The word “marathoning” is of dubious validity; triathloning just seems made-up. In order to continue my Friday series on endurance sports though, I needed to adjust the name to reflect the new subject matter. My next race will not be a marathon. Instead, I plan on completing a triathlon in August—something under the half-Iron Man distance, most likely a one mile swim, 40 mile bike ride, and eight mile run. I’m a capable cyclist and an experienced distance runner. Unfortunately, I’ve allowed my swimming skills to lapse over the last six years. Struggling to complete a seemingly mediocre workout is a humbling experience; it is easy to forget the initial difficulties of a new exercise regimen. Hopefully, in six weeks I will have become a significantly more proficient swimmer.
Every night, I engage in the same debate with my body: to swim or not to swim? One of the strategies I’ve developed for getting myself into the pool is a kind of gastronomical Jedi mindtrick. I simply imagine how delicious my dinner will taste after I finish. Unlike running, which dampens my appetite, swimming sharpens my hunger pangs. At some mysterious moment in my childhood, I was conditioned to believe that swimming intensifies the pleasures of a meal. Melting bomb pops and Lay’s Potato Chips—flecked with grease and salt—accompanied afternoons of playing in the pool. Now, my post-swim snacks call for trips farther afield: big roast pork buns in Chinatown, cool strands of soba in the East Village, a cup of frozen yogurt fetched a mile down Broadway. But oftentimes I just wish I had a sweaty cooler full of popsicles, a can of Sprite, and a backyard.
Workouts you don’t want to do become palatable when you can identify their hidden pleasures. For me, swimming itself is not yet an enjoyable activity. Instead, the promise of a hearty dinner (and a slice of supermarket watermelon for dessert) keeps me freestyling away.