I Swam Outside Every Day in September

I swam outside every day in September. For the most part, this wasn’t inconvenient. I have an 18 foot pool in my backyard. It was traveling that made it a challenge.

On September 8, I left Sevierville to travel to Indian Boundary campground in the Cherokee National Forest. No problem there. I swam in one of the most beautiful lakes in one of the most beautiful settings I have ever experienced (the picture above is of that lake).

I was able to swim at Indian Boundary before I left on Thursday, and then I stayed that night in Cleveland, TN. The next day, I traveled to my parents’ home in NC. I met my Dad at a lake where we often walk together so I could swim afterwards. One problem: no swimming allowed. Now, some people might have jumped in anyway, but I tend to be a rule follower so I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

It turns out that there was a beach a half hour north of where my parents lived. We decided to go there. As we went down the road to the beach, we came to a checkpoint and a fence with a sign that said Dominion Energy. There may be a beach somewhere on that peninsula, but I have no idea how to get there.

In the end, I did end up breaking a rule. I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but I did keep my streak going. By the end of that day, I had swam outside 11 days in a row.

The next day, my Mom and I went to Richmond, VA for my cousin’s wedding. No problem with swimming there. There was a pool at our hotel. Except that this is 2020. In Virginia, pools are closed because of COVID. So, what to do?

It turns out there are a lot of great places to swim in downtown Richmond . . . in the James River. I really enjoyed being able to do this because of the significance of the river. Our forefathers sailed up this very river to begin the first English colony in what would become the United States. The water was not bad, and it a dip in the James River was a great way to conclude our tour of downtown Richmond.

The next couple weeks went along swimmingly. I jumped in my pool every day and enjoyed the plunge. On September 28–30, my wife and I were scheduled to go to the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove for a Pastor’s Retreat. I knew I could swim on the 28th and the 30th in our pool. But what about the 29th? Where could I swim?

On the afternoon of the 29th, my wife and I drove on a drizzly, 50 degree day down to Lake Lure, about 45 minutes from Asheville. We walked around the Chimney Rock Village, which turned out to be a really charming place to visit. It is filled with shops and restaurants under Chimney Rock, a mountain with a lookout and waterfall. Before we left, I drove over to Lake Lure (a couple of minutes away). The beach was closed, but there was a boat ramp with no “no swimming” signs. So, I got in and swam. The water was actually somewhat warm. Day 29. Check.

I did complete my 30 days of swimming outside. A couple of people said to me after I told them about it, “You and your weird goals.” So, why would I make swimming outside every day in September a goal? One, I listened to an Art of Manliness podcast that talked about the benefit of cold water swimming (listen to it here). I can testify to the benefit. One day, I was dragging. I thought about getting coffee, but I jumped into the pool instead. I was invigorated for the rest of the day.

Second, I think our life is filled with artificial boundaries. We are afraid of all sorts of things that won’t really harm us. Swimming in relatively cold water is just one of innumerable boundaries we imagine we can’t cross. I have tried to deliberately push past boundaries when I believe that I have wrongly imposed them on myself. Trying to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. I think the swimming helped. I’m more comfortable jumping into cold water . . . but not comfortable enough to swim outside every day in October!


2 Replies to “I Swam Outside Every Day in September”

  1. When you mentioned breaking the rules to keep your streak going does than mean you were streaking/skinny dipping? I’m sorry but you said to use my imagination and that was the first thing I thought of.

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