Diving Back In: A Postie in the Pool

Diving Back In: A Postie in the Pool

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Washington Post reporter Paul Tenorio, shown here in 1999 at age 13, will try to transform from regular guy/sports reporter to competitive swimmer.
Washington Post reporter Paul Tenorio, shown here in 1999 at age 13, will try to transform from regular guy/sports reporter to competitive swimmer.

Welcome to my journey into the life of competitive swimming. Over the next month or so, maybe longer, I will be trying to transform from regular guy/sports reporter into something resembling an athlete.

This will be my venue for telling you everything about the process: my training, my diet, my hopes, my fears, my embarrassments and most likely some annoying details about every sore muscle I can’t move during the first few weeks of training.

I have no misconceptions about how challenging the next month-plus will be. In fact, when I pitched this project I thought for a long time about whether I’d even be able to do it. Am I really willing to get up every morning at 4 a.m. and swim lap after lap after lap, hoping to somehow pass myself off as a competitive swimmer? Am I even capable of doing so? How can I balance this with my own professional life? I’ll still be out at football training camps – both Redskins and high school – and I’ll still have long days with stories to file.

In the end, I decided it was worth it.

But let’s start from the top.

The picture above is a 13-year-old version of me in 1999. I was young, I was in shape and I was a summer swimmer. A lot has changed since then.

It’s been five years since I stopped swimming every summer at Stratford Landing pool in Alexandria, a hobby that started when I was seven and lasted until I was 18.

Shortly after my swim career ended, my childhood dream of playing professional soccer came crashing back to reality in the spring of my freshman year at Northwestern, when my walk-on stint with the Wildcats came to a halt.

Since then, the in-shape version of Paul Tenorio slowly started disintegrating. Cut to today.

I’m two years into a stint with the Washington Post as a sports writer, a job that has plenty of nights filled with McDonald’s, Wendy’s, high school concession stand food (Mountain Dew, Chic-Fil-A and M&Ms, thank you Loudoun County) and other not-so-great dietary choices that have led to my current struggle to come to grips with the fact that I ain’t the athlete I used to be any more.

I’m still playing on two men’s league soccer teams, but things just aren’t what they used to be. That realization came about a year ago when I hit the track with a former club soccer teammate of mine who just finished his college soccer career and is still training in a professional environment. He was a buddy I used to be able to smoke in any form of running – sprints, mile, long-distance, and on that day he lapped me during a three-mile run. He lapped me.

So when reachforthewall.com came out, I suddenly had an idea. Why not fuel my own competitive juices by throwing myself in the pool with a major club in this area to see if the coaches are able to take a Regular Joe with average experience in the pool and turn him into a top-notch swimmer.

My goals in this project are twofold: On a personal note, I’ll be sharing my journey to get back into shape. Hopefully those who enjoys fitness, who struggle with their own workout routines, who know what it’s like to try to motivate themselves will be able to connect with me as I endure these next few weeks.

But most importantly, I hope to show the dedication it takes to be a competitive swimmer. Having covered high school swimming the past two years, I’ve seen kids who put in hours of time before school for their sport, and I’ve gotten a glimpse into a swim community that prides itself on the dedication it takes to succeed in the sport. I want to tap into that and share it here on this site.

The Post will be tracking my progress on this blog and in the paper. And by progress I mean my weight, BMI, body fat percentage, waistline, swim times and any other embarrassing stat you could possibly find. Forgive me if I cover my eyes when I pass you in the street the first few weeks.

I’ll try to meet with a dietician, figure out the right dry land workouts and even get some help from local swimmers in the pool. With the help of coaches, I’ll set goals and work to achieve them…whether that’s a certain time standard or qualifying for a meet, I’m not sure.

All of it will be shared with you.

I hope you’ll join me for each step as I undertake this project, and push me along with your comments and suggestions. And I hope you have fun tagging along, and most important, get something out of it.



  1. Your journey reminds me of the Anti-Aging episode of Morgan Spurlock’s FX show, 30 Days, except that his subject was pumping up on HGH, too. I’ll be interested to see whether you find any coaching/training on stroke mechanics.

  2. Join a local Masters program. Alexandria Masters sounds like it should be close to you. Swimming in the wee hours of the morning is a lot easier with company.

    Good luck!!!

  3. If you can do it…swim in the morning. It’ll be hard to get up early and swim before work but it’ll be much easier than telling yourself all day “I’m gonna swim after work” – there’s always a “good” reason to not make it to the pool as your work day comes to an end.

  4. Good luck Paul. I have to say i find the journey a tiny bit less impressive because you are only 23. Now if you do this in like 15 or 20 years, then i will be reading with even greater interest.

    Some ideas and Qs:

    Can you give us the total yardage you do each day?
    How can you find the time to sleep and get up so early every day? Is this really sustainable?

  5. This is much ado about nothing, I’m afraid. As Rocco says, you’re only a baby, for God’s sake. 23 and you’re trying to make something out of a comeback? Try doing this story when you’re 40 and it will be interesting.

  6. Good luck and keep at it. I took way too long off swimming – not getting back into it until 2007, when I was 48. I’ve been at it for 2 1/2 years and have gotten a little stronger, a little healthy, and (unfortunately) not lost a single pound. Oh well. I guess the moral is to not quit when you’re 17 or 23 or whatever and still in good shape.

    My stats – in 2008 I swam 201 miles, last month (July 2009) I swam 25 miles. I can again do a 50 fly (I could probably do a full 200m fly again, but will still need to rest at the turns), but no longer at the 30 second mark – my time has doubled and it now takes nearly a full minute.


  7. Yay Paul! You can do it. Loved hearing about this adventure tonight at dinner so I’ve decided to follow!!!

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