Swimming: A great aqua-tunity to relax and get fit

I'm not a fan of being cold or wet and I absolutely dread trying to squeeze into my hideously unattractive one-piece (which, by the way, squeezes at all the wrong places). Other than taking a dip to cool off while tanning on a hot sandy beach, I don't swim that often. But, in my commitment to trying a variety of physical activities on campus and to staying fit, it was time to get my feet wet and check at the pool. I looked online at the drop-in aquatics schedule at the AC and learned that there are both co-ed and women-only swim times daily. As a fan of women-only weights at the SCC, I figured I'd probably feel more comfortable swimming with other women. Since I'd never gone swimming at the AC before, I'd assumed that the pools were attached to the main change room. So after putting on my favorite wardrobe item, the "fashionable" swimsuit, I did a thorough lap of the change-room in search of the 25 m (or Benson) pool. I felt like such a rookie: I couldn't find the pool! Luckily, I bumped into another swimsuit-wearer who, as a regular, knew where to go. She led me out of the change room, down the hall, and up a set of stairs to get to the women-only swim. I felt a bit uncomfortable walking around in my swimsuit and bare feet, but quickly learned that this could have been avoided. There is actually a large washroom that you can change in, right on the pool deck, as well as a private changing stall, just outside the pool.The windows of the pool were also all completely covered, making it impossible for people to look in from outside. There were about 20 women of varying abilities doing laps of front crawl, breaststroke, kicking with a flutterboard, or doing their own modified versions of basic strokes. Before entering the pool, I had a decision to make: am I a slow, medium, or fast swimmer? I opted to swim in the medium-speed lane, which ended up being the right match for my ability. But once I was in the pool, I was politely informed by the lifeguard that there is an etiquette to lane-swimming: up the middle and down the sides...rookie mistake number two. Since I don't swim too often, I didn't know how many lengths to do, what strokes to use, or how long to go for. I basically just copied the other swimmers in my lane, doing a combination of breast-stroke and front-crawl for about 20 minutes (which I knew was the general target for cardio exercise). At the end, I was exhausted. As someone who runs often, I'm not used to doing full-body exercise. It drained me. I also felt incredibly relaxed. Unlike running, which is a high-impact activity, swimming allows you to increase your fitness and burn calories without placing impact stress on your joints. As corny as this sounds, it was also very therapeutic to put my face in the water, focus on my breathing, and clear my head of the stresses of looming presentations and assignments that I haven't started yet. My friend, a third year biology student, told me that the relaxation I experienced could be due to the "mammalian diving reflex." This is an innate response which causes our heart rates to lower by ten to twenty-five percent as soon as our faces enter the water so that our body does not need as much oxygen in the bloodstream. Regardless of the specific physiological benefits of swimming, I enjoyed the experience so much that I went back the next morning. This time, it was co-ed, but having guys there didn't really bother me; our faces were in the water most of the time anyways! I also came prepared with flip flops and a hoodie to make the walk from the change room to the pool a little more comfortable! Tae Kwon Do Update: The moves are getting more complex and technical, and I'm realizing that it is hard to improve at a new sport when you are only going once a week...I think that if I continue next term, I'll have to up it to twice a week! -Shannon

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