In fact I grew up 5 miles from the Great Salt Lake and never touched the water for the first 20 years of my life. Isn't that surprising? I guess that's not so bad, since some people live within sight of it their whole 80 years and have never touched it. It smells like sulfur. It's stinky. It's cold. It's not really for swimming or fishing or boating or for anything but feeding microscopic brine shrimp and brine flies to migratory birds.
So in high school I learned to swim a little better, meaning I somehow converted my doggy paddling into the side stroke. I couldn't swim without nose plugs or really swim freestyle/front crawl. I went to the water parks with my friends, and enjoyed all the slides and sights, but hated the wave pool for obvious reasons. I slowly was becoming more familiar with the water but was by no means a strong swimmer.
So where do you think would be a good place for me to choose to go to college? Hawaii of course! So off to Aloha-land I went with my brother Jeffrey. There we were living within a few hundred yards of several beautiful beaches. Our plan was to go out for one semester of fun and that's it. I ended up staying for six years, and my brother is still there after 16 years. It's a hard place to move away from. My brother and I each found a beautiful wife there and had children. I tried surfing about 20 times in Hawaii and had about 3 near-drowning experiences. Like as in death was eminent and I thought that was it. Still freaks me out sometimes thinking about it. I also learned to snorkle, which doesn't really require much swimming ability, and even tried scuba diving. I finally enrolled in a beginning swimming class, but never really got beyond swimming one length of the pool at a time without stopping.
Our journey then brought us back to Utah where we have been for the last 10 years. Again, not a lot of need for swimming in Utah. So I'm still amazed that last year (January 2015) two buddies of mine (Jason and Tyler) were able to talk to me into enrolling in a master's swim class at the local rec center. Almost any medium sized city with a swimming pool will likely have a U.S. Master's Swimming Program. For example there are 23 chapters in Utah. Master's in this case doesn't mean professional nor senior citizen. It just means adult. And it doesn't mean post-collegiate athletes, though that is a subset of the program. It is also adults learning to swim, a bunch of men and women training for triathlons, and a lot of 40-60 year-olds trying to exercise in a low-impact way.
I was only scared for about 5 minutes that first day and that was until I met the coaches. They are all super nice, positive, encouraging, forgiving, patient, and determined to help. I told them I was super beginner and they took it from there. Learning to swim without nose plugs by blowing out through your nose. Learning to swim with your face in the water. Learning how to kick your feet efficiently. Learning how to move your arms smoothly. Learning to not bump into other people or the walls. They worked with me on every element. And I still have a long way to go.
So here are my tips if you are thinking about getting into swimming:
Try it Out - Before you invest in anything besides a pair of goggles, just pay $20 and try swimming 3 or 4 times. Find a lane to yourself and swim some laps. If its too busy then try a different time of day or night. See how you like it. Your first time is always the hardest. It will get easier each time you go.
Think About it - Take some time and watch people swim. It's not rocket science. People of all shapes and sizes can swim. It's the great equalizer. Watch the local high school team swim meet. Or watch some Olympic swimming on YouTube. This is an incredible sport that is one of THE best full-body, low-impact exercises, hands-down, that you can do.
Stick to a Routine - I decided to go three times per week Mon, Wed, Fri at 6am for the master's program so that I could get the coaching as well. I am paying $20 a month to get at least 12 sessions of swimming and coaching. Tell me that is not a great deal. Name another sport that has that price.
Make Friends - Like I mentioned I had two buddies going every morning who would drive right by my house and pick me up. We encouraged and reminded each other. When you know it's coming you can prepare for it mentally and you get a day of rest between so it doesn't get too overwhelming. If you don't have a carpool buddy, then make one at the pool. Or make friends with those in your lane. Get to know their names and you will be more encouraged to go swim with your friends.
Take Turns - I've mentioned this in several posts because I'm so passionate about it. You boys have got to take turns. My wife and I decided to take turns and she took Tue, Thu, and Sat mornings for her choice of exercise. Sometimes that is yoga at home. Sometimes it's the elliptical at the gym. Sometimes it is swimming. And sometimes it is catching up on sleep. That's totally fine. It's her morning off and she can do what she wants.
Go into work at 8 or 9am - Unless your work demands that you be there at 6 or 7 or 8am, then work with them. Tell them you are trying to get into shape and have a better work/life balance and want to do some exercising in the morning. Do you really get amazing great things accomplished at home between 4-6pm? Or do you even get home that early? Most of your work problems can get done within 9 or 10 hours as easily as they can within 12 hours. You just won't have time to check your personal email as often or surf CNN.
Invest in Yourself - We took some of our tax return money and invested in ourselves, in an annual gym membership for the whole family. Now all four of our kids (ages 2-10) are taking swimming lessons to spare them the fate of learning to really swim when they are 36. This year we are going to use our Healthy Living insurance money to pay for our annual membership. See this post for more details on those kinds of programs.
Buy Good Gear - Now this is the real surprising part. Swimming gear is very, very affordable. How affordable? Price of a crappy latex swim cap = $3. Price of a stellar silicon swim cap = $10. Price of a crappy nylon swimsuit that fades and falls apart in 4 months = $20. Price of a nice polyester, clorine-proof swimsuit = $40. Price of crappy goggles = $5. Price of great goggles = $10-20. (I would go to a sports store and open and try on every single type of goggles and adjust them and see if they hurt your eyes or head. I found that children's goggles by Tyr felt like pillows on my eyes and were only $11. I'm loving them. So you can get decked out for $60. Now of course you could also invest in some swim shampoo and conditioner, a small padlock for your locker,
Pack the Night Before - Having your stuff all ready and packed the night before will motivate your mind and body, and remove worries and procrastination in the morning. Have your bag zipped up and ready to go with everything and even have your coat, shoes, socks, car keys there. This will make it easier and quieter to sneak out in the mornings and not leave your spouse with alert children at 5:30 or 6am.
Pack some snacks - Set out a banana or half an energy bar in the bedroom or bathroom the night before, that you can eat as soon as you roll out of bed and wake up in the morning. That will give you 15-30 min to digest it before you get to the pool. It's amazing how much that will boost your energy. And then also have a snack ready to eat within an hour after finishing your workout. Ideally if you can get around 30 grams of protein and 70 grams of carbs (differs slightly depending on your size) then your body will convert it into lean muscle mass as you heal from your workout. And food is a great motivator to get up and move.
Well, that's my swimming story. Now I love it. I'm up swimming at least a mile on every workout (stopping 5 or 6 times for rest). Sometimes I'll hit 1.5 miles. My goal is to reach 2.4 miles in one hour so I can compete in a full Ironman distance triathlon and improve my chances of placing in my age group. I have a few more years of swimming to hit that distance non-stop in an hour, but that's ok. The best things in life take time.
Let me know if you have any questions or have any further tips or encouragement that I left out that would be helpful to beginners. Thanks for reading. We're doing this for you. Take care and we'll see you at the pool.
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