On Wednesday, I saw my surgeon again, and I got the go-ahead to return to swimming, not just kicking. My physical therapist and I devised a schedule for coming back--starting back at about 500 yards of swimming, with a maximum of three practices per week, and then increasing 10% each week. If I have problems--such as pain--I back away from that increase until the pain goes away. If there are areas in my stroke where I have trouble with mobility, he will give me more exercises. I will continue doing my regular exercises daily for a month, and then gradually back off some of the exercises and I get more of my strengthening from swimming.
I am thrilled to be at this point. I can remember any number of times when I thought this day would not come.
But I also have mixed feelings, in that I have not decided yet how seriously I want to return to the swimming. Of course I am excited to have other options for exercise and fitness (which I have seriously lost over the last six months or so, not to mention the months before that), but I am still wrestling with how I want to pursue this. Starting in the fall of 2004 and culminating in the spring of 2006, I had achieved a very high level of swimming fitness: during that period I achieved several USMS national cuts, trained at a high level (swimming with masters and my team's kids' squad), competed in a lot of meets (including numerous USA Swimming meets where I raced with little kids--humbling), and medaled in the spring USMS SCY national championship. To return to my fitness level of spring 2006 would require a tremendous amount of work, and I would basically be starting from scratch. I do not yet know that I want to make that commitment.
But for now, I am just swimming. On Wednesday, after my appointment with my surgeon, I went to the pool and did a session of 2000 meters, of which 450 meters were swimming. Much of that swimming (300 meters) I did while wearing long fins, and I never swam more than a 50 at a time (for most of the swimming, I alternated 25 swim with 25 kick). I was both not surprised and a little surprise by how hard it was to swim, as I realized how weak my arms are (especially the left, but really both of them). On Thursday and also this morning, I was very stiff in my left arm, but PT exercises and stretching helps loosen that up.
And now for the next week or so, I am at the beach, doing the spring break thing. Note: for me, the "spring break thing" does not include big parties with lots of undergraduates gone wild. Instead, it will be a pretty quiet week, where my biggest decisions are which knitting project to work on, whether to go for a bike ride or watch the ACC tourney, whether to eat here in the condo or go to a restaurant, whether to sit around in my jammies or venture out for a newspaper, and how far to walk on the beach. I'll need to do some work in there too, but still. My condo looks out on the tennis courts, so this morning I am listening to the pock, pock, pock of someone's first game of the day.
I am going to see if by the end of this week, I can get myself back to a point where I can return to swim practice next week. I think that having feedback from my coach now, when I am trying to rebuild my stroke and trying to be very careful about pacing my recovery, could be a very important thing. But first I need to get to a mental place where I feel good about being at practice.
But for now, should I ride my bike on the beach or go pick up a New York Times?
p.s. Go Heels.