There is something about doing something for the first time that almost always makes us hesitate and too often decide not to do it. That’s how I was at getting into swimming at the YMCA. While I used the exercise equipment, I would look at the people swimming in the lap pool and think it looked like an enjoyable way to get fit. But I hesitated to give it a try because:
- I never had been that good a swimmer and it had been years since I had swam.
- What I looked like in a swimming suit was the reason I was exercising in the first place.
- In dealing with something new, I wasn’t sure what the protocol was and didn’t want to look like an idiot.
But seeing the pool nearly empty one day, I overcame my anxiety and decided to give it a try. As I jumped into the water I realized that the waters was really cold (they keep it at 82 degrees), the only swimming stroke I knew was the breaststroke (more correctly froggie style), and I quickly tired out. But what I also found was after a lap or two your body adjusts to the cold, froggie style does get you up and down the pool, and like with any exercise, you do improve as you do it more and more.
As time went on, I also realized that the pool was being used by people of every size and description with all sorts of different swimming abilities (including no swimming ability). Oh, there were a few of the sleek, trim crowd who dove in and streaked up and down the lanes until they quickly got their 50 laps in. But there were a lot more people like me who just got to one end, took a short rest, and then swam back. There were also lots of people who didn’t’ swim at all, they just walked through the water or just kicked their legs with swimming boards under their chest and let the resistance of the water help them get exercise.
And it really was a pleasant and new way to get exercise. The biggest thing for me was that this exercise was not in the least painful. Where my arthritic knees always hurt a bit on a stationary bike or treadmill, swimming was nearly pain free. The fact that I started out doing only 5 laps has now become 30 laps each session that a sign at the pool states is nearly a quarter mile. I still breast stroke up and down the lane, but on every forth lap, I do the backstroke (my version) to exercise a few different muscles.
The only equipment you need beside a pair of swimming trunks is a pair of swim goggles that will make your eyes fare better. I also use a simple set of earplugs on a string to keep the water out of my ears. If I don’t use the plugs, water gets into my ear canal when I swim on my back and afterwards it’s uncomfortable waiting for my ears dry out.
Today, it’s hard to understand why I was so hesitant to give swimming a try. It’s a very pleasant alternative to machines and weights for getting in better shape and it’s rather more enjoyable. As for protocol (at my pool) the only thing you need to do is allow another swimmer to swim with you if all the lanes are full. You just swim on your side of the lane. And something you sense right away is that not a single other swimmer cares if swim like a fish or a rock, nor do they give a wit about what you look like in a swim suit.
To warm up after swimming, I finish each session with a soothing dip in the hot tub or a stay in the sauna. In general, I can’t say I like exercise all that much, but I really do enjoy the days I choose to swim.
*Note: As with anything that might stress your body or subject it to extreme hot or cold temperatures, it’s best to talk to your doctor to make sure this is a good idea for you.