That Big Black Line

Below, A note from our client…


On #myroadto40 I met Jordan and together, we reunited with that big black line.


Jordan is a young (31 is young to me now that I’m decidedly acting like an old lady), charismatic, and skilled personal trainer who smiled and nodded when I told him about my “used-to-was-a” days as an athlete. Never mind my slightly overweight, definitely out of shape, struggling to make it through exercise, making that strange achy exhaling noise out of my mouth when I bend over to pick something up, body of today. Don’t worry, I’m not talking negatively about myself. Folks, these are just the facts. I’m working on them though thus the personal trainer in the story.

“Back in the day, I looked amazing” I told him again, and again, and… again. It’s like I really needed him to understand for my own peace of mind, that I haven’t always been…well, an almost 40 mother of 4 who spends considerably more time sitting at a desk in a day than I spend in a gym for an entire month.

Jordan began training me a couple of months ago, in February of this year. I’ve lost 10 pounds, I have more energy, and certainly more strength. I don’t make that noise as much when I bend over to pick something up.

During our sessions, I learned that he too used to be a swimmer and we teased and poked fun at one another about getting into the pool to race. I almost wanted him to dare me. So he did.

I think I could swim before I could walk. No exaggeration. There is a 2nd place ribbon I still have packed away from the summer of 1978. I was born the summer of 1977. That ribbon was from swimming 25 yards in the Bath Club pool. The Bath Club was our local beach country club and it’s where we all learned to swim. Family, friends, and pretty much anyone and everyone who stepped foot on Redington Beach swam at this pool. It was here my love affair with that big black line began.

I swam summers growing up and in high-school I added months in the Fall. Before you knew it, I was swimming year round plus lifting weights, running, and doing dry-land exercises on deck just steps away from that big black line.

The big black line is a line every swimmer knows well. When you train at the same pool for years, you learn its cracks, scratches, and indentations. You stare at it, meditate with it and talk to it in your mind for two to five hours a day, 6 days a week. I did the math and figured out I’ve probably stared at that line for an estimated 8600 hours in my life. Break that down and its over a year spent just staring at a line. That line becomes some sort of an old friend and after a day doing whatever else you do when you aren’t immersed in water, you are reunited. And, while you dread the grueling practice ahead you are somehow soothed by the silence that comes along with it.

In college, it just all stopped. The big black line went away. And life happened for 20 years.

Today was the big day, to reunite with the big black line via one of my training sessions with Jordan. Now, my children swim competitively so I’ve encountered the line from above the waters surface and of course I’ve been in the pool here and there but today was different. I was there to show the line I was still the same and nothing had changed.

First, I needed a suit. Every real swimmer knows you cant swim a “real” workout in an every day bathing suit so I had to go out and buy myself a new training suit. Now, there aren’t many women who love bathing suit shopping but this was something new for me. This wasn’t about buying a suit to look cute in while drinking umbrella drinks on a cruise ship or, buying a suit to look modest enough in to take four kids to the beach with your friends from church. This was about finding a training suit that would squeeze in and contain my lumps and bumps and battle scars of those 4 kids. In my “used-to-was-a” training days, those suits would slip on like a sleek glove. But today, getting into a suit like this, just putting it on was a work-out. I’m almost certain the attendant outside the dressing room thought I was getting into a physical altercation as I battled with the nylon/spandex beast. The moment the tags on the hip of one suit literally popped off and shot across the dressing room like a violent projectile I almost gave up. (This is not made up, this really happened). But, I did eventually find one appropriate for my big black line reunion. The suit was black too so I figured they could be friends. In hind sight if I had sunk today, I may have blended-in and gone unnoticed for awhile . But I digress….

Today, Jordan and I were met at the pool and the energy was good. It was on like Donkey Kong.

“So I figure we will take this easy, a nice simple swim- warm up with 500 yards and then we will do another 2000 or so in some sets” I said when I arrived at the pool. I was feeling more confident now after shaking of the suit buying experience. He just smiled at me with that same smile he gave me when I told him what great shape I used to be in.

There is a saying, “The mind is willing but the body is weak”. That perfectly epitomizes the struggle of today’s events.

Jordan was great. I’ll only pick on him a little and say that if he is being honest he will admit it kicked his ass just a little too. But it was right around the time I could no longer form consonant sounds with my mouth and was attempting communication for “air” “stop” and “no more, God please” in some made up form of sign language I realized I owed that black line and everyone who spends those hours every day some respect and empathy. This shit was hard. I just don’t remember it being that hard. I think at one point I told Jordan in an indecipherable language that my kidney’s and my lungs were touching as I was gasping for air so hard.

He laughed at me.

But the experience was still uniquely comforting. Sure, there was the

lifeguard that looked concerned around the 800 yard mark when I began making high-pitched wheezing noises with every breath as my face rolled out and in of the water. But, there was also that feeling and the big black line hadn’t changed one bit. It was still there for me and it didn’t mock my speed or ability, in fact it led the way to the end of the pool and every turn. Again. And again.

Outside of one hell of a work out and a veracious appetite post swim, I took away from this experience that despite all the changes in my life over all these years (and probably in all the years that lie ahead of me) there will always be that big black line waiting and ready for me. Even if you weren’t a swimmer, we all have a big black lines in our lives. That thing we used to love that we don’t do anymore because we can’t do it as well as we used to or we place barriers in our way to things “we need to do first before we can return to it” all so we can prove our capable level of greatness yet again. But to that black line, it doesn’t matter what size I am now or how fast I travel its length today versus 20 years ago. To the converse, I bring to it a confidence that only comes with real maturity, and many wonderful years of experiences and stories to share. It isn’t my “used-to-was-a” that matters, it’s where I am now and that I’m staying connected to myself, my health, and the things that make me happy.

Like that big black line.


Post work out recap:


  • Goal: 500 yard warm up and “a couple thousand yards in sets” and to beat Jordan.
  • Result: 200 yard warm up that nearly killed me and 950 yards in sets that were mostly completed in a out -of -body meditative state that I’m pretty sure was a result of my brain shutting down the signals of pain. I did not beat Jordan but then again, we never actually raced. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.