I wish my friends were willing to let me take their pictures in bathingsuits. Because tonight, at 8:00, when everyone we know is home watching TV, three of us will be hitting the pool for another week of laps and drills. We’ll swim for anywhere from 20-30 minutes, and when we’re done, we’ll peel off our suits, avert our eyes in the locker room, dress in clothes that refuse to slide back on easily, and head home.
I know what you’re thinking. Twenty minutes doesn’t sound like a lot. But oh, it is.
For some reason, in a pool, twenty minutes feels like ten years – at least it does to me. It’s one of the reasons I love swimming – because time slows down when I’m there. I am completely alone with my thoughts, nothing but the sound of my arms cutting through the water, and the slight hum I use to keep myself breathing right.
Have you been in a pool lately? Swam a lap in this decade? Displaced enough water to make your fellow swimmers wonder who let the BG in the trench? Well, if you haven’t, I’d highly recommend it. Why? Three reasons:
Your guns will rock.
Alright, I recognize that toning up your chicken wings shouldn’t be the first reason you get in a pool – but then again, why not? Swimming uses all those wonderful upper body muscles that we forget we have (unless you have children). And the last time I swam regularly, I was a sleeveless wunderkind, who not only loved the way my arms and shoulders looked, but who actually felt powerful, strong, and – gasp – athletic! A slow crawl or freestyle can do this for you – really, it can!
You’ll burn fat.
Yes, you read correctly. One of the things I’ve observed about myself over time is that swimming is something I can’t OVERdo. I can’t go too fast – or I can’t keep swimming. I can’t push myself like I do on a run (where sometimes I’ll just push and push, and end up gasping). That whole “not breathing underwater” thing really does keep you honest in the pool – allowing you to work out at 55-65% of your target heart rate (which is what my training program recommends to build endurance). When you work out at that rate, rather than killing yourself, your body goes through your short-term glycogen stores, and dips into the fat reserves to start fueling itself. This is a good thing. (For more, check out You on a Diet, which I read this weekend, which helped me understand how the body perceives fuel and what it wants more of, and why, and why I don’t suck as a dieter, and neither do you…..ahem.)
You save your knees, and hips, which are typically the little brothers you beat up on when you run.
Don’t get me wrong – I love running, but as John Bingham mentioned in one of his recent columns at Runner’s World, when you’re a big runner, you need to do some cross-training to give your joints a break. My knees have held up relatively well over the past 10 years, but for the first time ever, I have some hip pain this year, and swimming helps me get a very active workout without adding to the inflammation there. So if your body is telling you it needs a break, give it one – try the pool.
So that’s what I’m off to do tonight. I don’t go without my trusty goggles, swim cap, and flip flops (not to mention a tiny towel). And at the Chicago Park District, you can swim virtually for free at any park district pool ($20 per session).
So what’s holding you back? Oh, these excuses? Pfffh.
“I hate how I look in a bathing suit”. Well, that’s a good one. I’d post myself in a bathing suit, but I’d hate to be passed around as a sexy goddess on the internet. (HA!) But here’s the thing. By putting yourself in a suit, and getting in the water, you can start to see your body for what it is – a vehicle that gets you from A to B. Just because you hate the color of your car doesn’t mean you don’t ride in it, right? So treat your body the same way.
“I don’t have a suit”. You can fix that pretty easily. Kohl’s, Target, JC Penney, Sears, LandsEnd, heck, anywhere that carries a suit with a cross-back will work. I’d recommend a full suit (not a tankini) with cross straps, but that’s easy.
“I don’t have time”. Is there a YMCA near you? Most Y’s offer child care on site, if that’s your issue. If it’s a City Living problem, check out your city pools – often they are great resources and nearly empty.
“I don’t know how to swim”. See above. The YMCA or your local park district have TONS of classes to teach you how to swim in about 8 weeks. There is no time like the present to get started.
So you’re now officially out of excuses….get moving on a plan, and I’ll keep you posted on mine!
See you at the pool….