Why I Swim

Palm Springs City Pool
Our old hometown pool at sunset.

I joined US Masters Swimming in 2015 after being on deck as a swim mom and parent volunteer for 14 years. It was the adult program with the team my children swam with from kindergarten through high school. My New Year’s Resolution that year — my first as an empty nester — was to join Masters and swim with a coach. It only took me until April to make good on my New Year’s resolution. But once I got in, I made slow, but steady progress.

My biggest issue with swimming is consistency. It’s something you have to do year round to get stronger. Not every day is a good day, although most of them are. The biggest challenge for me in the beginning was relaxing and getting a steady breathing pattern.

Lately my roadblock to consistency is weather. I do not like getting in or out of the pool when it’s cold. I quit for several months over the winter. Getting back into the pool this spring, I felt like I was starting over.

During the COVID years, our Palm Springs pool (above) was shut down. Then it opened to reservations for every other lane (social distancing). Our Masters team was not allowed to practice until about the time we moved to Arizona.

What I’ve discovered about swimming, rather than cheering on the sidelines, is that being in the water gives me a chance to reflect. It’s mostly a quiet time, where I get the best physical exercise, ever — plus peace and clarity in my day.

I’m still working on the breathing. When I do feel relaxed and smooth, I notice the following 10 things while I swim:


The way the water feels cool against my skin.


The bubbles my hands make entering the water.


Spirographs and kaleidoscopes of shadows and light on the bottom of the pool as the sun filters through the water.


The shadow of the flags as I get close to the wall.


Muffled sounds underwater. It’s like I’m listening to a foreign language.


The view of clouds, saguaro and desert when I stop to rest.


The slope of the pool with tiled, black lines curving to lower depths.


A clump of leaves that looks like a plant growing in a crack at the bottom of my lane.


Floating and swimming relaxed must be what flying would feel like.


Relief at the end of my 1,000-yards. I feel much stronger and smoother than during my first 100 yards.

As a swimmer, I appreciate with new understanding the hard work my kids and coaches have put in for years, every single day.

What activity do you enjoy that brings you peace and clarity in your day?

34 thoughts on “Why I Swim

  1. You’ve made me want to learn how to swim. What a relaxing experience.
    My go to has been walking. I walk wherever and whenever I can.

    • I love walking too. We got back from our morning walk a few minutes ago. I didn’t know how to swim until I joined Masters in 2015. I took swim lessons as a kid, but didn’t know the strokes or how to breathe in freestyle until I joined the team. The coach was so patient and gave me drills to relax and taught me all four strokes.

      • I learned pickleball one year ago. I have a conflict in my schedule to keep playing with the YMCA, though. Swimming was eight years ago. That’s a whole different time in our lives than today.

      • I admire your spirit Elizabeth. You’re naturally athletic and inclined towards sports. Till my knee replacements I used to be quite sedentary and started walking because my surgeon told me that that’s the only way to make it last long.

      • I don’t know if I’m naturally athletic, but thank you for the compliment. I think it’s my years of ballet from age 5 through most of my life, until I hit 50 and it hurt, that has helped me with other physical activities.

      • I do think that things Iearned as a child like skiing or golf make them easier for me as an adult. I have an ability or muscle memory that someone who begins as an adult doesn’t have. I have to thank my dad for that.

  2. That was nice to read as I am preparing to do my exercises this morning. I became a swimmer because I was a) a natural b) born with mark of the caul which means I will not drown and other supernatural powers c) my niece won awards with swim team in Virginia. d) grew up with a pool in the backyard which was unusual in NY state as we only have one season to swim. Thanks for starting the morning well.

    • Have a nice morning of exercises. I learned to swim as a child, but didn’t really get back into the pool or learn how to breathe in freestyle until 2015. Then I entered a couple meets! I wish I could say that I swam every year since then, but I had knee surgery, then COVID. Cold winter. It’s been hit and miss.

      • I do twice a week along with other things quadruped hip abduction and external rotation; bend leg hip abduction; resistance with ankles, etc. Not fun. My niece was part of the junior olympics in swimming. Whenever, I can I go to the pool to exercise paying for the classes. Enjoy the day!

      • That sounds like a lot of exercise work. I do stretches and crunches, but other than that I walk and swim. Your niece was a “real swimmer.” I loved those Junior Olympic days watching my kids.

      • Yes. This is exercise I do on my own after the VA PT time. I continued with them and then do yoga online through the VA and swimming, once a week. It is a lot but trying to stay away from surgery. We shall see. Thanks.

      • The Physical Therapist recommended I continue with these exercise 2 times a week or more. I also walk the pug. It is hot to walk more. I think on my end I am doing the best with the right hip. Time will tell.

  3. Wow, I love this little peak into what you notice while swimming, Elizabeth! When we were at a friend’s lake cabin last weekend, I swum in the lake several times. It was so hard to jump in but wow, it’s such an exhilarating feeling to be able to move my body through the water. I love your dedication – both as a parent and as a swimmer yourself.

    • Thank you, Wynne. I’m so glad you jumped into the lake and enjoyed swimming. I’m with you — it’s always hard to get in. Even when I’m at a pool, my brain tells me I don’t want to get in. The peaceful feeling when I swim is restorative, but also tiring!

  4. I remember being a very reluctant swimmer as a kid. I did not like my face in the water and so for years refused to learn to swim correctly even though my dad tried and tried. Finally something kicked in and I coordinated all the breathing and swimming basics. The standout memory for me was how so many people used to comment on my dads stroke and rhythm- how very fluid and elegant it looked. Once I became a “real” swimmer people were saying just how much I looked like dad in the water. Even though I wasted a lot of time, I felt really proud hearing that.

    Now, as you know, I walk. That is my zen practice. Although swimming would sure help my breathing ability on those steep hikes I can’t manage 😉

    • Isn’t that nice to get a compliment like that that you had a beautiful stroke like your dad? I was a breath holder as a kid, which doesn’t work! It wasn’t until 2015 that my coach (who was my daughter’s former coach) had me work on drills that helped me relax and I learned how to breathe. I love walking, too. It’s my number one zen practice.

  5. Wow, love the discipline. Your post makes me want to join and pool and start swimming. Ha, ha. I’m an okay, but not great swimmer, so I’m not sure about that. But it does make me want to get back to running and biking more. I’ll keep you posted.

  6. Walking and writing, but you make swimming sound fun. I never was much of a swimmer. Too scared. I learned the basics and made sure my kids learned. They both enjoy it.

    • Walking and writing are my favorites It’s never too late for swimming though! I started after 50. I was one of the slowest in my group. But my nice coach would tell me compared to the general population, I was doing really well 😁

  7. You are amazing. I was a swim parent too but other than floating in the lake I’m not an avid swimmer. I’ve heard that it’s great exercise as we age and good on the joints! Love all your observations it felt as if I was in the lane with you swimming laps but not getting wet! Hugs, C

    • I was first drawn to swimming because I wanted to keep in contact with my swim parent friends. They were swimming masters. Now I like it for the reason you mentioned. It’s easier on my joints. Plus, living in a hot climate like Palm Springs and Scottsdale, the cool water is inviting.

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