I take one Sunday every month to discuss health topic for writers. I thought I had found the best possible diet when I stopped eating beef and pork. It did work for a while, but I still need to get a handle on carbs. I thought I was keeping myself in good shape by walking every day. Sure, it helps, but it’s not gonna let me drop the pounds I need to shed.
Back when my friend Becky was letting me swim with her during the summers, I felt much better and could see the difference in my shape. That was before I had a scale. I don’t know if I was losing pounds or not, but I was wearing my clothes better.
When tragedy struck and I lost my friend forever, not being able to swim was the least of my problems. Bu more than a year later, I started to seek out a new pool to inhabit. A dear friend volunteered to let me use her home pool whenever I wanted, but she’s a busy lady and I didn’t want to tie her down whenever I needed a swim. Also, my husband extracted a promise from me that I would never swim alone. So much for my idea that I could go there even if she wasn’t there.
A neighbor of mine often talked about going to the pool every day. She was eligible for the Silver Sneakers program and I thought one had to be on that program to use the pool she used. When my dog had to be put down and I was struggling with my depression, Elizabeth invited me to swim with her. Turns out it’s a community pool open to a lot of people even though it’s inside a village for elderly and disabled people. After just a couple of visits, I made up my mind and joined.
I found a bushel full of articles on the internet about why swimming is the best exercise ever. The main points are that it’s reasonably safe for any age, whereas running or lifting weights brings too much chance of injury as one ages. You can burn a lot of calories but of course, that’s if you are doing the real thing, swimming nonstop in a lane. Swimming like I do doesn’t burn near the 500 calories per hour the sport swimmers burn. But it’s still better than running for me.
The buoyancy of the water, the resistance as I swim through it, even the temperature of the water, all contribute to stretching muscles and lengthening them instead of making them bulky. It’s beneficial to help lower blood sugar levels, to improve your lungs’ health, and to work on your heart health. Weight loss is my goal but these things are equally important.
Probably the top reason, however, that I love to swim, the reason my neighbor invited me along, is for the mental relaxation. Swimming releases the body from gravity, or so it seems. I can let go of the day’s concern, be mindful of the moment I am in, be assured of my meditation engulfing me like the water itself. I do swim with friends so we talk most of the time, but there are also times when we are quiet and still, except for our arms moving through the surface of the water, our legs kicking underneath.
The only equipment I needed to start this voyage was mostly at hand already. Swimsuits, towels, flips, a cover-up, and a bag to put it all in. I wear a visor and my shades because the pool, while indoors, has a retractable roof and can be sunny. I can swim, such as I do, for an hour and a half, without getting too tired. Yes, once I get home, I need a nap, but that’s normal. My mind benefits and my heart loves that I don’t get overheated.
Another benefit is that almost all your major muscle groups are engaged, even while I’m lazily pushing myself through the water. The resistance of the water is key to this process. Usually, I was exiting the pool by the stairs, which is a pretty major workout in itself. But then I discovered the ramp that is there for people with mobility issues. Walking out of the water along that is more challenging. No wonder I slept well that night.
Swimming is at the top of the exercise pyramid. I will continue to walk, I hope I will get to use the exercise room at the center with the pool, and I plan to change my routine so I can catch the water aerobics classes. This and careful planning of my calories, making healthy choices instead of restrictions, are the solution I needed for my weight issues, and maybe my mental issues, too!
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday.