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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 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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