The alternate title for this update was 'Swimfan.' I opted to go with this poster because it looks better than Bill Murray in a Speedo.
The other day I picked up my friend Patrick at LAX. He tossed his bag in the backseat, hopped in next to me, and once we’d dispensed with the pleasantries he asked me what I’d been up to recently.
“Well,” I said, at a loss for anything really interesting to say. “I’ve been swimming. That’s new, I guess.”
“What, like, you’ve got a friend with a pool and you went and hung out there?”
“No. I’ve been going to the Culver City Municipal Pool and swimming laps. I’m trying to get into better shape, and swimming is the one kind of exercise I think I can sort of enjoy.”
“Interesting.” Patrick said. “I always had you pegged as a power lifter and a martial artist.”
“Yeah, well, I had to branch out. It’s been really awkward around the dojo ever since I killed my sensei in that mountaintop duel.”
Why did I choose swimming as my form of exercise? Well, there are a number of reasons.
1) Don Draper did it in season 4 of Mad Men. That alone accounts for about 70% of my motivation.
2) Swimming exercises everything at once, which is great for me, because I hate making those dumb little charts of how many reps I have to do and remembering on which day I work which muscle groups. The more thought I have to apply to an exercise regimen, the less likely I am to do it. With swimming, you just have to show up and do it until you’re tired.
3) You don’t get all sweaty and gross when you swim – and I’m aware that the term ‘sweaty and gross’ makes me sound like a ten year old girl, but when it comes to exercise, I kind of am a ten year old girl. I don’t like being sweaty and musky because hygiene is important to me, hence why I opted to submerge myself in a public swimming pool full of God knows how much pee.
4) I apparently look like an idiot when I try to engage in any other form of physical activity. “Truman, it’s hilarious when you try to do a push-up.” “Oh my God, Truman, go back and run for us again, you look so funny.” “We were just laughing because you have a really weird way of walking.” Maybe, just maybe, swimming is the form of exercise where everyone sees me doing it and goes, “Saaaaaayyy…”
The precedent for #4 is encouraging: Michael Phelps was just some spaz with ADD until his Mom made him join a swim team to try and focus his energy, and it turned out he was not only a natural but the best there ever was because the funky shape of his body made him perfect for swimming. I mean, imagine if she’d had him join the marching band. Then he just would’ve been a sub-par, goofy looking trombone player, as if we need more of those.
My first trip to the pool was pretty nerve wracking, and I had to sit in the car listening to rap music to psych myself up for a good fifteen minutes before walking in.*
*Since you ask, I was listening to the only rap song on my iPhone: Get Back, by Ludacris. It’s an almost comically angry song, yet I empathize with it because Luda apparently hates being touched almost as much as I do.
My fear wasn’t drowning – believe it or not, I actually took a couple years’ worth of swimming lessons as a kid and am fully capable of handling myself in the water – but rather that I would encounter the Helpful Dude at the pool.
My longstanding, crippling fear of the Helpful Dude is the reason I don’t go to the gym – he’s the relentlessly good looking and friendly guy who sees you struggling with a six pound weight and comes over, all smiles, to give you some tips. Hi there. What’s your name? Hi Truman, my name’s Ty. Looks like you’re having some trouble there. Ha ha ha! Mind if I give you a couple pointers?
I’m sure that Ty (whose girlfriend is one of the Clipper Dancers) really thinks he’s doing me a favor, but what I’m hearing is, Hey there Truman, my name’s Ty. Me and all the other Beautiful People were laughing at you earlier, but I started to feel a little bad about it, so I came over here to feel good about myself, because the only socially acceptable thing you can do is thank me profusely and take my advice.
And I don't want that. It makes me feel like I've been making an ass of myself without knowing it, and now with the knowledge that I've been making an ass of myself, I'm incredibly self conscious and want to just burn the gym to the ground so that nobody finds out. Honestly, given a choice between being attacked by Helpful Guy or just being a fat disgusting fuck, I'd probably rather take the latter, because nobody's ever tried to give me pointers on how to eat potato chips.
Once I was sufficiently psyched up I made my way through the locker room, past the squad of elderly naked exhibitionists who seem to live in every pool locker room on Earth, changed into my swimming apparel, and went out to the pool to get started.
As it turns out, the reason that swimming is such good exercise is because it’s hard as fuck. Water has twelve times the resistance of air, which means that swimming fifty meters across the pool is like walking 600 meters,* only you can’t breathe without pulling your head out of the water, gasping, and inadvertently swallowing some chlorine-pee cocktail, which in turn makes you flail around and doggie-paddle in the middle of the pool for a little while before you can get back into your rhythm.
*There is literally no way that can be right.
After a few trips to the pool, I’d gotten to the point where I could swim five full laps before I was exhausted and had to climb out. Don’t bother doing the math – my ceiling was half a mile. That was the most that I could swim.
The problem with swimming half a mile is that it’s only really impressive if you’re injured and trying to escape some mortal peril while you’re doing it.
After the Germans torpedoed his carrier, he swam half a mile back to shore with a chunk of shrapnel in his back while simultaneously dragging a developmentally disabled orphan! He’s a hero!
After he made a New Year’s resolution to get into shape, he swam half a mile at the Culver City Municipal Pool, and then rewarded himself with In-N-Out afterwards. He’s a hero!
See? Not as good. It’s a decent start, sure, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as the guys at the pool who are three times my age swimming three times as many laps in one third of the time. I resolved that I was just going to have to work my way up.
Today I went to the pool determined to swim six laps. With dogged perseverance, I went back and forth across the pool five times. As I sat on the pool steps catching my breath and psyching myself up for my record breaking sixth lap, though, I saw an impossibly handsome lifeguard walking up to me, smiling.
“Hi there,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“Hey Truman. My name’s Tony. Looks like you’ve been having some trouble - mind if I give you some pointers?”
The classicest of Truman Capps moments.
Through our conversation, it came out that he and the other lifeguards had some ‘concerns’ about me – namely, that I was going to drown in the middle of the pool. From a swimming standpoint that’s bad, but I was able to convince a bunch of trained lifeguards that I’d never taken swimming lessons or even been in the water before, which, from an acting standpoint, is probably pretty good, right?
I did the only socially acceptable thing and thanked Tony for his advice and concerns, then got out of the pool and went inside to shower, leaving my five lap record intact. I’m all about setting and achieving goals, but one of my big goals in life is to not be the major source of concern in an environment where I’m the only one under 60 without a heart condition.
What I’m coming to accept is that I’m really only in my element when I’m sitting down with Internet access and a Philly Cheesesteak is somewhere within reach. I really love writing and I would go so far as to call it a skill that I have; the problem is that writing on a regular basis doesn’t do the same things for your longevity and overall fuckability that swimming does.
The decision I have to make now is whether I design a workout routine I can do entirely in the privacy of my room, far away from Helpful Dude’s prying eyes, or if I just keep going to the pool and wait for the day Tony submits his screenplay to a production company I wind up working for.
Hi there, what’s your name? Hi Tony, my name’s Truman. Looks like you’re having some trouble with your second act. Ha ha ha! Mind if I give you a couple pointers?
Truman Capps would much rather lifeguards just leave him the hell alone until his head has gone under the surface for the third time.