I got interviewed!

When I started to train for open water swimming again a couple of years ago, I decided it would be in my best interest to become a US Masters Swimming (USMS) member. This was mostly because a lot of open water events are only open to USMS members (for liability/insurance reasons), but there are a lot of perks that come with the membership that I like, especially the forums where I can ask other swimmers questions, training programs, and their magazine “Swimmer”.

Well, a few months ago, Swimmer Magazine had an excellent series of articles about diversity in swimming which mostly focused on race, but did mention other diversity issues, except body diversity.

So, I wrote a letter to the editor, Laura Hamel, and told her as much. I basically said that while I thought their articles on diversity were really awesome, they forgot to talk about size diversity. I mentioned how hard it is to get good training swimsuits. The major swim companies don’t carry suits past size 24 (maybe) and the places where you can get suits in my size have maybe one style of suit that is suitable for swimming laps. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cute swimsuits, but I’m not lounging by the pool when I go swimming, you know?) I also mentioned that I was nervous about going to a Masters training session because I wasn’t sure how I’d be received, or if they would take me seriously, or if they’d just assume I was there to lose weight.

The editor and I had a nice exchange of emails, and they published an edited version of my letter in the next issue. She was really awesome, and said that she hoped that any Masters event I went to that they would take me seriously and welcome me. (To be honest, I still haven’t gone to one yet.)

But color me surprised when a few months later I get an email from Laura about wanting to interview me! The journalist, Elaine, and I had a great discussion when she interviewed me on the phone, and a later I got pictures done with a very nice and body positive photographer named Mike Calabro in Lake Michigan (literally in!).

The online version came out a couple of weeks ago, but I finally got my initial hard copy a couple of days ago. I created a PDF of the article, which is below! The article belongs to Swimmer Magazine and US Masters Swimming, so, if you are going to share it anywhere online, please make sure to give the appropriate citations.

I’m still going “Holy cow! Someone thought I was interesting enough to interview!” but this is awesome!

swimmerarticle

Because I Want To!

I’ve been doing a lot of “adulting” in the last few weeks, most specifically around beauty and health. I’m a little conflicted around talking about my own health stuff online, since I know that for other people (including myself) there are times I just don’t want to hear about someone’s exercise schedule, especially because our society is really messed up around conflating exercise with weight loss. I get that, and really, this isn’t to brag about my current exercise regimen or anything like that, but to talk about the reasons why I’ve decided to do what I’ve been doing.

I have a back injury. My L5-S1 disc is basically like a bad car brake pad at this point. It’s difficult for me to walk long distance or to stand in one place for too long. How it happened is that in 2010 I fell twice on my tailbone onto hard floors (once in the lab when I was still working in biotech, and the second at home). Also, it was aggravated by working in biotech for 13 years and standing for hours and hours a day on hard concrete floors. I’m still at a point, however, where strength training and stretching can keep me from having to use drugs or getting risky cortisone shots. So, after talking to my doctor (who is a DO instead of an MD and very much into holistic medicine) I decided to go the non-drug route for the time being. I went to my local 24 Hour Fitness with a pool to get a membership. Even though I was terrified of the possibility of body shaming, I asked about getting a trainer so that I could learn about exercises for my back. It just so happened that they had a trainer who also has the exact same injury that I do. I got to talk to her for awhile while I was signing up, and was pleasantly surprised that she took me seriously. In fact, in my two full sessions with her, there has been no body shaming whatsoever, just a desire to see me get stronger so I can move better. (If you’re in San Jose, her name is Kortney, and she’s at the 24 Hour Fitness on Santa Teresa across from the Kaiser San Jose.)

Something I’ve come to realize in the last couple of weeks that I’ve started training, is that I really like it! I like being athletic, being in the pool, doing strength training. Not for weight loss, not just specifically for my health, but because I love it. I realized, when I was in the pool last, that I had really missed the swim training I did for the Tiburon Mile. I love being in the water. I can see my wife and my parents now going “duh”. Especially my parents, since I started swimming before I could walk! In fact, one of my earliest memories is of me in the local community wading pool. But my best swimming memory was when I completed the Tiburon Mile in 2009. (Here’s the video Sarah made about my swim.) I’m still really proud of that.

So, I’m going to try it again. I decided at that moment in the pool that I’m going to try and swim the Tiburon again in 2017. Because I want to, and because I know I can do it.

This “because I want to” thing is also translating into other areas of my life. I’ve recently been exploring more about my sense of style around clothes and beauty. For a long time I wore clothes a certain way because it was expected of me. I didn’t dye my hair for a long time because I had some weird sense that it wasn’t “right” to do. Same with clothes. There were certain clothes I avoided for several reasons (although, when I was still working in biotech, there were practical reasons I had to wear certain types of clothing), but most of the reason I avoided them is because I was trying to look like other people’s expectations of what they thought my identity was. For a long time I shaved my head and refused to wear anything considered “girly” because other people expected me to be what their version of what a butch dyke looked like. I also stopped wearing more femme clothes and makeup because there were a lot of sources telling me “you shouldn’t wear that” or “you aren’t really that femme are you?” or “you’re too fat to wear that!”

But what I’ve learned by doing work around body positivity is that I don’t owe anyone a explanation why I like swimming and being athletic, wearing skirts, or even wearing the bright blue mascara that I have on right now. I don’t own anyone an explanation of why I choose to eat or not eat foods. I can do these things because I want to, not because of society’s conflated beauty standards, or other people’s expectations of what healthy is, or not do these things because I’m fat.

I’m not sure if this is because I’ve turned 40 and I just don’t really give a crap what people think anymore, or if I’ve finally just found a happy medium with myself. Or maybe, I just think life is too short to not do the things I want to do, even if what I want to do is swim 2000 yards in a hour while wearing blue mascara.