What Now? Water Buoy!

| February 2, 2013 | 0 Comments

It’s a sad commentary on my powers of persuasion that despite being a poster person for the merits of swimming, I have yet to persuade my friends and family to undertake this amazing diversion, this superb exercise. You’d think my umpteen years in P. R., selling stories and features to cantankerous journalists would prepare me for hard-sells of any kind? By comparison, selling swimming ought to be a walk-in-the-park.

In the interests of the general health of San Diego’s population, I’ve decided to try it on those of you who have yet to ignore my advice.

I’m objective; here are a few downsides, all of which I’ve learned the hard way:

– Do not swim if you are suffering from any respiratory illness, like, for instance, bronchitis.
– Do not swim if you are mending from broken bones, strained muscles, tendons or sinews.
– Drench your hair with cheap conditioner, to offset the negative effects of chlorine, water, etc.

Short list, right? A hot day makes swimming all the better, of course. If it’s cold, make sure your feet are freezing; that will make even a moderately heated pool feel really, really good. The downside of swimming in cold weather is getting out of the water. This requires extreme courage and a satisfying vocabulary of profanities. If it’s raining, never mind: you’re already wet. If windy, fear not: a ferocious wind further challenges your swim, your strength.

(Disclaimer: I only swim in pools. That’s because I have an enduring fear of the sharks in the ocean who lie in wait for me. This has been true ever since I saw the trailer of the movie, “JAWS!”)

Don’t swim by the clock; that leaves you too much time to think about the state of the world, say, or, heaven forbid, the state of yourself: those things you should do or say, or shouldn’t have done or said. That kind of thinking will offset any calming effects of your swim. Instead, count laps. The monotony of counting will add to the water’s meditative benefits. Occasionally, my count gets interrupted by a brilliant creative thought (like, why don’t I write a column?), or something I absolutely must do (like, call my cousin Jay, which I’ve forgotten, anyway, despite repeated counting interruptions).

There’s plenty of research that shows that physical activity may make our brains bigger. Smarter! OK, it’s “unprovable.” Physical Education writer Gretchen Reynolds, however, quotes Harvard biologist Dr. Daniel E. Liebermann, who fundamentally agrees …” that there is a deep evolutionary basis for the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind.” The absence of this particular effect in me may be the reason my friends and family have not yet been persuaded.
As I write this in January, any number of colleagues report colds, coughs, fevers, flu. I’m willing to bet none of them are swimmers. While I hesitate to jinx myself (!), I confide that for many years I would’ve been the first on that list for one kind of ailment or another.

In fact, I only started swimming in the aftermath of a foot injury, looking for any exercise that wouldn’t “hurt.” Walking gingerly through a pool proved to be healing. As I advanced to actually swimming, the activity revitalized my general health, and as far as I can tell, has boosted my immune system. Compared to those early years, today I hardly ever get sick. (Note to God of Jinxes: I did NOT say I “never” get sick!)

You could lose weight by swimming, but sorry, that’s not my expertise. My former puny self was a sickly, 98-lb. weakling. Within a few months of steady swimming, though, I gained five lbs. – all muscle! Everything looked better, everything felt better! So, whatever your weight issues, you’ll be stronger, more sculpted. You’ll even enjoy the exhilaration of enhanced moods.

That’s what I told the postman last month during our freezing cold snap, when rushing from the pool, clutching my towel, muttering obscenities, bursting into the condo’s foyer, he took one disbelieving look at me and barked, “What is the matter with you?”

There is no age limit to swimming. If you’re a kid, like 7-year old Lance Harris, who can rattle off four or five strokes he’s mastered – – relieve stress & cleanse the spirit.


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