|Bigger the Prize, Larger the Price|
I have fainted once. In the summer of 2010. Cause – Neck spasm. Reason – doing 200 breadths in the swimming pool, that is 2.5 kilometers, at a break-neck speed, literally.
Come to think of it, it was the doctor’s negligence that made me faint, not so much my own extremism. The swimming only gave me a bad cramp, which I went to get cured from the doc, who insisted on turning my neck and bringing it back to a neutral position (and she was a physiotherapist, lord help her patients!). I had resisted, telling her it was too painful to bear. But she labored on, till I passed out in pain. Till two weeks after that, I could not move my neck. Had to exercise my eyeballs way too much that fortnight!
Post that incident; I have done 200, and even more, without committing the mistake of going to a doctor after that. I learnt that muscles will ache when fatigued.
So why do I fatigue myself to that extent? Why do I stretch myself to the point that it squeezes out the last ounce of energy from my body? Why do I push my boundaries? Why can’t I take it easy? Ask my friends. I’m attempting to answer these questions here.
Endurance testing. There’s a kick in pushing your boundaries, to see how far you can really go, to test if you went farther than your last attempt.
It’s a continuous race with yourself. Your previous best. Because somewhere in your conscience, you know that you can’t afford to be standing still. No, it is not to prove anyone anything. It’s just to realize that in this one life you got, including its evasive destiny and pervasive gifts, in this sufficiently inadequate one life-time…if you don’t pack yourself to the brim, if you have not experimented with your own calibre, if you have not so much as tried to optimize yourself in things you love doing, if you have not put in the blood and toil it takes at the brink…with what face then do you thank life for giving you this one lovely chance?
Add to that my love for water. Hence swimming. There is something to improve in every stroke even after I’ve performed it a thousand times. Is there a limit to how you can keep improving your freestyle? Of attaining that perfect positioning where friction with water is least. Swift, smooth and really fast. And then the breast stroke, I’m always left feeling I can do with lesser moments of face over the water. And that the kick could be stronger. Or in the backstroke, getting the accurate posture so that the leg motion stems right from the hip, without bending the knee. As for the butterfly, the constant struggle for getting more strength in my arms to get farther in each dive, and more power in my lungs, so that I can reduce my mid-resting time from ten seconds to zilch. In a nutshell, cease to be a 206-boned human body, and learn to be a strong and nimble fish.
It’s crazy. Possessed. Obsessed. I’ve heard several words thrashed about for such single-minded pursuit of betterment. So far, my pool manager has expressed it best, through a not-so-dainty question: मैड़म, आप खात्ते क्या हो? No, getting the best in my pool is not enough. That was never the target. In fact, there is no target. Fixing a target means limiting your horizon. If at all there is a goal, it is to surpass my own expectation. And trust you me, I expect a lot from myself.
Damn the pain in my thighs. Urgh, that nasty cramp in my upper arms. The sore neck. The chlorine spoiled hair. The tanned and swarthy face. I know it won’t get easier, but I know equally well, I will get better.
I remember once jumping in the pool with 102 fever. And coming out cured. The body is a great indicator. If you treat it right, it tells you exactly what it needs. If you’re prepared to listen, and ready to take chances.
There is nothing about life that sports can’t teach. Discipline. Concentration. Effort. Toil. Consequences. Persistence. Patience. Consistency. Conviction. Ceaseless learning. Love. The ability to lose without losing hope. The acceptance of limits, open to be challenged at will. And above all, endurance.
Whether it is swimming, or running, there is one thing common in any sport you do with passion. For that matter, anything you do with passion. The ability to lose track and sense of your immediate sphere. Be it your worries, your thrills, your anger, your love, your frustration, your achievements. Everything dissolves in space and time, and gets congealed in a single entity. Indestructible in spirit – YOU. Give this phenomenon any word you may. Spiritual. Religious. Realization. Whatever.
But YOU the runner, YOU the dancer, YOU the writer, YOU the swimmer, YOU the yourself, know that if thought had struck you to run 8 kms on a winter morning, it better be 9 when you the hit the track. Yes. Exactly. Beat yourself. And while doing the extra stretch, the point where you are challenging your limits, when tiredness is catching up, when sweat is dripping in your eyes, when your mouth is parched dry, when exhaustion is making you weightless in a dizzy sort of way…tell yourself what Friedrich Nietzsche told the world – That which does not kill me makes me stronger.