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Christi Garcia Started Swimming and Ended Up in Paris

By: Laura S. Jones

Learning to swim gave Christi Garcia, 44 and a member of YMCA Indy SwimFit, the confidence to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Not by actually swimming, but rather with the strength of will that swimming gave her.

“I look at learning to swim and swimming as a metaphor for my move to Paris. In the summer of 2007, I could barely swim 25 meters, but with constant practice and coaching and encouragement, I have made great strides. When I get discouraged about my lack of progress in finding a job or improving my language skills, I look to swimming and see how far I have come -- persistence, practice and patience one step at a time. I also remember there key people along the way, [both] in and outside of the pool, who have guided me. Incredible things can happen when you show up and just do it.”

Always active, Garcia joined Indy SwimFit to learn to swim so she could compete in triathlons. She has also always loved Paris. After completing treatments for breast cancer at the end of 2009, she decided it was time to leave her job and live her dream of finding work abroad and becoming fluent in French.

It wasn't exactly easy.

Among other things, French pools have proved a challenge. According to a commenter on a New York Times article about swimming in Paris, the French swim like they drive - passionately, but with little regard for rules that do not suit them. Garcia experienced the same issues and gives us a full snapshot of what it is like to fit swimming into your French lifestyle:

“The Paris municipal pools are a stitch. When I arrived in Paris, I swam in the Paris public swimming pools. It is a bargain 37 euros (approximately $56) for three months and you swim anytime the pool is open, but they have limited hours. However, most of the pools are 25 meters and they are very crowded. The French swimmers don't pay attention to swimming in the lane suited for their speed or to following lane etiquette. Also, the pools are not open all day. In February, I moved to Malakoff (a city just south of Paris), and that community has a wonderful Stade Natique (swimming center). There is a 25 meter pool and a 50 meter pool. It is more expensive 45 euros ($67.50) for 14 passes, so about $5 each time for me to swim here. Just like the Paris pools you have to look at the schedule because they are not open all day. Generally, the 50 meter pool's hours during the week are at lunch time for a two hour period. In general, these pools are warmer than the Indy indoors pools.”

To those of us who imagine heavy French food as an impediment to training and a healthy lifestyle, Garcia says the opposite is true.

“Sometimes after I have a workout at the pool, I will stop at the boulangerie and treat myself to a pain au chocolat. It is so good after a long workout. But I eat a lot of fresh produce here. I especially like all arugula and mâche that is readily available and not expensive. I would definitely say it is good for my training. I tend to stay away from heavy dishes and sauces. I have no car and so I walk to the supermarket or the local daily market to buy my produce/groceries so the French way of life in addition to the food is also good for my training."

Everything is on track for Garcia’s next goal, the Paris Triathlon on July 9th, and her French is coming along nicely. All she says she needs now is to find employment.

Garica plans to remain a USMS member even as she makes a life in France and uses an American on-line coach. “I [also] still get help lot of help from my Indy SwimFit family as I use their workouts. Thank you Mel and Chris! However, I truly miss my SwimFit family, getting pushed by others and the coaches and the genuine concern that my teammates and coaches had for me.”

It’s nice to know that USMS has a long reach!

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