Why I love swimming with the grannies

There’s something unique about swimming at the YMCA.

Because of my work schedule, I end up at the pool at odd hours where it’s often me and a crew of senior citizens. Some of them swim. Some of them walk in the pool. A number of them take one of the aquatics classes — aerobics in the pool.

There are days when this is really cool because it makes me feel fast. Granted, there are many grannies who could (and do) kick my ass in a variety of athletic endeavors. And there really is glory in lapping the older woman doing the breaststroke without putting her face in the water or getting her hair wet, but any chance I have to not be last when it comes to swimming, I use to buck up my confidence.

The diversity of ages and sizes and athletic ability is part of the package at this public pool.

And it’s something that has made my own athletic journey that much richer. It keeps me in a state of gratitude for my health and ability and drive and passion. It reminds me that no matter what our current physical state there are things we can do to move and bond with others and feel good.

It’s about wellness not about thinness. About health not aesthetics.

It was floating through my mind during a swim this week after reading a pair of blog posts.

Brought to my attention via a posting from my sister-in-law, I read with interest a blog by author Jen Lancaster in response to a blog by Maura Kelly at Marie Claire.

Read both of them. Seriously. One is disturbing. The other is entertaining.

In brief: Maura Kelly was asked by an editor to write about the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly and a recent article that people were uncomfortable with two overweight people making out on TV. Forget the fact that Kelly never actually watches the show (ah, journalism at its finest) but she then proceeds to bully overweight people with her own simplistic weight loss plan and a rather condescending “you can do it!” Later, she adds a postscript to the blog post, apologizing for coming off as a bully and citing her own background as an anorexic for perhaps coloring her view.

Enter Lancaster’s counterpoint which, as one would expect, is funny, pointed and yet truthful. Lancaster writes:

Apparently all fat people have been waiting for is some cluelessly self-righteous Ivy Leaguer to instruct them on how to not disgust her.

Because that’s key.

OK, first, full disclosure, I adore Jen Lancaster’s writing and occasionally after finishing one of her novels I consider mildly stalking her.

And while there is plenty to chew on in both of these pieces, what disappoints me is the value Kelly’s piece places on appearance.

Wanting to look good is one thing. Feeling morally inferior because you don’t look a certain way is another. So is attempting to make someone else feel morally inferior because she doesn’t look a certain way.

It undermines those of us who are wellness advocates — who don’t care what size you are or what type of exercise you do or what your diet is, but rather, want everyone to be in a healthy enough place to live the life they have dreamt for themselves.

While I will proselytize triathlon and it’s component sports there are deeper truths in my love of fitness. You can move to be healthy, move to lose weight, move to fit into a certain dress size or move to compete (at various levels) in athletic events. Movement is about connection — the connection you feel to your body, to your inner self, to others around you.

You don’t have to be a triathlete to reap personal benefits from doing something active — whatever it is you love or enjoy. Nor do you have to be a single-digit dress size to be healthy and happy and beautiful and worthy.

So jump on in the pool with me. Doesn’t matter if you’re zooming past me as a former collegiate swimmer or if you’re holding water weights while walking the length of the pool.

There’s room if you want to be here. And you can come just as you are. The grannies and I will make room.

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~ by amymoritz on October 29, 2010.

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