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10 Reasons Why Swimming Should Be Part of Your Exercise Repertoire

10 Reasons Why Swimming Should Be Part of Your Exercise Repertoire

Until I was 9 or 10 years old, I was terrified of drowning. I’d spent my childhood summers at San Diego’s Del Mar and La Jolla beaches with family and friends. On one of these trips, a relative held my hand as we inched into the water, against small waves. The waves began to build as my relative promised she wouldn’t let go. My excitement blinded me to the oncoming monster wave, and—poof. The hand that had been anchoring me was gone, and my small face was pushed into the sandy bottom, nose filled with salt and liquid and cold. I was dazed coming out, collapsing onto the sand while I struggled for breath, making the solemn vow, as a scrawny 7–year–old, never to set foot in the ocean again.

I grew so afraid of drowning that I asked to be bathed in the tub rather than take showers; my mother, a woman of infinite patience, would place a dry towel over my face to make sure I didn’t “drown.” Eventually, she realized the ridiculousness of my situation, and enrolled me in a swimming class at UCSF—unbeknownst to me. I was angry at having been tricked into attendance—refusing to get in the water during the first session—but over time, the water became my second home, and it’s remained a practice that is equally calming, stretching, challenging, and tiring, in the best of ways.

Why swimming? In the trendy world of fitness filled with Zumba, yoga, kickboxing, treadmilling, weightlifting, rock climbing, bar-methoding, pole dancing, aerial conditioning, soul spinning, and mountain scaling—swimming is either attributed to Olympic athletes or retirees looking for a way to keep their arthritis at bay. Here are ten things that were true for me in my mermaid preteens, and are true for kids and grown-ups alike—compelling, if not convincing, reasons to find a clean pool and get your swim on.

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1. Cross-training

If you’re into in yoga, climbing, biking, hiking, or running, but want to ease the impact on your joints, swimming helps you build strength and endurance in a way that doesn’t require post-workout “healing”—shin splints, ice packs, epsom baths, Advil. You’ll feel stronger for the other activities you enjoy, as your energy flows from your strengthened muscle groups and your core.

2. Meditation

You know that blissful calm that washes over you when you hold your face under the showerhead? The same thing happens during a good swim session. You’re not looking at the girl with the Lululemon leggings; you’re not blocking out the the grunting of the guy doing free weights; you’re completely alone with yourself, and the flow of the world around you. Your thoughts move in and out with your breath, up and down with the stretching of your limbs. The quiet adds an element of mindfulness to your practice.

3. Solitude

Because sometimes you need to allow yourself to be alone—to cut off interaction from all things that buzz, beep, and talk.

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4. Exploration

The freedom to perform daring feats of flexibility—acrobatic turns, kicks, and somersaults—is easily done in the weightlessness of water. You can securely experiment with the way your body moves in a way that is different from your every day movements and posture.

5. Propelling

Pushing yourself through water requires the active engagement of different muscle groups all at once: your pecs, your neck, your tush, and, predominantly, your core. This gives your body a deeper and more holistic workout than other activities, like running or biking, which are directly engaging specific, limited muscle groups.

6. Anxiety Reduction

Have you ever felt the satisfying exhaustion that comes with a good swim? Your body feels worked, your limbs feel loose, and all you can think about is crawling into a bed and dozing off. Whatever you’re dealing with—stress, anxiety, uncertainty—can be washed away by the calm tiredness of a good set of laps. You’re also training yourself to respond to stress with physical activity and redirection of energy—rather than chocolate ice cream or alcohol.

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7. Increased Lung Capacity

Breathing is an important, and often-overlooked, aspect of our daily lives. The ability to maintain breath while walking up a hill; the ability to take a moment outside of the office and breathe deep after a stressful work situation; the ability to take a few calming breaths before sleeping—all of these are helped by the breathing practiced in the pool, and the respiratory pace you set for yourself as you establish a rhythm between movement and breath.

8. Burritos

Swimming is such an engaging workout that you can eat things the size of your face when you’re done. I’ve listed burritos, but pizza is absolutely fine and encouraged.

9. Ideas

Ever heard the term “sleep on it?” How about a new term —”swim on it?” Anything that you’ve been pondering at work, at home, or internally gets some serious attention when you’re alone and doing repetitive motions in a contained space. You may emerge with a physical workout, as well as solutions to problems you don’t have time for during the workday, or during your time spent lounging at home.

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10. Floating

Because I was young, and because I loved dreams about flying, and movies about space, FLOATING is a completely legitimate reason to swim. With the demands, noise, and weighing-down of our daily lives—stress, social media, demands, expectations, bills, pills, and days spent fantasizing upon our windowsills—we need something that allows us to completely let go. We need something unattached to our phones. We need something that allows us to be ourselves within a sacred, silent space—something as primal as water, and as freeing as solitude. We float physically, but we are also floating mentally—not forcing ourselves to urge words, not standing on a treadmill around a multitude of strangers, just in a space of our own—a space contained, yet open. Fluid, yet pushing us back. We float until we are refreshed, ready to re-enter our lives with lighter shoulders. So find that pool, and get your suits on. The yoga studio / climbing gym / pole dancing class can wait.

Featured photo credit: Mallorca Beach, mruizdeassin via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on May 15, 2019

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

“Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

When we are still children, our thoughts seem to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

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Just imagine then how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power! We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities. We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb. We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits. We’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head.

But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

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So…how exactly are we to achieve that?

It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are a few ideas on how you can get started.

1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

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2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty. If you seek it, you will find it.

3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what is really important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

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4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking. It is like watching a DVD that saddens and frustrates you, completely pulling you down. Eject that old DVD, throw it away and insert a new, better, more hopeful one instead.

So, instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

And remember: You are (or will become) what you think you are. This is reason enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

Featured photo credit: Kyaw Tun via unsplash.com

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