Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

10 Reasons Why Swimming Should Be Part of Your Exercise Repertoire

Trending in Health

1 How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful 2 10 Reasons Why You Should Get Naked More Often 3 Seriously Stressing Out? The Complete Guide to Eliminate Work Stress 4 How to Quit Drinking for a Healthier Body and Mind 5 10 Amazing Benefits of Swimming You Never Knew

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

Advertising

3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

Advertising

Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

Advertising

Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

Advertising

8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

Read Next