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Swimming provides a great workout

I hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July weekend!
Today I am going to share the overall benefits of swimming. Growing up in the Netherlands, we would have swimming lessons in elementary school, so most people I know learned how to swim, or at least how to save themselves. Coming from a very active family, I knew how to swim at a much younger age than that.
Each morning during the week before school, we would go to the swimming pool to swim our laps, and the last 15 minutes dive, flip and jump off the diving boards. The swim coach was begging my mom to put me on the swim team, but as all swim parents/families can agree on, being on a swim team is a huge commitment. Coming from a Dutch bakery family, it was just too big of a commitment for my parents running the bakery and having three other children who were involved in other sports.
CIOS, the sports college I went to in the Netherlands, had swimming and all other sports we did on a regular base. Typically when I would get injured in Judo (and that happened a lot) I would go back to the pool for therapy, rehabilitation and conditioning.
And I have done so my whole life. Fourteen years ago, when I “blew” my neck doing cartwheels, the only thing that gave me any relief was pool exercise. I couldn’t swim due to the pain, but I could move and float and get some relief from the nerve pain I was dealing with. Then, after my illiotibial band got injured running, once again I was back in the pool keeping up my conditioning and stress relief.
I remembered thinking, “If I cant run anymore, at least I can still swim.” So why swim only when I am injured? Swimming takes more planning and organization: do I have my bathing suit?
My towel? My underwear? Did I bring the shampoo, blow dryer, lotion? And of course, with swimming, you need a pool! I can walk out of my house or hotel or work and go for a run, but with swimming and water exercise, a pool is a necessity! However, I do love the water, and I feel so much better when I swim. I finally bit the bullet and started out with our Master Swimming program at the JF Hurley Family YMCA.
Hannah Hawkins is our coach and trainer. Since school is out, I am able to be at the YMCA at 5:30 a.m. to swim for an hour and 15 minutes. Well, I love it! As a retired top athlete, your mind still loves the hard workouts. On land, however, when I really push hard, it takes me weeks to recover from those workouts. All the abuse I put my body through with top sport, and of course age, those kinds of workouts don’t work for me anymore. Until I met Hannah!
There is a great group of about 10 that regularly practice with Hannah on Tuesdays and Thursdays and some Saturday mornings. They go to Master Swim meets, and last week they had the Master State meet and did outstanding! I am not looking to compete. Being an outdoor track and field and cross country coach is enough “competing” for me! But to be able to push my body as hard as I have done in the past three weeks and the following day not having any muscle soreness or impact pain is priceless!
Below are some benefits of swimming:
• Swimming offers an aerobic workout without harsh impact on the skeletal system.
• The pool is a great place to work stiff muscles and sore joints.
• A pool workout stretches and strengthens the muscles while providing an aerobic workout all at the same time.
• Swimming is a great way to increase muscular strength and muscle tone
• Swimming puts the body through a great range of motion that will help the joints stay loose and flexible.
• The American Heart Association reports that just 30 minutes of exercise a day, such as swimming, can reduce coronary heart disease.
• Swimming is now recognized as one of the biggest calorie burners around. (Have you ever seen an overweight person correctly doing the butterfly?)
Needless to say, many wonderful benefits from swimming. I am getting better about planning my pool “outings” (like not forgetting my bra!). In three weeks, body wise, I have felt better than I have in years, and it feels so good to be pushed hard and be able to get out of bed the next day!
To Hannah Hawkins and all my new workout buddies and my main lane buddy Rob, thank you and I will see you guys tomorrow morning!

Ester H Marsh is health and fitness director at the JF Hurley YMCA.

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