When I was a kid, I spent most every day of summer vacation at our community pool, Gateway. Those were lazy, endless summer afternoons, poolside. While the sun beat down on us, we played card games (“Spit” and “Pounce”), we had handstand competitions, and we spent all of our allowance at the snack bar on popsicles, sodas, and fries. My best friend, Gabriella, was on the swim team. There were 8 kids in her family and every single one of them was on the swim team. They wore red, white, and blue patriotic Speedo swimsuits. I admired them so much (both the suits and the kids in them) that I wanted to be on the team, too. Gabriella urged me to go for it. So, one summer, when I was about 9 years old, I made the decision to try out.
The day of the swim team try-outs came and I was nervous. I had every right to be. I was only a fair swimmer, to be honest. The coach told us that the first lap had to be freestyle. I took a deep breath and plunged in the water. I really wasn’t too far from the wall when I started struggling. I couldn’t keep up my freestyle stroke. I was having trouble catching my breath, but I didn’t want to switch to breaststroke (my most comfortable stroke) because freestyle was required. So I started drowning. Seriously. I started gulping water and sinking to the bottom. A lifeguard had to jump in and save me. The next thing I knew I was lying on a cot, covered with a blanket. All talk of my joining the swim team ended on that day. My story probably went down in Gateway history lore: the day the kid almost drowned trying out for the swim team.
What was driving me to try out for a sport I couldn’t handle? Gabriella’s strong influence in my life, no doubt, was one factor. But another was a heartfelt desire to be part of a team. A team means belonging. A team is a family. A team works together to achieve goals. A team can do things together that individuals cannot accomplish on their own.
I think this is one reason I like group fitness classes. Straight up: on my own, I am unmotivated to stick to an exercise routine. (And I’m a teacher!) But with friends at my side, I feel motivated to work and push myself. In every B&S class I’ve ever been in, there’s an energy, a camaraderie that occurs when we work out side by side. We are a team, together improving our strength, encouraging one another, connecting, and, yes, sweating. And we are all the better for it in the end.
How about you? What team are you a part of, and how does it make you feel? I’m more suited for this group fitness kind of team. It’s a team that pushes me to be stronger, better. A team that keeps me coming back again and again. A team that works out on dry land.