7. Diving In

7. Diving In

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Diving In

Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them.
You will find that they haven’t half the strength you think they have.
 ~Norman Vincent Peale

It took months for me to get the courage to go into the doctor, but I was at the point of desperation. I could barely walk. I sat in her office, heel throbbing, waiting for the painful blow. Whatever was wrong, I knew it had to do with the excess weight I was carrying and she would no doubt tell me to lose it. I was ready for her with the perfect excuse—how could I exercise being in so much pain?

After scribbling on my chart, she told me I had a case of plantar fasciitis. Though other factors caused it, it was exacerbated by being overweight, she said.

“It’s hard to lose weight,” I told her. “I can’t really exercise with the pain.”

“Are you eating balanced meals? Make sure you’re not drinking your calories.”

I assured her that I was doing my very best with food choices. Not exactly the truth, but I had been trying. I’d even seen a dietician for a couple of months.

“Try swimming,” she said.

Excuse me? I must have misunderstood. She wanted me to put on a bathing suit and go into a public place? Forget it! Just because I felt like a whale didn’t mean I needed to go put myself on display like some small-town version of Sea World. I left her office with a printout of some stretches and little hope of recovery.

A few weeks later, I could barely get out of bed in the morning. My husband and kids were doing virtually everything for me—I couldn’t even lift 10 pounds without searing pain shooting through my heel. I decided that if I could get my life back, the humiliation would be worth it.

Early the next morning, I stood at the edge of the pool, feeling every bit like the Orcas that swam off the coast in my hometown on the Oregon Coast, except, could I remember how to swim? It had been years. As I edged in, bracing myself against the cold, I glanced at the lifeguard slouching in the chair; he was a skinny teenage boy. Thankfully, he didn’t seem to be too alarmed to see such a big woman getting into the pool. I half-wondered if he’d be able to help me if I were to get into trouble.

As I started stroking over to the other side, a miraculous change occurred. Every extra pound seemed weightless. In the water, I could move gracefully. Though I huffed and puffed, the movement after months of inactivity invigorated me. I swam lap after lap for half an hour. For that little bit of time, I felt truly free in my movements, almost like flying. It was the only way to move without stabbing pain in my heel.

I started a three-times-a-week regimen and added laps each time, until I was swimming over a mile. It took 60 minutes, but it became my lifeline. I had lots of time to think as I propelled myself back and forth across the pool. “Being like an Orca isn’t so bad,” I thought. “They really are graceful animals.”

Sometimes it was difficult to force myself out of bed so early in the morning to swim. After a few months, I noticed that I rarely had pain in my heel. The exercise improved my mental outlook on life; I was happier with myself and it became easier to make wise food choices. The best part was watching as the scale started moving downward! I was an athlete in a couch potato’s body.

Now I swim, cycle, or walk on the treadmill five times a week. I continue to make progress, going faster and farther, all without pain. The scale continues to move downward, slowly but steadily. I still have a way to go, but I’ve been set free to regain a healthy and fit body.

~Lynetta Smith

More stories from our partners