I started swimming on a regular basis about three months ago. When I relocated to Durham, North Carolina, I found a public indoor pool and decided to sign up for a 10-visit swim pass. I have to say I was a bit nervous. If you have ever been to a public pool or shower, it can be intimidating. Are the showers mildew covered, is there a private place to change, will the pool be a decent temperature, and, most importantly, will there be a free lane for me to swim in? I reserved a lane online, paid my fee, and drove, with trepidation, to the Campus Hills location on an early Saturday morning. There was plenty of free parking, a pleasant gentleman at the reception desk, and a clean, empty locker room for me to leave my belongings as well as baskets available to take personal items out to my lane. I was reassured. Now all I had to do was swim.
I was on my high school swim team my sophomore year. I can remember the early morning practices and swimming upwards of 2,000 to 2,500 yards. What I remember most was the trance like state I would get into, swimming back and forth. I was longing for that. The Zen state of just being, I think it’s what brought me back to the pool after some forty years.
Here are 6 benefits of a morning swim:
It’s a great start. There are almost always other swimmers at the eight-lane pool. I ran into one of the women that was swimming a few lanes over on the way out the door. I told her to have a great day and she said “Nothing can go wrong after starting my day with a swim.” I heartily agreed with her. It’s like teeing up my day for success. I’ve exercised, I’ve showered, I’ve centered myself. It’s a terrific way to start your day.
There is one path. Throughout my day, I need to make countless decisions whether it be what to wear, what trail to walk my dog, what to eat, or what task to work on. When I’m in the pool, there is only one way and one direction and one thick black line on the bottom of the pool. That is my only path. I follow the black line until it ends at a T and then, I go back the other way. It’s such a great antidote for decision fatigue. Jump in the pool and just follow the black line.
No technology. There are no calls, emails, social media, or screens…at all. It’s amazingly freeing to be without the distraction of any notifications. I do wear an iWatch which, miraculously, counts my strokes, my laps, and heart rate. But outside of biofeedback, I am free to detach from the outside world and focus on the black line below.
It’s good for your heart. Of course, any exercise is good for your heart but as written by Dr. Daniel Bubnis for Greatist, “One study found that people with a regular swimming routine lost weight and had decreased carotid arterial stiffness, lower blood pressure, and increased blood flow to the brain. All these benefits reduce the risk of heart disease.” I have to say that my blood pressure was already lowered most likely by eating plant based but I’ll take anything that’s good for my heart.
It burns calories. I noticed this almost immediately when I started tracking my swimming on my watch. I burn close to twice the calories that I burn on a hike of the same period of time (say 30 minutes) and my average heart rate is higher as well. As Bubnis wrote, “Since your whole body is working, it’s no surprise that swimming is a real calorie burner. Swimming burns the same number of calories as jogging (without the joint stress). And that’s if you’re swimming at a relaxed pace!” It’s a workout even though there’s no sweat!
Less stress. For me, it’s the repetition of the stroke, the breath, the hum of the bubbles in the water, the trusty black line below, the peace and flow when I push off the wall to glide effortlessly forward. As Bubnis reported, “A 2012 survey commissioned by Speedo found that 74 percent of participants had reduced stress after swimming. And 70 percent said swimming left them mentally refreshed. Keep in mind that any form of exercise can help reduce stress. But water-based activities are known to have additional soothing effects. It’s just hard to be stressed out when you’re floating in water.” Swimming can reduce stress.
I initially started swimming during the winter because it was the one activity that wasn’t as dependent on the weather, and I could reserve a lane time that fit my schedule. There are some days when it’s not a morning swim, although I do prefer to swim in the morning. I have slowly been working my way up to longer distances, today was 1,200 yards! I think back to swim practice in 1977, and Mrs. Woods starting us off with 1,000 yards freestyle to get warmed up. Whelp. I can’t swim the entire length of a pool with one breath either. It’s just nice to find peace, solitude, and a little bit of Zen to start off my day.