Naji Ali is a Level 1 Total Immersion Coach, and aspiring marathon swimmer based in San Francisco, CA, where he lives with his wife, Chrissy, and their cat, Mrs. Chippy. He works as an essential worker feeding the homeless and marginalized poor.
As I write this we are in day 60 of the “stay in place” order that was issued since the pandemic began here in California. For a week prior to this order, I was in Kona, Hawaii, swimming with pods of dolphins, meeting amazing people, and teaching TI technique at an open water swim camp.
What a different world we’re living in now.
Every day brings new challenges, hardships, and fears. People are dying, others lost their jobs, health care workers are doing a job without proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Businesses are shuttered, schools are closed, and, of course, pools and beaches are off limits.
But in the midst of all this doom and gloom, I have seen truly selfless acts of compassion and generosity. I’ve seen friends post videos making PPE’s for healthcare workers; others buying groceries for elderly neighborhoods whom they never spoke to and having them delivered to their home; incredible musicians serenading the entire world via Zoom.
But, despite how in many ways this pandemic has brought out the best in us, I have a confession to make; I miss swimming really bad. I really miss open water swimming. It was always my release when I was having a difficult time, but now, that’s not possible.
I get it. I do. Social distancing is essential to “flattening the curve” of this virus. I get that wearing a mask and only going out to get food helps stop this contagion from moving further, but goodness I miss the salty water.
I miss the exhilarating feeling of stepping into 55F wetness with only my swimsuit, goggles, and earplugs, and swimming amongst the seals and jellies; swimming against, and with the current; Enjoying the swell and chop; Being mindful of my lead arm staying put till the fingertips of my recovery arm re-enter the water.
I really miss swimming.
But even though I can’t get to the water at the moment, I have a huge community of TI folk that I can connect with on our FB page, and a weekly coach’s zoom meeting. I get too meet coaches from all over the world that I had only heard about, or saw swim in YouTube videos. I still have the opportunity to offer up advice on someone’s practice when they post video on the TI FB page, and celebrate with them when they experience that “aha” moment in cyber space.
Is it the same as being in the pool, or open water and physically assisting them? No, of course not! But just being able to connect is so vital.
One of the reasons why I wanted to be a TI coach was seeing how the ones who taught me TI, invested so much time into making me the best swimmer I could possibly be. Back before we had a FB page, we had the forum on the TI website, I would constantly go on the forum and ask questions about technique. It never took long to get a response. Often coaches would send me a personal note to email them directly, and send along a video, if I had it, so they could offer up suggestions for improvement.
That for me is where I see the correlation between the generosity of folks helping their neighbors and complete strangers during this pandemic, and TI. You see TI is not just about technique. It’s about community and the willingness to offer up something valuable to others simply because they want to help them get better.
That, too me, is one of the many reasons that I love TI, and I love being a TI coach, but I still miss swimming in the open water.