Saying thank you for feeling like Superman


Let me preface this by saying, as I have before, that many people swim faster than I do, but I am a steady swimmer, which can make me look like a fast one. Let me add that I have good swims, and I have not-as-good swims. But the fact that I swim at all makes every swim good for the mere gratification of showing up. And sometimes showing up leads to my day brightening in ways I didn’t anticipate.

Last Sunday happened to be a good swim kinda day. I just kept going, basically because I could and because I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. When I finished, I showered and changed, as one tends to do after swimming. I noticed two women — mother and daughter, it turned out — by the mirror, putting on makeup and combing their hair. I asked the younger one if she was going to use the hair dryer, or if i could until she was ready.

“Oh, go ahead,” she said. “I’m not going to dry my hair.”

I thanked her and schlepped my bag onto the counter. Then she said, “You were the one swimming just now, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “That was me.”

“You are SUPERMAN!” she said. She turned to her mother and said something in a language I didn’t understand. The older woman smiled and began nodding her head vigorously.

I started to laugh. “You are so nice,” I said. “I don’t always swim like that. Today was just really good.”

“Well,” the younger woman said, gesturing toward her mother, “we loved watching you swim.” Her mother smiled and nodded again, and I couldn’t wipe that silly grin off my own face while I dried my hair and told them goodbye.

OK, call me a sucker for a compliment, but that little exchange made my day. Yes, because a stranger said something really, really nice about an activity I love doing. But it wasn’t just that; I learned a little lesson from those two minutes, too:

Namely, that if you have a nice thought, voice it — to a friend, a loved one, a person you may never have laid eyes on until now. You’ll feel better; the person you say it to will feel better. Who knows what kind of day they were having before? But you can pretty much guess what direction the next hours or minutes or even moment will take.

So for that extra and continued burst of energy…for strangers who see something in us we rarely see ourselves…and thus for feeling, even once in forever, like Superman…The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for lane-sharers

How nice it is when someone offers to share a lane before you even ask.

How nice it is when someone offers to share a lane before you even ask.

I don’t think I’m just speaking for myself when I say this: Those of us who swim tend to favor having our own lane. Most of the time, this works out, at least the times and places I go.

When you run, you don’t need to think about that. You see someone approaching on the sidewalk, and just move a little to the right till you’ve passed each other. It doesn’t take much thought, and probably only happens once or twice a week.

This morning, when I peered through the window at the pool on my way to the dressing room, each lane looked taken. Two lanes though, were occupied by two women who were getting in a across-the-rope visit before their water-aerobics class began at 9. I thought maybe if I asked, one would move over so I could swim my laps.

By the time I put on my swim suit and made it to the pool, the women were indeed in one lane. A lap swimmer was in each of the other three lanes. I recognized a man in the far lane and even remembered his name. Jim’s a nice fellow, and though he’d have to rein in his arms a bit so as not to bop me in the face, I decided to ask if he’d share.

I hesitated though. You just don’t want to interrupt someone’s swim to ask something that can be sort of irritating. So while I stood there, the woman next to the water-aerobics classmates stopped.

“Do you want to share?” she asked.

“Sure!” I said. “Thank you!”

She had a really pretty stroke, plus she was so easy to swim with. We each stayed on our side of the black line dividing the lane, and we never came close to colliding. I finished feeling good, without that stresed-out, playing-defense sensation that can come with lane-sharing.

We ended up walking out together. I told her I had noticed her walking into the gym because of her bright orange flip-flops, which I love. She said, “Dollar Store!” and we both laughed.

Turns out she’s a Spanish teacher on her first week of summer break. The last couple of weeks have been so busy, she said, that she’s had no time to work out. Plus, her students were bringing in junk food (which they were more than happy to share) to sustain them during final exams. So she’s planning to use the next couple of weeks to get back in shape before doing some traveling.

We parted ways, each expressing hope we’ll see each other again.

Meanwhile, for chance encounters…for people who share…for a reminder to move over and offer half a lane when I see a fellow swimmer waiting…The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for (under & over) finishing

I seem to have lost my tape measure

I seem to have lost my tape measure

I have been working on this hat for — well, quite awhile. Confession: I am not the crafty type. I do like to knit, but am not known for finishing projects. Case in point: A blanket I started knitting long before our knitting group at work, which has long since unraveled (so to speak), even began. I still have not finished the blanket.

The unfinished version of this hat has been in my little green canvas knitting bag since last winter. I’d knit a little…then put it aside. Well, today, spurred on by a jaunt to the knit store with my mother, who is starting an Easter vest for her adorable great-grandchild, I thought I’d go ahead and finish my cap.

So I did. Doubly so, it seems. I could have skipped the last — oh, what, five inches of knitting?!

On the opposite extreme is my swim today. I swam yesterday, so today only wanted to go — oh, maybe 54 lengths, which is three-quarters of a mile. When I started, I thought, “Maybe I’ll go 60,” which is 1,500 yards.

But about five minutes into my laps, my new goggles started providing vacuum cleaner-like suction. My eyeballs were being slurped into my skull, or so it felt.

I tried to adjust them once, but the effort was rather fruitless. So after 40 lengths, I stopped. Hey, that’s 1,000 yards more than I would have done had I skipped the whole thing altogether.

As my yoga instructor stresses, you just gotta go with how your body is today, and that is just how my body was. ‘Tis nothing to be ashamed of (really, Leslie, really!). I’m happy to have done something (including having a really good yoga class this morning).

So for finishing at all — overkill in one case, under in another — The Grateful Runner says thank you.

Saying thank you for not going farther

I almost talked myself out of swimming after work. Not so much because I was tired, but just…well, just because. Today was plenty busy, but just wasn’t one of my more accomplished days. The few conversations I had were short, and as I headed home, I just didn’t feel especially sunny.

Although I almost just went home, I knew I wouldn’t be sorry if I swam. So I schlepped myself into the locker room, changed into my swimsuit, windmilled my arms first forward and then backward to warm up, did a few squats, and started off. I had a distance in mind — three-quarters of a mile, which is 54 lengths — but decided I’d be fine with 48, or with 20 minutes.

So off I went, alternating six lengths of freestyle and six of just using my arms. Along about length No. 24, I thought, “Hm. Maybe I’ll go a little farther.” I kept going, and when I got to 58,  thought, “I could make it a mile.” I felt strong and knew I could do it, maybe even faster than I have lately.

But I just went two more. I’ve had plenty of times when I went longer than I had planned. So this time, I didn’t. I didn’t stop at Central Market afterward either. I just came home, mopped the floor (which probably gives me more satisfaction than it should), ate the pita chips I need to eat fewer of, and am now reheating the soup I made Sunday night.

For soup, for satisfaction, for stopping because I’d already swum far enough, The Grateful Runner says thank you.