medicine

I’ve been playing the sport for over 40 years, which was one of my late father’s legacy. Since I was a kid I have been playing tennis, jogging, doing Olympic gymnastics, figure skating and swimming. For just about everything, he was a bit clumsy but excited. In my teens came the exercise fever. It was the ’80s, looking back, those classes weren’t too hard, but it was fun to put on dresses, leggings, leg warmers and dance to the tunes of the Pointer Sisters.

In the 2000s, I started running recreationally and then became obsessed with long-distance running. Although it was terribly boring, the euphoria of endorphins kept me running for a decade. I ran two marathons, the first I experienced and the second I enjoyed. Then I tore my meniscus and although the surgery was as good as new, I lost a career spending many hours running. Five years ago I started swimming and realized that the pool is where I need to get tired, to exercise without injury and even to learn empathy, because swimming in a lane with people with different levels of training is an opportunity to develop kindness. Consideration, patience and tolerance. The boardwalk is a small community with its own rules. Those who swim faster go forward and behind, the others. There are those who are making their way as if they are going to break the Olympic record. Sometimes they hit you with training bats or turn the bell an inch off your face, so you know who’s the boss. There is nothing personal in the pool and the rules governing the course remain in the fairway, although you can be a learned swimmer or grouchy. Swimming is a democratic sport. Height and weight do not matter. No knee or back injuries. Everyone is welcome at the pool, and the age range ranges from teenagers to seniors over 80 years old.

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I left the pool during two years of the pandemic and it was one of many losses. The pool was closed for a few months, when it opened, I was already sick with the contagious panic disorder. I decided to go back to swimming a few months ago because I needed medicine for the body and for the head: manic traits appear freely to count laps, strokes, sequences, and breaths. 5 strokes and 1 breath on the right side, 5 strokes and 1 breath on the left side; Exhale every 2, 4, 6, and 8 strokes. Count your touches to complete two thousand metres. In short, from counting so much, swimming becomes a meditation because you can’t think of anything at all other than swimming and counting. The neurotransmitters that are created in the pool act as anxiolytics and antidepressants. Swimming tames the neuroses and madness with which we torment ourselves. You leave the pool with a clearer mind, with a tired body and with the pride that you’ve beaten yourself another day. I seem to have become a Jehovah’s Witness in swimming. It is that life without the exhaustion that occurs after swimming is more ruthless, angrier, less impatient, and sadder. I tell you, I’m a swimming fanatic.

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