Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Swimming offers fitness for a lifetime

From my fitness column, "For the Fun of Fit":

                                      Swimming offers fitness for a lifetime

It’s that time of year again—no more pencils, no more books, but plenty of sunscreen and time spent at our local pool, where we've been members for seven years; and, it’s not the idyllic setting of the pool and lazy days in the sun that keeps us coming back. It’s the swim team.

I was not a swim team kid. In fact, I spent my childhood summers on the diving team and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to just swim back and forth, back and forth. The repetition seemed horribly tedious and boring, especially when compared to the dynamic and explosive flips, turns and twists we got to execute off the diving boards.

But, while my diving days fizzled by the time I reached college, many of my swim team counterparts continued swimming, back and forth, back and forth, and are now shaming me in the water at triathlons. 

You see, swimming, along with other low-impact sports such as golf, cycling and bowling, are lifetime sports, unlike diving, gymnastics, and football, which don’t have a particularly long shelf life. I guarantee you won’t soon see a seventy-year-old doing back handsprings, but there are plenty of seniors gracing the lap lanes of any swimming pool.

In addition to being a lifetime sport, knowing how to swim also is a matter of safety, which is how it all began for our family. I grew up boating and skiing on the Chesapeake Bay and I knew my kids would spend time on the water too, so learning to swim was not optional.

 At our swim club, swim lessons for members are $40 for ten thirty minute sessions; a bargain compared to other programs we’d participated in. Eventually, I began to take notice of the throngs of young swimmers who were exiting the water as we entered for lessons—the swim team. I soon discovered that the registration fee to join the Serpents swim team was $65 per child with discounted rates for siblings. For this fee, my children would swim for 75 minutes every day over two months instead of only 30 minutes a day for two weeks. Not only would my children learn to swim, but they would learn to swim well, while getting daily exercise and gaining confidence in the water. We were in.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the swim team culture and the various pros and cons of the sport. While I don’t particularly relish getting up early and packing lunches six days a week during the summer, I do enjoy that our whole family is together for meets and not running in different directions. I also appreciate the positive atmosphere created by the swim team’s spirit activities and that it is both a team sport as well as an individual sport.
Mostly, I no longer view the swimmers in the water as simply going back and forth, back and forth, but realize that they’re on to something good—creating a foundation for a lifetime of fitness. 

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