No H2O

No H2O

I’m a swimmer. I’ve got a problem. My pool is closed this month. They’re fixing the ventilation system and giving the pool a good cleaning job. That’s great, but I need that thing filled with water to do my favorite exercise (and keep my sanity).

I thought about trying to find some teachers and swimming at school. But it’s too hard to plan a time that works for everyone. Students stay after and the next thing you know, it’s too late. Not swimming for a month didn’t seem like an option for me. I can go a few weeks. But swimming has become sort of like meditation for me. The steady breathing, concentrating on counting my laps and not getting distracted with other thoughts have all been great side effects of becoming a lap swimmer.

So what is my solution? There’s a gym near my house that has a smaller pool. It’s still the same length, just in a smaller space. They have a month to month membership, so I’ve got that for 2 months. It’s convenient and is open earlier and later than the community center. So for the month, and then some, it will work.

I’ve been there three times. People don’t come to this place to lap swim. The lap lanes are more narrow and there are 2 lanes blocked off. Four people can comfortably swim laps, if needed. Sharing a lane might be tricky because of the narrowness. There is no life guard but there are windows to the pool and there’s a steam room on one end. It took me a little while to figure out why so many people walked through the pool area. Since the men’s locker room is at the other end, men strutting, without shirts, through the pool area is not uncommon.

At the community center, there are all sorts of people. All ages, various ability levels, families, people who are handicapped, not just physically but mentally too. People are there to get a work-out. At this other place, people are there to get a work-out all right. But the clientele is a bit different. I don’t really care what I look like when going to a gym. Not the case here. People make a point to look good at the new place. There are also personal trainers galore to help you achieve your fitness goals. Now that I think about it, they’ve got way more people than would be necessary. In short, these aren’t my peeps.

When I first hatched this plan, I honestly was thinking that I may possibly switch gyms because this other one is closer to my house. Heck, I can walk to it. But now that I’ve been a few times, my gut instinct from before is right. I’m just not as comfortable here. I miss my lap swimming peeps from the community center. I don’t think my community center friends would care about having 20 inch biceps. Yes, there is a bit of eye-candy at the new place. But there’s more to life than the package.


Learning to Breathe

Yes, breathing is a natural thing that we do without thought. But when your face is in water, you do think about it. I’ve written about my quest in becoming a swimmer over the past year. I’ve gradually worked my way up to becoming pretty decent. A year ago, I was mainly doing the breast stroke and was pretty slow. Now, in a good week, I swim 6 miles. A bad week is usually three. I do a mile and a half each time I get in a pool.

It took me awhile to be able to freestyle swim. The timing of the breathing and coordinating all of that kicking, etc was very difficult at first. I’d get a few strokes down the pool and suck in water and switch back to the breast stroke. Then, I’d try again and make it a length. I methodically worked my way up to swimming full laps and ultimately alternating each freestyle lap with a breast stroke lap. All the while, I was developing a particular problem…

Both my chiropractor and massage therapist could tell that my neck muscles were getting more developed on one side. I could turn my head one way more easily than the other. Swimming does wonders for the rest of the body. But when you repeatedly breathe on the same side, you can have some neck issues. Ever since they noticed this, I’ve been periodically trying to breathe on the left instead of the right. I’ve been having one heck of a time for months. I started trying to do it last spring. I can finally say that this week, I can do it.

I’ve been swimming with the girls’ swim team at school. Being able to ask the girls questions about strokes and ask the coach for suggestions has really helped. The coach suggested that I use a pull buoy. A pull buoy is a floatation device that you hold between your legs so your arms are doing all of the work. It allowed me to concentrate on my breathing and not worry about my legs. I found that it’s easier to alternate sides and breathe every 3rd stroke.  This also regulates your breathing more. I don’t feel like I’m breathing as fast and therefore I’m not “huffing and puffing” as much after a lap. It also seems more efficient and feels like I swim faster. Today I was able to swim a lot of my laps with the alternating breathing. It’s still going to take practice. But I’m definitely feeling confident that I’ll be able to master it!


Swim Time / Think Time

On Sunday afternoons I’ve been swimming. It’s a good time to go. People are watching football. There are lanes open in the pool. I get in a workout that I don’t have to fit into the work week. I can swim longer because I’ve got more time. But the best part? It gives me time to think.

When I first started lap swimming, a friend of mine said that she’s able to work a lot of things out in her head while swimming. It’s totally true. Besides counting the laps, what else are you going to do? A few weeks ago, I was struggling with what I was going to plan for Algebra 2. I took a break and went swimming. While swimming back and forth for over an hour, I worked it all out. Today, I need to compose an email to my principal. I haven’t done it yet. But during my swim, I worked it out in my head.

So besides it being a great workout. Swimming has had the added benefit of helping my deal with my stress and use the time to work through various issues running through my brain. Too bad I didn’t figure this out earlier… Oh well…

Back in the pool

Back in August, I wrote about my new activity – lap swimming. This past week I was finally able to swim after a month off. If you’re a regular reader, you know that I have a skin scan every August and February. This time I had another re-excision with 5 internal stitches and 6 external stitches. I needed to heal from my excisions and wait until my stitches were out before I could go back in the pool.

Monday after school I went to the community center. It was glorious! I did my 33 laps (1 mile). Twenty of my laps were doing the breast stroke. There were people at the pool but I didn’t have to share a lane. It seemed like as soon as someone was done, someone else showed up. I did get a bit of a cramp in my leg at the end, but I kept going and stretched it out. After I was done, I felt so good! It was like I was on some sort of swimmer’s high. I had accomplished a lot and it was only 5pm. I was really excited to find out that going right after school was a great time and fit perfectly into my schedule.

Tuesday, I went again. This time as I was walking in, I could see that there was no one in the pool! When I got to the pool, however, there was one person that was lap swimming. This time I did 26 laps of breast stroke and 10 of others. People come and go. Sometimes I was by myself in the pool. At the end of my laps there were people coming after work. When I got home there was an email from my mom, saying that she had spotted me swimming.

Thursday was my other day to swim this week. I did 30 laps of breast stroke and 6 of using a kick board. I could tell I was faster. I actually think I did 37 laps total and lost count. But this day, there was a pretty good chunk of time when I was the only one in the entire pool area! Well, just me and the lifeguard. There weren’t even parents with their kids in the kiddie pool area. Once again, people did start to come closer to 5pm.

In the meantime, I’ve been scoping out another option for swimming. I haven’t yet joined the community center. I’ve just bought 20 passes to see how much I’ll use it first. I probably will end up joining. But for the time being, I can swim at school with the girls swim team. Normally I would cringe at this idea. But there are only 5 girls on the team and 3 of them are my locker clean-out crew. For matches, they combine with another school. I talked to the coach on Friday to see if he was ok with me swimming during their practice. He was fine with it. He may even give me some pointers or workout ideas. I’ll still go to the community center. But I think I’ll try a couple of days with the girls this week. And hey, it’s free and convenient! In 17 years at my school, I’ve never been swimming in the pool there. It should be interesting!

In the water

Awhile back I wrote about my new endeavor. Lap swimming. Since I wrote that post, I’ve learned a little bit. For instance, 33 laps is a mile. And those Olympic swimmers make it look oh so easy. But it most certainly is not.

When I go, my goal is to swim a mile. At first it took me quite a long time. Maybe an hour and 20 minutes at the first go around? But then again, I was kind of putzy and didn’t have a routine figured out. Today I did a mile in about an hour. When you think about 1 mile per hour it certainly doesn’t sound fast. I’ve done a mile six times so far. I had a brief hiatus while in Colorado. But my golfing muscles got a work-out there… It’s fun to see an improvement in my time and in how I feel. Today I was able to do the breaststroke for 15 of the 36 laps that I did. I’ve been trying to do as much breaststroke as possible. It burns more energy than side stroke or elementary backstroke. I can actually keep a decent pace and don’t have to hang on the wall to catch my breath. I was quite excited to do 12 laps of breaststroke in a row today.

You really have to concentrate when you swim. Paying attention to your form on each stroke helps you to go faster (or slower) and time your breathing right. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to count to 33, but it’s easy to lose track. So I make a point to do 2 laps of each stroke and count them in groups of five. Once I get to 10 laps, I start over. I can’t really zone out when I’m swimming, so it’s good to have to focus on what I’m doing in the moment. There isn’t really time to think about other things. It’s possible that as I get better this will change. But for now, I’m focussed on the swimming.

I’m not a morning exerciser. But I’m happy to say that yesterday I was in the pool at 6:55 am. I knew that if I was going to get my swimming in before they started lessons, I had to go early. And guess what? I can handle morning swimming. But when school starts, the pool doesn’t open early enough for me to do it. So it will have to be an after school gig for me. That’s fine. Because when I’m done with my 33 laps, I don’t necessarily feel like quitting. Swimming makes me feel good. It makes me feel strong and fit – even if I have a long ways to go to both of those adjectives.

Another thing I’ve learned is about sharing a lane. I’ve had to do that the last couple of days. Yesterday I shared with a woman who used to swim competitively. I found that out today when I talked to her. She was doing the flip turns, freestyle and even the butterfly! I was just the rookie trying to not get in her way. Today I shared a lane with an older lady. She pretty much used a kick board or did the doggie paddle up and down the pool. I looked like an Olympian next to her. I’ll admit it’s easier when you’re next to the inexperienced swimmer. But then again, when you’re next to a good one, it does push you to keep going and get better.

But when I do get out of the pool, I’m spent. Today I had to go and get a one-piece swimsuit. Why? I’m so tired when I’m done, I’m afraid that my tankini top will get stuck on my shoulders when I’m trying to get it off in the shower. Yes, you should laugh at that. My arms are tired and a wet suit is hard to maneuver. So at least I have some options now… Oh, and when I’m done, I’m famished. I am so hungry! And feel like I’ve gotten a great physical workout!

I’m rather bummed that I’ll have to take another break from the swimming. On Monday I have my semi-annual skin scan. Chances are I’ll have a few moles lopped off. So I’ll have to heal up before I can go back. But I am excited to see what it will be like to add swimming as a regular part of my routine.

My new endeavor

As most of you know, as we get older our bodies change and we have to alter our eating habits and movements. I’ve never been much of a runner, but I’ve always wished I could be. I’ve got a treadmill so I can walk or run whenever the mood strikes me. If I do run, it’s usually intervals. Walk 2 minutes, run 2 minutes. I do a minimum of 32 minutes (8 sets) and then walk some more or add in a couple of minute sprints. To me, sprints just means faster than my normal running. In the past, this routine has worked well for me. Lately when I run, I have issues with my hip flexor. It hurts during the run and afterwards. I have to do a lot of stretching before, during and after. So now I need to find an activity that is not so hard on my body.

For the last three weeks I’ve gone with my mother to water aerobics and the local community center. I’m the youngest one there. The old ladies get a kick out of the fact that I’m coming with my mother. The shallow water part doesn’t feel like a big workout to me, but the deep water part does get my heart rate going. The bummer is that the times for the classes don’t work with my school schedule. So after water aerobics I’ve been trying out lap swimming. Now there’s a workout!

I did 5 laps the first time I tried it. I mainly was on my back and kicked. I did the elementary backstroke arms. That easily gets my heart rate up and it works way more muscles than running. This last time I did 10 laps. I even bought a pair of goggles. That helped. I swear I hadn’t done the breast stroke in at least 25 years. When I first started trying it my timing was way off and I was afraid that my plan to start lap swimming was going to fizzle before it started. But eventually I got the timing down. I interspersed it with side stroke (catching my breath), backstroke with various arm movements, and lastly I used a kick board to do scissor kick and the froggy kick. My mom thought my form on the backstroke looked quite good. Surprising, since I’ve never done it before. I’ve just watched it on TV… I suppose if you’ve had the assortment of swim lessons you can pick it up pretty easily.

When I finish swimming, I feel good. My body doesn’t hurt. I’m not sweating like a pig. I feel like I’ve gotten a good workout but haven’t hammered my body. The next day I can feel that I’ve had a good workout. It takes more effort to swim. But I’m already envisioning swimming on my way home from school. The community center can easily be on my way home. Now that I’ve decided to do this, I have a week where I can’t make it there to swim. (My summer school class starts tomorrow). But it’s nice to have a plan. I think swimming will be a good way for me to deal with stress too.