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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 January 25, 2021

What Should I Do Today? 30 New Things To Do Today

What Should I Do Today? 30 New Things To Do Today

It’s always fun to do something new, but often we fall into the trap of spending our weekends the same way.

If you’re stuck in the same old routine, it might be time to try something new.

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What should I do today? No ideas?

Everything listed here is something you can easily do no matter where you live, and even on a tight budget! Try out one of these 30 new things today, you’ll be happy you did.

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Try Out These 30 New Things To Do Today

  1. Visit a suburb in your city that you’ve never been to before, or somewhere you haven’t explored much.
  2. Learn ten phrases in a new language–what about Japanese, Italian or Portuguese?
  3. Listen to a genre of music you haven’t tried before–perhaps Jazz, Punk or Blues?
  4. Have a picnic in your local park complete with a packed lunch and your animal friends.
  5. Start a daily journal to write your thoughts in.
  6. Try a new cuisine–what about French, Lebanese or Korean?
  7. Visit your local library and borrow some books for the weekend.
  8. Plant some flowers in your garden. If you don’t have one, try an indoor potted plant.
  9. Visit a local museum or art gallery and view their latest exhibition.
  10. Learn a new skill–what about sewing, gardening or cooking? You’ll be surprised what you can learn in an afternoon.
  11. Say hello to a neighbor you don’t usually talk to.
  12. Make a card for a friend and send it to them with a handwritten note.
  13. Learn how to cook a new dish for dinner. We all get tired of eating the same thing, why not try making something new?
  14. Re-read an old favorite book. Don’t leave it gathering dust on your book shelf; get it out and read it all over again.
  15. Research the culture of a different country online–what about India, Guatemala or Sweden?
  16. Go for a walk or bicycle ride around your neighborhood.
  17. Watch a classic film like Casablanca, The Godfather or The Wizard of Oz.
  18. Make a photo album of a recent holiday you took. Don’t let your memories get lost on your computer hard drive; make a special keepsake album of your trip.
  19. Visit your local farmers markets and pick out some fresh produce. Farmers markets are full of delicious fresh fruit, veggies and more. Find your local market and take a visit.
  20. Plan a day trip to somewhere outside your city–it might be the seaside, mountains or another city!
  21. Check out what community events are running in your area and attend one.
  22. Make a birthday present for a friend. Handmade gifts are personal and much more special than anything you could buy from a store.
  23. Attend a play at your local theater. Support your local theater and have a fun night out at the same time.
  24. Volunteer with your local nature conservation society to plant some trees. Conservation societies are always looking for helping hands; do your bit and plant some trees.
  25. Be a tourist in your own city and visit all the popular tourist sites you’ve likely never been to (don’t forget your camera!)
  26. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to recently and have a good long chat.
  27. Put on your favorite song and dance your heart out. You might be surprised at how much fun you have!
  28. Invite some friends over for a BBQ. There’s nothing better than an afternoon spent with good friends and good food.
  29. Try out a new form of exercise like Pilates, tennis or swimming.
  30. Organize a clothing swap with your friends. You’ll have a great time, and save some cash and the environment all at the same time!

Now that you’ve read my list of 30 new things to try today, my question for you is, “what new things will you try today?”

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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