I started swimming this February because I wanted to do something different. Sometimes, even I get bored lifting heavy things. When that happens, I dial back strength training and bring in something new. I wanted to engage in an activity that would be hard enough to demand focus, but not so hard that it would be frustrating. I craved the sensation of forward momentum, and needed to access it without having to travel far. I was looking for something to support cardiovascular health and better sleep.
Swimming has the added bonus of helping me unpack my history of disordered eating. Many times when I pull on my swimsuit, old memories I had pushed down — because I felt ashamed — pop up. Rather than shoving them down again, I have lately been using this as an opportunity to examine them with a kinder, more adult perspective.
Lifting Heavy Things
An Unlikely Personal Trainer Teaches You How to Support Mental Health and Wellness In The Gym
Part of my work as a trauma-informed personal trainer is to help people extend self-compassion to themselves around movement and exercise. One way you can practice self-compassion in the gym is to grant yourself permission to move in a manner that feels good to you even if that means changing course (like putting down dumbbells and putting on goggles). And if you’re not sure what would feel good, one thing you might consider is what you liked to do in your free time as a little kid. I was the sort of kid who stayed in the pool until my lips were blue and my fingertips were prunes.
A second way you can bring more self-compassion to your movement practice is to make space for all the thoughts and feelings that arise when you are choosing to move (or not to move) and when you consider your past choices around movement. When it comes to my own relationship to swimming, that can be bittersweet, even hard. That doesn’t mean it is bad to do; it is a hard thing worth doing.