 2011
210 laps of 66ft pool (4620 yds or 2.63 miles)
Happy Fourth of July! Due to the holiday the Taos Youth and Family Center is closed, so I went up to the Quail Ridge Inn in El Prado, NM to use their tennis and swim club’s pool. It is an outdoor pool that is 66 ft long versus the TY&FC pool’s 25m length. It was really fabulous to swim outdoors again! It certainly spoke of summer, and brought back a lot of memories from outdoor swim meets I attended when I lived in southern Texas as a child. Because the pool was a different length, I counted laps over counting yardage. I didn’t have my fins or kickboard, so I concentrated strictly on laps and on the drills I have been doing to correct and strengthen my stroke. The pools environment provided a serene setting to today’s workout. The Inn is situated on the way to the Taos Ski Valley, so there was a beautiful view of the mountains all around and only a light breeze. The hazard of doing a long swim outdoors here at such a high elevation: if you forget to apply sunscreen like I did you end up with a browned racer back! All in all, a great way to start the holiday and continue this project.
Day 23 – July 5, 2011
4000m (160 laps, 2.49miles)
200 swim/200 kick/200 pull warm-up,4 sets of 400 (free, IM, IM kick, free), ladder of 100, 200, 300, 400, 300, 200, 100,200 cool down
Back to a more structured routine! I followed the Masters program today, consisting of longer sets and a ladder. This was awesome! I definitely needed this today! Longer sets are harder in some ways because they require endurance, but I love checking off the meters in my head and really feel like I’m accomplishing something. The ladder was a test for me, but it is such a great way to spice up the workout and really push for stamina. Even though I swam less laps today than I did yesterday, I felt like I had to reach deep for the strength to get through today’s routine. I just might start adding in some afternoon workouts in addition to my morning workouts this week as I go for the final push in this project.
In the locker room this morning, I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of women, one of whom is just learning to swim. What an accomplishment! They were asking me about my project and loved the fact that I’m aiming to empower myself and other women through this, but I reminded them how empowering and encouraging it is to see someone conquering their own fears of swimming as an adult and taking the risk to learn how to do something as daunting as swim! Kudos to her! My mom learned to swim as an adult to be able to rescue my brother and me when we were in the water. I remember her own struggles and was so proud of her for just doing it. We all have our own fears, insecurities and starting points. It really is true: the only thing to fear is fear itself. Once we can get over that and just show up, it really isn’t that bad and we can accomplish more than we thought we ever could.
Day 24 – July 6, 2011
Part One: 4000m (160 laps, 2.49 miles)
200m swim/200m kick/200m pull/200m swim warm-up, 5 sets of: 200m swim, 50m sprint kick, 100m build, 50m sprint, 200m IM kick; 200m cool down
Today was another fabulous workout day that kicked my butt! I noticed on the sprint kick section that I was kicking like a mad person but virtually going nowhere. I asked Taylor how I could improve my kick, and she had some great tips that others might enjoy, too. She said to kick from your hip, not your thigh, and think of you leg as a whip. Keep the ankle loose and essentially snap your leg in little movements. Although I definitely did not master this, the little adjustments I made certainly helped to propel me. I am going to concentrate on my kick more now that I feel I have my pull in a better place.
Today also marks my first day of double workouts. Taylor suggested that I should be doing close to 10,000m per day. I’ll shoot for that, but see where I land! After this morning’s workout, my arms are beyond sore and fatigued. I’ll be doing the afternoon workouts in the outdoor pool at Quail Ridge which should add a nice spice to the double workout routine.
Although I am not seeing a significant change in regards to weight loss, I am definitely feeling my body’s composition shifting. It’s as though I really can feel myself strengthening and building up from the inside out. My core is getting stronger, my arms are definitely getting stronger and I feel muscles firming in ways they haven’t done before. More than all that, my confidence is growing. I think of how a negative body image has haunted me my entire life, and how I have allowed it to hold me back from many things. Seeing what I have been able to accomplish, even in such a short period of time, has given me the drive to push further and has certainly made me much more comfortable in my own skin. I may not be at the point I want to be, or fit into society’s ideal, but I am transitioning from berating myself to applauding myself. And that is something to be proud of.
150 laps of 22yd pool (3300 yds or 1.88 miles)
Round one of double workouts: a moderate success. I aimed to swim at least 200 laps this afternoon, but my arms were incredibly sore and I pushed as far as I could go for the day. I love swimming outside, though, especially in the summer. It gives me the illusion of being on a mini vacation. The winds really picked up towards the end of the workout and caused quite the current, providing some good resistance. With some practice, I will ease into this routine, too! I definitely think I am going to sleep well tonight!
Day 25 – July 7, 2011
Part One: 5000m (200 laps, 3.1 miles)
10×50 fast kick, 5x100m, 5x200m, 2x500m, 1x1000m, 200m easy
I was doing some work before heading to the pool today and arrived a little late at 7:15am. I saw the workout board and freaked out because today was a 5000m workout! Yikes! But I managed to finish it all by 9am on the dot! It was an awesome workout! I started with the normal warm-up, then did sets of sprint kicks, and most of the workout was focused on speed and endurance. I managed to finish the 1000m component with only one little breather! I used fins for that part to make sure that I was able to finish on time, but it still required quite the stamina.
In the locker room I ran into a couple of women I have gotten to know over the course of this project and they really pumped me up with encouragement and amazement at what I have been able to accomplish. It is so appreciated, and so helpful, to hear those words. Not only do I rely on my own drive to get through this, having support from others is crucial to staying focused and motivated.
My arms are ready to fall off, but I’m looking forward to part two of today’s swim this afternoon. We’ll see how it goes!
Part Two: 3784 yards (172 laps of 22 yd pool)
Round two of double workouts was pretty good! I had in my mind to do at least 200 laps, but again, my arms are about ready to fall off. Reaching up to brush my hair after getting out of the pool was quite the task! I’m enjoying being outside and giving myself a second push, and am actually quite impressed that I’m even able to do it! The biggest lesson I am learning through this is just showing up and taking things as they come. It’s the key to getting through something that seems so daunting. I don’t think about “oh my goodness, I have to do 5000m.” I just look at, ok, I need to do 200m swim. Now I have to do 500m. Breaking it into chunks and being present in the moment has made all the difference. Now, if I can only apply that to the rest of my life!
Day 26 – July 8, 2011
approximately 3500m – I think??
Today was like field day at the pool! Honestly, I got up this morning and REALLY didn’t want to swim. I am absolutely exhausted from swimming twice a day and trying to deal with all of my other life responsibilities on a daily basis. But, I put my suit on and jumped in the car.
At the pool, Taylor had switched up the workout to include some fun relays and she had those of us who arrived at 7am get in on the fun, too. After my normal warm-up, I did 10 sets of 50 sprint kicks underwater and started a couple of 200m sets when Taylor had us all start in lane one to do a snake swim. I lead the pack, swimming down lane one, going under the ropes and coming back in lane 2, going under the ropes to lane three and finally back down lane four. Then, I got out of the pool, headed to the starting block of lane one to dive in and begin again! This was great until about 100 firefighters showed up to swim, too! Apparently, there is a group of firefighters who have been sent to Taos as a preventative measure in case a fire breaks out here. With much of the state on fire, it’s reassuring to know there is back-up here, and that they were able to have some fun at the pool! Since we were confined to just 4 lanes now, Taylor has us to some relay races, which was a lot of fun and seriously kicked my butt. At the end of the normal workout, I asked Taylor how much we swam and she hadn’t been keeping track but thought it was about 2000m 🙂 So, I stayed on to do an additional 3500 and was DEAD at the end of it.
In the locker room, I had some great conversations with the ladies – some I hadn’t met before, and others that I have seen since the beginning of this project. It was really wonderful talking with them not only about the project, but about the process we all go through with finding our own rhythms and figuring out what works for us in terms of these swim routines, and in life. One wonderful woman that I met one of my first days wanted to make sure she told me how much she appreciated the project and the life it has brought to the swim community there. I was really touched. It’s a two-way street. I couldn’t do this project without the support I am receiving from all around the globe. It makes such a difference knowing that people are cheering you on, interested in what you are doing, and that they can relate to it. Those days that I really, really don’t want to go, I am able to pull myself out of bed and put in a good workout because I know there are people excited to see the outcome of this endeavor. That is the beauty of process-based art and opening the process up to an audience. So, to all of you who are out there cheering me on, whether it’s across the world or across the pool: THANK YOU.
Day 27 – July 9, 2011
3500m (140 laps or 2.17 miles); 200m swim/200m pull/200m kick/200m swim, 10×50 sprints, 5x200m, 10x50m sprint first 25 and easy 25, 5x100m, 200m cool down
I followed a similar routine to what we were supposed to swim yesterday. The woman who shared a lane with me yesterday was at the pool, so we decided to encourage and push one another by following the workout together. It was really helpful, especially during the sprinting components where we tried to do 10 sets of 50m within one minute for each set. I found I was completing 50m in around 40 seconds. I should be swimming a bit faster, but all in all I was pretty pleased. Adding in those sprints really forces me to concentrate on technique and dig deep to get to the finish line! I was completely worn out afterwards!
I didn’t do a second workout today or yesterday. I’ll see how I’m feeling tomorrow, but I was absolutely exhausted yesterday and today. My arms hurt in places and ways I didn’t even think was possible. I seriously don’t know how people who are actually training for the Olympics manage it. Some days it has felt like all I have done is swim, recover from swimming, then get back in the pool again, to finish off the day by crashing while watching trash TV at 10pm! I definitely have to draw upon mental strength provided by the gods to keep going. Luckily, the gods have been listening and keep helping me through another day!
Day 28 – July 10, 2011
4300m (172 laps or 2.67 miles); 200m swim/200m pull/200m kick/200m swim, 10×50 sprints, 5x200m, 10x50m sprint first 25 and easy 25, 5x100m, 200 swim/200 pull/200 kick/200 swim, 200m cool down
I decided to try the Popov technique today and lengthened my stroke, pulling from the core. My first lap I did normally to count how many strokes I averaged per lap. For 25m I did about 20-21 strokes. On the second lap I was able to shave of 4 strokes! As I kept it up, I averaged 16-17 strokes per 25m lap! It took a lot of the strain off my arms, and pulling from the core, not the shoulder, I got a lot more power behind each stroke. It was really fun because a couple of ladies I see regularly were at the pool and we kept each other motivated and pushed through! I did a similar workout to yesterday’s but added 800m in addition since I had the time.
I had a really lovely encounter in the locker room with a woman who is a university professor in Texas. The project initiated a dialogue around art, literature, conferences and interdisciplinary practices. It was really great!
All in all a good day!
Day 29 – July 11, 2011
4000m (160 laps or 2.49 miles); 200m swim/200m pull/200m kick/200m swim, 3sets of 200 swim, 200 kick, 50 sprint kick, 100 build, 50 sprint, 200 kick, 200m swim/200m pull/200m kick/200m swim
I got less than 4 hours of sleep last night, but still managed to drag myself to the pool this morning. I was relieved to see that everyone else was dragging and Taylor assigned us a 3100m workout for the day. I was really struggling today, feeling out of breath and having to stop after each 100m. I think I’m just worn out – physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s days like today where I realize I’m not a superwoman and balancing this project with everything else in my life definitely takes its toll. But, I was able to do a fairly good workout and I’m hoping to have the energy to hit the pool for a second workout this afternoon as I embark on the final push of the project!
Day 30 – July 12, 2011
4200m (168 laps or 2.61 miles); 200m swim/200m pull/200m kick/200m swim, 500m kick, 500m swim, 200m swim/200m pull/200m kick/200m swim, 500m kick, 10x 50m sprints, 400m swim, 200m cool down
I can’t believe I am on day 30 already! In some ways it feels like I have been working on this project forever, and in others it feels like just yesterday I got into the pool for the first time, nerves and jitters. I am a little sad seeing it come to an end, but on the other hand I am looking forward to seeing how I can continue swimming with a schedule that is more realistic for a jam-packed lifestyle. I have already noticed so many changes in myself: my strength and endurance have dramatically increased, my confidence has been lifted, and I am proud of the drive I have developed in order to get up every day and do this, whether I want to or not.
My energy level was really low today and my lungs have really been bothering me. I think it’s a combination of all the smoke we have had in the air with the fires and the chlorine. I basically made up my workout today. Started with the same warm-up, then added in some distance kicks with fins and distance swims. I still concentrated on the long stroke and pulling from the core, but my arms are so tight and sore that I added in a lot of kicking to take the pressure off my arms. I’m really enjoying the longer stroke. It really is a lot more efficient and I can go a lot farther and faster without being completely winded. Next I am going to concentrate on my flutter kick without fins since I seem to kick like mad and go nowhere! The fins have helped by forcing my ankles to flex, but when I take them off and try kicking, I seem to just stiffen up. I remember being a little kid in swim lessons and hanging onto the wall, kicking in place. I might have to try that again!
I was having a conversation with a dinner guest last night about the project and the various things it is bringing up for me. I mentioned how I cringe when I hear some of the Masters swimmers talking about the competitive aspect of swimming and asking one another if they are going to the next invitational meet. It makes me feel inferior and brings back the wave of anxiety I used to feel as a kid at swim meets. I don’t know where this all comes from for me, or how to address it within myself. In a way, it feels like high school all over again with the various cliques and feeling like you don’t quite fit in anywhere. It’s funny how we can carry those feelings into adulthood. Regardless, I just keep focusing on what I need to do, what this is about for me, and concentrate on making strides in my own progress. It’s all we can ever do!
Here’s to a fabulous final week!
Day 30 Part Two
Swam an additional 50 laps in the 22yd pool before I saw lightning and called it a day. That makes today’s total 5300yds. Not too bad.
Day 31 – July 13, 2011
4000m (160 laps or 2.49 miles); 200m swim, 200m pull, 200m kick, 200m swim, 10 x 50m sprints, 10 x 50m sprint kicks, 6 sets of 200m swim, 200m swim, 200m pull, 200m kick, 200m swim, 100m swim, 100m breaststroke kick
The pool was jam packed today, which was great! It added a lot of energy, which I desperately needed today. I just wasn’t focused and that really put a wrench in my stride. Rather than following the workout that Taylor set up for the Masters swimmers, I devised my own in order to add some sprints in and repeated the warm up, only faster, for a second round. I thought that if I added some sprints right after the warm-up it might get me going, and then adding 200’s might get me in a rhythm. My plan didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. I managed to accomplish the distance, but because my mind was wandering I felt my arms dropping quite a bit. I had to keep refocusing to keep my form, well, en forme. I felt ready to call it quits after 2000m but forced myself to push through and hit the 4000m goal Taylor had set for us today. If I wasn’t going to do the exact workout, I had to at least do the distance she wanted us to do. Despite my fatigue, I managed to keep pace with the Masters and used their camaraderie to keep me going. Whatever it takes! Hopefully tomorrow I will be in a better mental state so that my physical state can be in top form.
Day 32 – July 14, 2011
Part One: 3200m (128 laps or 1.98 miles)
This morning I arrived late to the pool in a somewhat down mood. I made sure my mom caught the shuttle to the airport – she is going to England to see my ailing grandfather. I was feeling a little somber when I got to the pool and it unfortunately affected my drive in the workout. I can be so driven and manic at times that I don’t realize or don’t pay attention to the effect that the emotional ups and downs really do have on physical ability. At times I push through that so much that there comes a time when it all finally catches up with me, like today, and I have a hard time handling the physical tasks I have set forth for myself. I really didn’t want to be in the pool, and I certainly didn’t want to push myself. I accepted that and just swam until I didn’t want to anymore. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted today. Tomorrow is another day.
Part Two: 3608 yds (164 laps in 22yd pool)
The day started out rough, but I was able to add an additional 3608 yards to make it a respectable day. Now it’s time for some epsom salts and a nap!
Day 33 – July 15, 2011
3500m (140 laps or 2.17 miles)
I am trying push through my exhaustion and hit some good workouts, but my arms were in such pain today. Sometimes the pain will subside when I have gotten through the warm-up, but today that just wasn’t the case. I added some more kicks into the mix to take the load off my arms, which did help a bit.
I chatted a bit with a woman who has just started the Masters program and who I swam with last weekend. We talked about the struggle to not get sucked into comparing ourselves to the other swimmers and keep the fun in swimming. It can definitely be a test when we live in a culture that promotes competition in every arena, and I have certainly struggled with it in and out of the pool. How do we strike that balance of pushing ourselves, but making sure we aren’t doing it just to live up to or beat the person in the lane next to us? How do we keep focused on the very reasons we started swimming and not become consumed by external pressure and goals? I don’t have the answer, and I think it’s a daily effort to remember what it is you want from an experience. I beat myself up when I don’t have great workouts, and I’m really disappointed in myself for not hitting the 10,000 yard mark yet. But, the reality is, I am not an Olympic swimmer and I had not been training in any way prior to starting this project. I can’t expect to be hitting those goals in one day. Staying focused on what I have accomplished, rather than focusing on my shortcomings, is all I can do to keep moving forward. So, that’s what I am trying to do today.
Part Two: 2332 yds (106 laps in 22yd pool)
Not a huge amount of yardage to add, but I showed up.
Day 34 – July 16, 2011
5000m (200 laps or 3.1 miles) + 2640 yds in 22yd pool (120 laps or 1.49 miles)
Today was AWESOME! I can never predict it or figure out what combination of factors leads to a good swim day, but today I really fell into the groove. I did my normal warm-up, but then continued with set after set of 500m. It felt so good and natural and I was not sore at all. Every muscle in my body seemed to be working together to push me forward and continue on towards the goal of swimming as much as I could. A friend of mine came to watch me swim and support the project, and surprisingly, even having a witness did not affect my rhythm. Yes, it made me a little nervous knowing someone was there watching me and I didn’t want to disappoint, but I was able to tune it out and just keep at it for myself. A really incredible feeling.
In the late afternoon I headed over to Quail Ridge to add in some extra mileage. I really wanted to hit between 6000 and 10,000 m and I did! I swam until my arms wanted to fall off. I did the best I could for the day, and now I’m ready for bed!
Day 35 – July 17, 2011
2700m (108 laps or 1.68 miles)
I was hoping for a repeat of yesterday, but that just wasn’t going to happen. My body needs some recovery time and I just didn’t have it. I decided to try to do the workout that Taylor had set out on Friday, but I modified it. I kept her intervals and builds, which was great for pushing me and really making me feel like I was working out, but I did not have that groove that I found yesterday. That’s ok, I did what I could. My goal for Tuesday is to get as close as I can to the 10,000m mark, so having a slower day today probably works in my favor.
The Taos News came to photograph my project, a sort of “Day in the Life of” moment. I was glad that they got to see the aspects of the project that are really important to me – the camaraderie that has formed with women I see in the locker room and swim with on a regular basis. I spoke with two women in the locker room today, one who told me how she learned to swim as an adult, and another who swam from the east to west coasts! We talked about the discipline that swimming requires, the commitment, and how it is similar to the commitment that is required in an art practice. It is great to see people taking from this project what they need at that moment. It’s not about them entering into my goals or my reasons for doing this, but that they find their own meaning, their own goals, their own ways of challenging themselves and celebrating their accomplishments – however big or small. It is exciting to witness my own growth, but equally exciting to see the changes in others as a result of these encounters.
Day 36 – July 18, 2011
4500m (180 laps or 2.8 miles)
What a bizarre day! I got into the pool determined to swim 5000m and I just could not seem to get into a rhythm. Either my pull was great and my kick was off, or I was flailing in the water. Even my wrists were aching and I couldn’t get them to pull properly in my warm-up. Rather than fight my lack of coordination on this Monday morning, I embraced it and challenged myself to do sets of kicks and sets of pulls. I told myself if I could get to 2000m I’d be happy. Once I hit that mark, I challenged myself to another 500m, even though I just wanted to get out of the pool and head home to watch trash TV. Yes, sometimes I do want to keep up with the Kardashians. But, I managed to push through despite my shoulder and hip throbbing and hit the 4500m mark. I’m going to give myself the afternoon off so I can be rested and ready for tomorrow’s challenge: 10,000m!
Day 37 – July 19, 2011
10,000m (400 laps or 6.2 miles)
I am seriously in shock! I just can’t believe I actually did it!! I set myself the goal of swimming 10,000m after Taylor told me that an Olympian swims an average of 6,000-10,000m per day. I have tried to get close to that in the last week or so, but have never been able to make it. Armed with a tube of Icy Hot to quench my incredibly sore arms, I gave it a shot!
I swam my normal two sessions today, but told myself I would try to get over the half-way mark in the morning so psychologically I would feel better about having to do less than half this afternoon. I was so exhausted when I got up. It really hit me that this was the last day, and I started to fade a bit. I did some stretching, had a lot of coffee, and just told myself that it was a normal workout. I had to be consistent to get that kind of distance down in the two hour lap swim window. The session started with my normal warm-up, but my arms just weren’t getting into the groove. I added in more set of just pulling to loosen them up, and that seemed to help. The goal for the morning: get as many sets of 500 in as I could manage. Pulls, kicks, regular freestyle. I managed to clock 5500m by the 9:ooam mark. How awesome!
Then came the afternoon. I was EXHAUSTED. After getting home from the morning workout I applied more Icy Hot to loosen up my arm muscles, but even that wasn’t helping. I tried napping, but I am not a nap kind of girl, so I just ended up cleaning instead. Finally, it was time to head to the pool and to face the battle of my own will. My strategy was to divide the remaining distance into sets of 50 laps. For the shorter pool, I needed to swim 205 laps to make my goal. That gave me four sets of 50 laps and some change. The first couple went by pretty quickly, but then the fatigue set in and it was a struggle just to swim a lap. I was literally gasping for air at some points. Dark clouds started rolling in and I heard thunder in the distance, so I wanted to hurry up and finish as many laps as I could in case it started lighting, but I was so tired. Just do another ten, then you can have a break. Ok, you’re at the half-way mark for this set, just push through. That’s all I could do to push myself through it, and on the final two laps the sun actually came out again! It was so beautiful and I was just so relieved and excited!
I will do a bit of reflection on all this tomorrow, because right now I am just thankful to have accomplished this goal and be done! I am actually really proud of myself because I had some serious doubts about being able to do this. The project feels more like a snapshot of a much larger process, and hopefully a beginning to some new goals!
REFLECTION – July 21, 2011
I must admit I am going through a bit of withdrawal now on my second day after having completed this phase of the project. I decided to give myself a couple of days off to recoup and give my muscles a break, but having been in the routine of waking at 5:30am every day it is bizarre to not be at the pool right now. I plan to establish a new routine of swimming for an hour 3-4 days per week, so we will have to see how that goes!
I have been asked on several occasions what the most important thing is that I gained from this project. There is not just one thing that stands out in my mind. As with most process-based work, I may set the rules or parameters in which the project operates, but the excitement is the unknown journey that unfolds. It was wonderful to engage with the community who swam with me, the women whom I met in the locker room, those whom I encountered on the streets, and those whose only engagement with the project was online. The project served not only for me to explore my own ideas, but also as a catalyst for others to talk about their experiences, feelings, fears and dreams. Although my project is heavily rooted in art and art history, it was important to me that it also exist outside of the institution and in the community. Based on my experience over the last few weeks, I would say Carving the Road to London was successful at bridging the gap between art and life for myself and for others.
The project does not end here! I will be printing all of the photos taken over the course of this 37-day journey and am planning on exhibiting them.
As I have been reminded over and over throughout this process, we all have the opportunity to reevaluate and revise our goals and dreams. What suited us in the past may not serve us now. The key is to be true to ourselves and push beyond the limitations we set. As I was reminded by a friend of mine, we can swim from Florida to Cuba at any age if that’s what we want to do!