Music and the Pool

14 Feb

Composed on the Intelligent Device at 12:53PM. Edited and posted several hours later.


I have been awake for just over six hours. In six hours, I managed to consume three meals, grade five essays, swim 2,500 yards, teach a class, plan another class and walk across campus for a radio interview on WVUM–our trusty university radio station–to promote the production of my BACCHAE transdaptation, which opens on Thursday. Did I mention I rewrote a classic Greek play? OK, I didn’t do it in the last six hours but I did it in the last six months so…cookies for me.

I also got my happy ass mistaken for a student by a student. Today is Valentines Day. That is the only candy I need.

The host of this radio show is a student of mine. He is going to ask me questions about why I write and what I write about. He is also going to ask me about the music that inspires me. I am going to tell him that I am greatly inspired by music but can’t actually write while listening to it. I need silence when I’m writing. He’ll ask me what I was listening to while working on THE BACCHAE. I’ll tell him Junip, The Avett Bros and Pretty Lights. He’ll get excited when I say Pretty Lights because Miami kids love their electronic music.

Pretty Lights has become the source of my go-to running soundtrack. I ran the SoBe Halloween Half marathon exclusively to PL but mixed it up a little for the ING and added a few other artists to the playlist. I have always run with music. But when I started training with the team I discovered that headphones were discouraged. Not only because we’re expected to be more alert but also because, apparently, when you run to music you forget about form and your tempo fluctuates and you’re always in and out of your zones and none of that is any good.

I thank swimming for helping me to adjust to the “no headphone while exercising” situation. You can’t swim with your iPod. I mean, you can, I guess. Products exist that allow for this type of ridiculousness but come on, it’s already dumb enough that I’m a human in the water. A human in the water wearing headphones? As a species, we really like to gild the lily.

At first, long swim sessions felt like torture because I didn’t have the one device that would allow for removal consciousness from the physical activity. When I don’t have music, I have no flights of fancy and  I actually have to focus on what I’m doing. And when what you’re doing is swimming for an hour straight, that can open you up to a whole variety of negative self-talk.

At first, this just seemed too cruel. Not only was my body rebelling against me in the pool but my poor weak mind was being forced to watch the horror unfold. However, over the last month or so I’ve started having mad epiphanies in the pool, similar to the kinds of realizations I have after a really freakin’ hot Bikram class. Not only am I more aware of my body, but I am also totally on top of my wandering mind and therefore keyed into the connection between the two.

If my form gets sloppy, it’s normally because my mind is wandering and I’m thinking about what I have to accomplish later that day or how many laps I still have to finish. When this happens, I say one word to myself. I say the word “zone.” And then I go there. To the zone. Wherever the hell that is. And I think, in those moments when I go to the zone,  my mind expands. Without the distraction of music to fill it, other stuff starts to filter in. Stuff about the world and my place in it.

And when I finish the interval and take my goggles off and my ear plugs out, I’m like, “Holy cats! That’s the secret to human happiness!”

On Saturday, I had a major realization. I’m not going to write about that though. Not yet. Today the swim was great despite the fact that I did not have a major realization. It wasn’t super fast or anything (1,800 yds in 50 minutes; that’s 36 laps, or 72 lengths, if you care to keep track) but I felt good and in control and my mind rarely wandered.

This is why swimming is sometimes not just pure torture but in fact a worthwhile endeavor. And why music during exercise is a distraction. Granted, it helps to pass the time but shouldn’t we be focused on the task at hand instead not actively avoiding it?


5 Responses to “Music and the Pool”

  1. Mark February 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    As you know, I’m only a runner, but I’ve never run with music. I’ve tried it a couple times, and it never worked for me, for the strangest of reasons. When I run, I try to keep my pace to where I can inhale for three steps, then exhale for three steps, and repeat. Of course, in terms of musical time signature, this puts me in 3/4 time, and it’s tough to find really energetic waltzes. 🙂

    • mymultipersonality February 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      HA! Now there’s a genre just waiting to be exploited! Electro-Waltz. I think I started running with music because when I started running I was doing it as conditioning for another sport and so I pretty much loathed it (as most new runners do). I needed the music to get me into a head-space that would allow for the above-referenced “detachment from activity.” When I run with others, I ditch the ‘phones. But for long runs, I need music. Though I’ve started organizing my playlists around specific tempos. So like, the songs start out slower and then build towards the end of the run. I’m putting too much thought into all this.

  2. willtriforbeer February 15, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    I only run with music about half of the time. Mostly I like to solve the world’s problems (or so I think) while I’m running. Plus I like the quiet time and to take in the scenery. Swimming is the best for getting lost in your thoughts, although, I quite often forget what lap I’m on. Ha.

    • mymultipersonality February 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

      Yeah, I think I added a couple extra laps on Saturday by accident! unfortunately, the scenery down here doesn’t quite do it for me. When I’m in CO, I rarely run with music. If a mountain lion is going to pounce on me from behind, I want to be somewhat aware of that happening.


  1. I Know Where the Zone Is Now « mymultipersonality - March 2, 2012

    […] wrote about the Zone in an earlier post but I wasn’t exactly sure where or what it was. I just knew that if I said the word Zone over […]

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