Finally the warm days are here! Waiting for them meant an eternity for me, because I love swimming, but I don’t like to swim in the cold weather, and finding a pool, big enough for lap swimming, that is really WARM – 80 degrees at least- is very hard to find. Here in California, just few pools have warm (more then 80 degrees) water, and needles to say, the beach is a fridge-cold water place for me. I go to enjoy the sun, but nothing like the warm waters of the Pacific in Mexico, or the Caribbean.
Ok, I’ll go back to my subject of swimming. That first dive of the season, felt so good! I swam –I have to say that I’m a good swimmer- the first 20 minutes warming up, the next 30 minutes racing against myself, and the last 20 minutes just…cruisin’ in the pool. This is my swimming routine simplified. Winding down is another story. Swimming slowly, enjoying the feeling of the water hitting my face, ah! And the feel of the gliding. Gliding is like the cherry on top of the ice cream.
After a swim workout, gliding, enjoying your fast, or low speed, letting yourself go, it’s like a massage. After a while, all my muscles are relaxed, no headaches, no stress, swimming backstroke facing the ceiling of the indoor pool is like a siesta in a water-gliding Jacuzzi. I started swimming when I was 4 years old. By age 8 I was competing with other swimming schools. Not serious racing, but challenging and fun swim races. Many of my friends were there, and it was a very popular thing to do, since the weather is just propitious for that.
Last week, I had my first wonderful, medicinal, therapeutically slow dive on a warm pool, without bringing with me coats, sweaters, hair driers and all the things that I need to stay warm after the swim and go out to the cold weather. Many would think I’m nuts because in California the weather is reasonably mild year round, but if you knew I was born in Mexico, in a city with a 9 month long summer, with temperatures peaking the 120 degrees 3 months on a row, they would understand that my body and skin are still missing that weather and the delightful feeling of a refreshing dive in water.
Well, the sensation just before the diving is exhilarating for me too. Some times I feel so anxious – to go in- that the moments before become like a ritual of preparation. When I am about two and a half feet above the water; I stare at it, and it stares right back at me. My cap is in place, my swimming suit tight and perfect, and my gear with the flippers and hand weights waiting for me. The goggles give the water a crystal blue tint that taunts me; the water thinks it is better than I am. From the height of the block, the black tile that runs down the center of every lane appears to me as a runway.
In just a few seconds I will be moving down that runway, trying to take off above the water. My eyes will be focused on that tile, to make sure I am in the center of my lane. I can see the water grinning and laughing at me now; I am standing on the block with my knees almost to the point of shaking. The water can tell how excited I am. The water looked so calm and smooth, beckoning me to dive in. But in just a few seconds, the glassy blueness will be turned into a churning white mass as the swimmers churn through it, causing a wake to run across the pool.
For now, it is still laughing at me though, with my toes tightly wrapped around the edge of the block, my body coiled up like a spring ready to explode. The silence of the pool area adds to it. There is absolutely NO noise, which amplifies the tranquility of the pool. The classes and “aquaerobics” are finished. There is just one more swimmer, but his swimming is slow and imperceptible. I take a dive. Swimming. An ancient aquatic sport. Its is the art of self-movement in water by use of hands and/or feet. Swimming is viewed as a sport or as recreation. Did you know is the most complete of the sports?
You exercise each and every single muscle of your body, you can relax or do real cardio work, and weight or trotting will never hurt your knees or ankles. But when you learn the techniques, it is even more enjoyable. Storks and techniques must be learned by humans as it does not come instinctively. Different strokes and body positions have been developed to enable swimming. More in-depth strokes and movements have evolved for competitive swimming. Swimming basically can take place in any body of water with the capacity to allow free movement and is not too cold, hot, and too turbulent.
Currents and tides can make swimming dangerous especially for beginners with little experience. Swimming must be taken serious as it can result in death specifically drowning, specially in the beach or ocean. Swimming is also a valuable tool outside competition and recreation. Knowing how to swim can mean survival in emergencies. Swimming can also aid in physical therapy and is a general exercise. Swimming has become a popular thing since its origin. Many recreation centers contain pools as well as residential owners for private use.
Now, The competitive side. Swimming is a worldwide sport that can vary in range of talent, age, etc. A “race”, is classified by the stoke being used and the distance of the Strokes. Five recognized strokes have evolved since the 19th century. But I particularly love breaststroke and backstroke. Here is a stroke-made-simple lesson for the free-style/crawl stroke by Terry Shrwader, the coach of the water polo team that brought the Silver Gold to the United States in the last Olympics “ Slice your hand in as soon as it passes your shoulder.
Extend it in front as far as you can. Take your time about beginning your pull, and pull back straight under your body, neither too deep nor too close to your trunk. Push harder towards the inside and during the last ten inches try to “throw” back water under your body to gain speed. Then take your hand out of the water and do it with the other hand. You’re swimming just fine. Are there useful refinements beyond those mentioned? Of course. But they pay off far more if you’re eyeing towards the Olympic team. This is good enough. Ah! The breaststroke.
With the breaststroke the swimmer lies front down with the arms pointed straight ahead. The palms are also down. The arms are swept backward in line with the shoulders always on or under the surface of the water. The legs are drawn up close to the body, with the knees and toes turned out propelling outward as the arms are brought back to the starting point –at this moment you breath and pull your head back to the water. This order of events is then repeated. It is important to exhale underwater. It is also imperative that the arm strokes are lateral not up and down.
When I do my routine, and swim for a full workout, after the 30 minutes of intense strength and empowering effort, I do 5 minutes of racing to myself. At the end, my lungs feel like they are ready to explode. But I cannot breathe until 2 strokes after my flip turn. My more powerful arm, which is my right one, strokes first. As soon as my hand enters the water, I find the catch I am looking for, with fingers pointed to the floor, and my elbows at a ninety-degree angle, I crank back using almost every muscle in my body.
I’m sweating so much! Under water you can’t tell, but afterwards, it takes me 10 minutes out of the water to stow sweating. Yes! That is what I call a good workout. It feels so good! And then, after the workout comes the winding down. This is the slow, gliding, relaxing, slowing down style of the breaststroke. My heart rate is back down to normal. This is heaven…The water massaging my face, body and head. Relaxing with my eyes closed. My mood feels great. The water did the coach and the therapist work. I wish I could swim it more often.
I’m so busy with my home, kids, life schedules, and routine, that it’s not easy to find the 2 hours for this. (Half hour to get there and get ready for the water, 1 hour and 15 minutes of the swimming, then the shower, then the drive back home). But now that the summer is coming, and school and school routines will take a break, I will do so too. I will swim more, and as if all what I have told you is not enough…you get extra bonus when you swim…. and I’ll loose some pounds. I love the water, and I love to swim!
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