My nephew Joaquin finishing his 50-m freestyle swim for charity.

Two weekends ago, I found myself at the Colegio de San Agustin pool cheering on my 7-year-old nephew Joaquin as he freestyled 50 meters slowly but surely at his AquaLogic swim class graduation. Proud auntie I was, grateful my RayBans hid tears of pride welling in my eyes. I marveled at his determination. When I was his age, I was too much of a skinny wimp to even think of swimming across the “adult” pool.

Last November, I re-learned how to swim as part of training for triathlon. Yup, that swim-bike-run routine. I asked my running coach, pro triathlete Ani de Leon, to teach me how to swim. Yes: teach me how to swim. I can dog-paddle, snorkel to admire Nemos and Dorys, float on my back, hold my breath for a few seconds and make faces for the underwater camera. But it was humbling to find out that I couldn’t complete a 25-meter lap without gasping for breath after 10 strokes.

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Feeling like a champion! Me with Coach Ani de Leon at the sprint tri finish line!

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Worse yet, what I thought was proper freestyle swimming form all my life turned out to be wrong. That’s probably why I got all teary-eyed watching Joaquin: I brimmed with pride, but in a way he made me wonder how much more I could have done at a younger age if I hadn’t boxed myself in as an academic overachiever, or too much of a clumsy geek to try sports.

OK. Ditch the solo violin playing in the background. To make a long story short, I applied two sure-fire tips to get motivated with my swim training. #1) Take small steps: As the months progressed (bolstered by the hot summer which got me raring to go swimming two to three times a week), my modest goal of swimming  freestyle 25 meters non-stop expanded to swimming 50 meters non-stop.

Psychologists who studied the relationship between exercise and sustaining it for life note that when the novelty of a workout routine vanishes, so does the motivation. So the best way to beat the workout blahs is tip #2) Set a goal. Armed with my newfound swimming skills, I set a target: doing my first sprint triathlon on June 12, 2010.

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Me (foreground) during the June 12 sprint tri, wondering why I wanted to do this in the first place.

How did I fare? Let’s just say I had a decent finish. At the 75-m mark in the De La Salle Zobel pool (I had to swim 350 meters) I was hyperventilating and asking myself why the fudge was I doing this. My loving mom, who came over to cheer for me, was on the sidelines, probably wondering if she should throw me a salbabida. I was one of the last out of the pool, but I caught up in the bike and the run, which was my forte, and managed to finish 13th out of 27 ladies in my category.

Joaquin has a huge head start in a possible athletic career and as long as I can, I will be there to cheer him on. It’s taken me more than three decades to reach his swim level, but days after that first triathlon, I still feel like a champion. It really is better late than never.  

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