Swimming Rocks My Butt (and Other Body Parts)

About 6 years ago, my brother, friend, and I, all in pretty good shape, decided that we’d add swimming to our workout routine. Before we went to the YMCA to swim, we discussed the details. My friend suggested that we’d swim 100 laps and my brother and I agreed. We eventually got in the water, swam a couple of laps and were totally exhausted. Swimming kicked our butt. Lately, I’ve gone back for more.

Our muscles can get into routines and this limits our ability to take our fitness to the next level. Just as we get complaisant, so do our muscles. I’ve been trying to mix up my workout considerably, adding running, biking, and other sports. After reading about the benefits of swimming in Men’s Health (not the exact article, but this one is good) I decided to give it another try. This time I went in with eyes open (with goggles of course), harboring no illusions about my lack of ability.

My YMCA only has 3 lanes for swimming and a limited amount of open swim time. So, I was working out in the gym section and would occasionally peer into the pool to see if there were openings. Finally, I found a free lane and rushed into the pool. I decided to do 12 minutes to start, using the crawl technique. It was hard, but not too bad. I was even able to do 15 minutes at a fairly vigorous pace, only stopping for a few seconds here and there for a break. When I was done, however, I was exhausted and finishing up my regular workout was difficult. I was also tired for the rest of the day. In short, it was a great workout and I’m going to keep it up.

I have some advice for people starting to swim. First, you need a place to swim. YMCAs generally have pools, but they can be of limited quality. Make sure to find out when open swim is because lessons, teams, programs, etc. take precedence over free swimming. Second, get the right equipment. Goggles are a must and get decent ones. You don’t want leakage or fogging up. Trust me, bad goggles are a huge distraction. Nose and earplugs may be helpful too. Finally, have fun and realize that swimming is tough; so start slowly.

Earn Your Treats

We all know we should avoid bad foods, the stuff high in trans-fat, sugar, and empty calories. Basically, all of the stuff that tastes fantastic! I want to deal with this topic for a moment because my thoughts are a bit unconventional.

First, I don’t think we should avoid bad foods completely. Why? Because life is too short. And, desperately avoiding the bad stuff may just make you want it more. It’s the diet equivalent of a glacier: you cut out one cookie and eat three a few days later. It’s better just to enjoy the occasional treat, so long as it is occasional and a treat.

Second, I firmly believe we need to “earn” bad foods. It’s kind of like we did when (most of us) we were kids. If we wanted something a little pricey, we’d have to work for it, like helping out mom or dad at a special chore. I organized dad’s comic books to earn money for an Indiana Jones hat. Look at food the same way. If you’re going out and having dessert, then make sure to go to the gym and add a few minutes to your workout. If you’re dying for cheese curls, then do more curls at the gym.

This has its problems if you want to eat poorly everyday, but for once a week or so small splurges, it allows you to enjoy the food without the guilt and the gain.

Workout Tip #5: Get Motivated (Part 2)


I previously wrote about the importance of motivation and how to use short term motivation. Here are a few of my ideas for long term motivation. They are similar to the short term ones in many ways, just more focused on the…well…longer term.

Visualize Yourself– While the first short term technique was to visualize your immediate goal, this is more about visualizing your healthier, fitter self. What do you want to look like? Feel like? Imagine it and remind yourself of that each and every time you are tempted to skip your workout or even eat un-healthily. Which image would you rather date? Or hang out with? Be?

Look at your old or current self– In addition to your new image, remind yourself what you don’t want to look like.Keep a “fat” photo of yourself close by at all times. When you feel tempted to avoid workouts look at it. Is this really what you want to be?

Find a deeper reason– Looks are not everything, even though they we’d be lying if we said they didn’t matter. But, there are deeper and more important things in life: family, friends, health, happiness. Pick one or more of these and remind yourself of them every time you want to slack. Maybe it’s the grandson you want to see graduate high school or the ability to golf (or live) past 45.

The photos are ones of me (the first poorly manipulated) to illustrate the first two principles. If anyone has any more tips that work for you, please share in the comments.