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.

Workout Tip #5: Get Motivated!

Motivation…whether it’s to clean our room or mow our lawn, it’s not easy and to be honest, it’s probably not the same for everyone. But, motivation has to be at the root of successful workouts. As I mentioned in a previous post, you can’t even start to exercise if you don’t get to the gym, get off the couch, etc. I know it sounds very mental and working out is supposed to be physical, but inspiration is just as important as perspiration when it comes to losing weight (my apologies to Thomas Edison).

Admittedly, I am to the point now where I am simply motivated as a matter of fact. I don’t say this to brag, but I don’t really think about it; I simply do it. But, it wasn’t always that way. Unless working out has become a life habit, motivation remains an important component. So, here are a few of my suggested motivational tips (note: I’ve not actually used all of these, but figure they’d be good). Today I’m going to discuss more short term tips and next week, I’ll write part two which will detail more long term motivational tips.

Short Term:

Visualize it– Visualize what you want to accomplish at that very moment. If your goal is to go to the gym, then don’t let yourself even consider going home to sit on the couch. Keep focused and see yourself at the gym, on the bike, etc.

Filter out the noise– Life is really busy and it’s easy to think that all the little things pulling at us are more important than working out. Remove the deadlines, the home stress, and everything else from your mind. Exercise (which helps focus anyway) should be a big priority, which means that the little things vying for our daily attentions should not lead us to avoid exercise.

Remind yourself of the immediate benefits– I overheard a guy at the YMCA say how he’s never (except when sick) left the YMCA feeling worse than when he came in. He meant that although it may have been a pain to drag himself in, he always felt better after exercising. I can completely affirm his statement. Remind yourself of the immediate, great feeling that you get when you workout.

More coming next week, so check back!

Workout Tip#3: Just Show Up

Heath Road was the point of no return. If, on my way to the YMCA, I could cross the threshold of Health Road, I knew a solid workout was in my future. Heath Road was important because a left turn followed by a quick right turn onto Wilson Mills Rd. led to my old house. So, after a full day as a high school teacher, the choice was difficult: turn onto Heath and end up on the couch or in front of the computer or keep going to the YMCA. Usually, I just went forward, but occasionally the pull of doing nothing was too much.

The point of this post? Sometimes the most important thing you can do regarding your exercise program is just show up. I’ve never gotten to the YMCA and just left. When I was there, I figured I should workout, even if it wasn’t for a terribly long time. I think that is true for most people. Just getting to the gym to work out is half the battle.

In fact, this is why I prefer to work out at the gym and not at home: because my house has a variety of uses, the gym has one. At home, I’m constantly distracted with other choices and temptations. I don’t always “show up” like I do when I go to the YMCA. There, it’s pretty much working out or nothing. At home, it’s working out or eating or the computer or the TV or the dishes or…you get the point.

To be successful at fitness, you may have to identify the “Heath Roads” in your life. What is keeping you from getting to the gym and working out?

Change #12: Get to A Gym

I once overheard an older gentleman at the YMCA telling his friend who was slacking on going to the gym that he had never left the gym feeling worse than when he entered and in fact most times felt better. I thought about it and totally agree. With the exception of the odd days where I may have slightly injured myself or was sick, I always left the YMCA feeling better. I always had more energy (in spite of sometimes hour long workouts), better mental clarity, and greater self esteem. If only I had the energy and mental clarity to get motivated to go to the gym! But, knowing that I always look and feel better goes a long way towards helping me get my butt in the car and drive the 5 minutes to go to the YMCA.

YMCA Types, Part II

I figured that since David addressed the issue of types at the YMCA, I would add my two cents. Remember, this is meant to be humorous and not to offend anyone.

The Laser Focus on (enter muscle group here) Men – These are the men (yes, I’ve never seen a woman do this) who seem to think that only the abs or the biceps or the chest matters. Consequently, they will do fifty sets of twenty reps on the only machine that you (and half the other members of the YMCA) have left to do before you can go home.

The Hot Young Thangs – These can be identified by tight shorts and close fitting shirts in young women or in muscle shirts on young men. For a man, it helps to enhance your young thangness by having a cut up shirt advertising a weight competition you entered, but didn’t win; for women, it is writing on the shorts.

The Old Hot Young Thangs– The above definition applies, except the muscle tone isn’t quite there. You can see a lot more sagginess and wrinkles and beer guts, but the clothing is the same, and just as tight. However, the men’s shirts are taken from 80s heavy metals concerts and the women have nothing written on their butts.

The Style Princesses– These women (yes, usually women) typically look like they came out of Lady Foot Locker (they may actually have). They have the newest and hottest in fitness fashion and the best ipod Apple has made with headphones that cost more than most speakers. And, their hair and makeup are perfect. Of course, why ruin such perfection with actually breaking a sweat?

The “I Could Easily Kick Your Butt, but Won’t” People– These are the men, and occasionally women who are extremely muscular with a lot of facial hair and black T-shirts. They like to throw around a lot of foul language and you suspect they partake of some sort of anabolic enhancement. Of course, you’d never suggest that and if they think you’re thinking it, you simply reply “no sir; sorry sir” (yes, I’m aware I included women earlier) They think that everyone should be grateful that they choose to not kick the crap out of all the pathetic weaklings who can’t bench 500 pounds.

Types at the YMCA

I have been a member of a local YMCA since 1993. Back then I was heavily into oldies music (I still am, although I have branched out more), and even developed by own exercise tape, with a hand-designed cover and everything. Now I have moved to MP3s. Despite some things changing, I have always been observant, and I have noticed various types of YMCA types over the years. I mean this in humor and am not trying to judge anybody’s work out style!

The Stretchers – These folks seem to just stretch, as if they are getting ready for a serious workout, but it seems like I never see them work out. I know stretching is important, but why pay for a Y membership just to stretch? I would personally just sit in front of the TV, or perhaps go to a nice scenic location and stretch out in nature.

The Talkers – Today I was doing my lifting routine, and overheard a long conversation going on between a man and a woman. I am sure he was trying to get a date (I don’t think he succeeded), but it reminded me of how there are a lot of people at the Y who just go there to socialize…do a few reps and talk the rest of the time! I remember overhearing another conversation where three women were talking about their exercise outfits, and what they were going to wear the next day. Of course, they never did actually exercise that day.

The Slackers – Boy I have been here before. When I was in high school I played on a softball team. We would play 7 innings of slow pitch, and then “because we worked out,” go to the local bar and get two ham and cheese subs, french fries, and a coke. An hour-and-half of softball burns about 500 calories. The meal I just mentioned has over 1200 calories. At any rate, I notice there are folks at the Y who walk a few laps around the track, act like they just conquered the world, and then head down to the vending machine to buy some chips. Like I said, it brings back memories.

The Hot-Tubbers – After working out for about an hour and a half, I like sitting in the hot tub for a few minutes. It seems like there are always these four heavy-set guys in there. What is funny is that I never see them work out. From the running track upstairs, I see them walk in, and then in a few minutes I can see them in the hot tub (the running track is on the second floor, and offers a view of a lot of the bottom floor). I suppose 50 dollars a month isn’t a bad price for hot tub use!

The Januarians – Perhaps this also includes a few dedicated folks who make it into February…but in January when I ran on the indoor track I literally had to pass 20-30 people in the walking lane, and almost just as many who were running slowly in the running lane. It was actually a shock to see so many people, although after being a Y member for all these years, I am getting used to the January rush. By February, things were back to normal. I actually admire these folks for a few reasons. First, they at least are interested in fitness (willing spirits, weak bodies perhaps), and second, they pay the Y even though they don’t use it, which keeps costs lower for those of us who do.

The Residents – I swear some people would live at the gym if they could, maybe sleeping across the treadmills at night, so they can workout as soon as they wake up. I try to get to the Y 3 times a week if possible, but these guys and gals are dedicated regulars whom I see practically every time I visit (no matter what the day or time)!

The 80s Guys – At every Y I have been a member of, there is always one or two guys who haven’t quite updated their workout fashions, and dress like they are headed to a hair-band concert. The thing is, I am not trying to be fashionable when I work out (today I wore an old Dave Matthews concert shirt, and I don’t even like Dave Matthews, but it was a gift from a sister-in-law whose ex-boyfriend gave it to her), but boy are these guys noticeable.

I am sure there are more. Any others?