Joe Kind: A Guy

by Joe Kind | 3/3/16 7:15pm

This past weekend was the men’s swimming and diving Ivy League Championships meet, or “Ivies,” as we call it. I was lucky enough to watch my teammates swim their final races of the season at Brown University. I concluded my swim season, and ultimately my collegiate swimming career, a little over five weeks ago. The team at that time was just beginning to weather the bulk of its competition schedule. Now that the entire team is done, I have the pleasure of watching my teammates, particularly my fellow seniors, begin the struggle that is permanent NARPdom. The lifestyle is a transition ­— no more 6 a.m. practices, no more morning and afternoon workouts and no more excuses to eat multiple Foco desserts at dinner. That is, no more predetermined schedule around which everything seems to operate. Five weeks later and my body and mind are still struggling to put the pieces together.

Over the years I discovered I could operate reasonably well with six hours of sleep a night, with a 90 minute nap during the day. A typically good day used to begin as early as 5:25 a.m., and end no later than 11:15 p.m. Now, for three days a week I can sleep in as late as 11:30 a.m., grab a quick lunch, go to class, work out if I want to, eat an early dinner (honestly one of the few habits that hasn’t changed), do homework, eat a late-night meal, do some more homework and go to bed at 2:30 a.m. All of this with more sleep than I ever had in a single school night during the swimming season.

To say that these five weeks have changed me as a person is an understatement.

I have lost weight since I stopped swimming, by some miracle. Seven pounds, to be exact. Mostly muscle. Mostly muscle that took months of sweat and burnt energy to build and more months to strengthen. Since the physical changes have been gradual, I haven’t seen them, but I imagine I could find them if I really looked for them.

I have lost the inescapable waft of chlorine that seemed to follow me wherever I went — including my sheets. I am now confronted with a strange and unfamiliar odor. It also latches on me, like a barnacle to a whale. I have had to invest in my own shampoos and conditioners rather than rely on the team bottles we would share after practices. I have also had to invest more money and time into doing laundry, almost as frequently as a sanitary person. I have probably done as much laundry these past five weeks as I ever did in a single term on campus.

I have lost the dry, peeling outer layer of skin on my forearms and legs. I have very nearly lost the blisters at the tops of my palms, from lifting weights less frequently. No loose skin to play with, just nails to bite. But I have found I even bite my nails less during my days. My fingers feel completely different against my hair, which has lost its trademark unruliness. My face no longer itches at unseemly times of the day. It is easy to shave again, and yet it’s unfortunately just as easy to cut myself.

In spite of this, and besides the big deposits made into my sleep account, I have gained a lot since my swim career has ended,

Ihave found a new sport. Or, at least, sort of. I started to attend yoga classes two to three times a week, and my body and mind initially responded with something quite less than enthusiasm and slightly more mild than disdain. Now, I find new forms of flexibility I had never noticed before. I find a kind of sensory patience during the practices that I so struggled to harness in swim practices. And I am reminded of how much I can sweat during physical exercise. It turns out I really sweat a lot. It’s unfortunate.

I could talk about my new sense of autonomy I have over my schedule, or how free time now seems to fall into my lap at 3 p.m. each day. But I’d rather not.

What the adjustment really comes down to is the idea of purpose. With the closing of the swim season, and watching my fellow “retired” seniors embrace a lifestyle they have never known, I am reminded of the importance of intention. Varsity sports are all-consuming, in a way I never could have expected before coming here. I cannot say the experience has always been a “healthy” one, so to speak. But college in general is all-consuming, too. We leave our homes, near and far, for this college experience billed as a time of academic and personal growth, but primarily as the former.

At Dartmouth especially, we keep ourselves extremely busy. Just as I did my best as an athlete to fully submit myself to my new sport, students here tend to immerse themselves in their own crazy endeavors. We find the activities and people that inspire us and challenge us, that frustrate us and that love us. Swimming was a choice, and one of the best choices I have ever made. To swim was an opportunity not to be taken for granted, in spite of all the ways that it changed me. It is scary how much easier it becomes to observe those changes only after it is all over.