You Can't Swim if You Can't Breathe

Every time I swim laps without kicking the person in my lane, I consider it a small victory for mankind.

A few months ago, my doctor approved me to swim for cardiovascular exercise. Due to a long, ridiculous story about a botched surgery and subsequent injury, three and half years passed before I heard these beautiful words from my physician. As a former athlete and coach, abstaining from physical activity has been less than ideal. To say the least. 

With great excitement, I purchased a very sturdy, black, old lady swim suit. Match that with my attractive purple swim cap and lovely goggles, and I’m quite the catch at my gym. Not just any gym. The muscle-cars-in-the-parking-lot-that-match-the-muscled-bodies-inside gym. For a majority of the members, I’m old enough to be their mother. 

But I don’t care.

Because my heart is pumping. My body is getting pushed to its limit for the first time in years. It. Feels. Good.

But here’s a tidbit about swimming. It’s not about how in shape you are. Don’t get me wrong, I regularly swim with triathletes, and am in awe of their athletic abilities. I worry I’m the subject of their tweets about the-woman-who-has-to-rest-in-between-every-lap. They are 100% in shape. But they also know something I didn’t know before I jumped into the pool. 

You have to focus on your breathing, or you’re going to sink.

Regulating my inhales during a swim is counterintuitive. As my work-out intensifies, I need more oxygen to compensate my hard-working body. But during freestyle, if I hurry my stroke so I can get another breath quickly, I am exerting more energy. This causes me to be out of breath, which is difficult to handle when I’m under water. I can’t rush the movement to intake more air.

I have to remain calm and make deliberate choices about how I breathe.

Do you know what’s so wonderful about having to focus on breathing? I’m unable to think about anything else. My brain can’t spin in the problems of the day. I can’t feel self-conscious about wearing a bathing suit in public. Gone are my thoughts about my never-ending to-do list.

I have to focus on breathing.

My entire attention is absorbed in calmly working my swim. Taking the breaths I need. At the pace required for me. Letting go of everything else.

It’s like that with life, isn’t it? Focus on your breathing, or you’re going to sink. We wear ourselves out. We choose to push just a little more than we’re designed to go. We shove aside our basic needs - breathing - to “do” more. 

What would happen if we stop? Look to The One who created us. The One who filled our lungs to begin with. The One who has the ability to breathe life back into us … if only we would stop and take in His oxygen.

Just like learning to swim a long distance, learning to be still with God takes practice. It’s awkward sometimes. Other days, it’s frustrating. But it gets easier the more I do it. And it’s addicting. 

Because once I take in a calm breath, I only want more.

What about you? How’s your breathing?