Who Benefits the Most from Volunteering?

33944149_10156550450214612_1114497597600432128_oI gave up part of my day to volunteer at the Piranhas Masters meet. I was too chicken to sign up to swim. I haven’t done a meet since pre-knee and eye surgery.

I took on a new writing job for trade magazines in the last few months that has me chasing deadlines and sources — even through the weekends. Maybe I shouldn’t have been there and should have stayed home and worked.

But, I went and feel so good about helping out, cheering on my teammates and friends.

Two things that stood out today:

The first heat I timed, my lane had a 98-year-old woman, who needed help to get on the blocks, who dove in and swam a 200 free. I said to my teammate and friend sitting next to me, “What was my excuse again for not swimming?”

Then there was the 20-something-old autistic young man who doesn’t function well in day-to-day life. I watched as he got up on the blocks, dove in, swam amazing underwaters, gorgeous strokes and won events with personal bests. His friend and coach told me he’s part of the US Paralympic Team. Although he doesn’t function in the “real world” he gets the pool. It was beautiful to watch. The support he got from his competitors was amazing, too. Everyone was on his team.

Volunteering was exactly the medicine I needed to feel fulfilled, connect with my community and get away from the stress of deadlines.

I recently read about the benefits of volunteering from several articles. Here’s one I read called “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” from a website called Help Guide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness. Here’s the link and an excerpt:

Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. Learn how to find the right fit.

Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.

Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier

  1. Volunteering connects you to others

  2. Volunteering is good for your mind and body

  3. Volunteering can advance your career

  4. Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

    16387450_10155016389794612_6785187209915237532_nWhere do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it?

Staying On Track When You’re Overwhelmed

IMG_0140Do you ever wonder why sometimes life is slow and easy and then bam! We get overwhelmed with everything that has to be done at the same time? I’m feeling that way today. I’ve made it through days of cleaning and cooking for our Christmas crowd, reclaiming my house by washing sheets, towels and putting away the decorations.

Now the New Year is flying by. I’ve got lots of work to do and am trying to take a deep breath before I freak out. Here are a few of my secrets to keep me calm and on track:

ROUTINE

I try not to mess with my established routine. For going on six years, I have followed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and it’s served me well. I start the day with three pages of journaling, a long walk and prayer. Even when I’ve got tight deadlines or a crazy schedule, there’s no way I’ll cheat myself of this time to get my head and body refreshed and ready for the day.

SWIM

Exercise is so important to staying stress free and to keep your mind clear. Unfortunately I have let go of swim practice when I’m too busy. It’s my New Year’s Resolution to be consistent with three practices a week. I’ve got a good start to January and I’m not going to blow it now.

PRIORITIZE and ORGANIZE

Figure out exactly what you need to get done and let go of the other stuff. When I’m juggling a bunch of projects at once, I figure out what is most important. If I do the harder tasks or work I don’t want to do first, the rest is easy. Getting the clutter out of the way helps, too. My daughter is big on color coding her work and putting it on a white board or calendar. I’m going to try color folders for each of my projects so I’m not searching through papers on my desk.

WORK AHEAD

When I have a few minutes of free time, I work ahead. Last week I was waiting on work, so instead of surfing the internet and reading news online, I made a list of everything I needed to get done for this week — and jumped in on it. Lists are my saving grace. I start each day with a list of to dos and work my way through the day. Then, I make a list for the next day, and start in on that, too.

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Views from my morning walk.

What are your methods to stay on track and focused when you’re crazy busy?

Food for Thought and Recovery

Back in the pool is my New Year’s Resolution. I’ve swam three days a week for two whole weeks and we’re not even into the second week of the year! I noticed, however, that I am not recovering. I feel tired afterwards and the next day, too. My daughter told me, “Make sure you drink some chocolate milk as soon as you get home!” Well, I forgot and after I showered and got dressed, I headed off to the grocery store, feeling weak and famished. “Shoot, I forgot the chocolate milk.” There was a Halloween-sized bag of M&Ms in the car, not quite chocolate milk, but I downed them thinking they’d be better than nothing. 

That incident reminded me of a story I wrote about nutrition and recovery a couple years ago:

 

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Nutella stuffed 1/2 cronuts. Food for thought?

I called one of my mentor swim moms, who has advised me all along the way from my son’s first swim meet in 2001 to navigating college recruiting years later. She worked as a dietitian years ago, and I wanted her input for a SwimSwam article about what kids should eat at meets. I asked a half dozen more moms what their kids ate at meets because we happened to be at UCLA and USC swim meets watching our Utah kids compete.

After I wrote that story, that you can read here, I thought, “Yikes! I do not practice what I preach!” I’m finding it harder to recover after a workout and perhaps if I looked at my own diet, I would feel stronger.

I’m swimming consistently three days a week, and after I swim I get so hungry. I have a tendency to believe that because I made it through a tiring swim practice, that I can eat whatever I want. Most often, I make terrible choices including a #1 meal at Taco Bell (taco and burrito supreme) or fried chicken! Seriously, what am I doing to myself?

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At USC for a swim meet.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s okay to eat unhealthy now and then. But this has turned into a habit to reward myself after a healthy workout with fattening food that lacks much in nutritional value! It’s totally unproductive.

I discussed this with another mom via text. This mom is crazily fit and works out for hours every day. She had some great tips that I’m incorporating into my daily life that she promised would improve my muscle recovery.

AVOID SUGAR AND CARB LOADING

“I’ve actually been learning to fuel my body with fat. However, I’m not a swimmer so I would not begin to offer advice. But, after doing research I started limiting my carbs to less than 50g/day and saving them until dinner. During the day, I fuel my body with healthy fats. I’ve noticed a huge difference! Swimmers need a lot of energy but they won’t get any energy from sugar.”

PLAN AHEAD

“Have a plan. Know what you’re going to snack on after practice. Prepare eggs and a meat before you leave for practice so that it’s ready when you get home and you won’t eat the ‘worst stuff.’ Plus, the protein in the eggs will assist in muscle recovery. Or have peanut butter on a rice cake. But the important thing is to have it prepared so you can grab it right away.”

HOW ARE YOU FUELING YOUR BODY?

“Also, when eating your snacks, look at it and determine how you are fueling your body for recovery and the next day’s workout. That’s what keeps me honest with myself.”

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At my first meet a year ago with my good friend and fellow swim mom, Linda.

Yesterday, after practice I had a half banana and a hard boiled egg when I walked through the kitchen door. I was able to make it through until dinner without fast or fried food and I feel less sluggish and tired today. I’m curious to see how this plan works for me and if I’ll feel stronger after a few days. After all, I have my own swim meet coming up this month!  I’ll let you know how it goes.

What do you eat after working out?

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At UCLA last Friday.

 

New Year’s Resolution Going on Five Years!

Palm Springs Aquatic Center where my kids spent their youth.

The home town pool.

Five years ago in April, I joined Masters. It was my New Year’s Resolution, but it took me months to get up my nerve and dive in. This year, my number one resolution is to get back to consistency with my swimming. I’m starting with three days a week, rain or shine. I went way backwards thanks to my eye surgeries this fall and my ski accident two years ago. I am sporadic at best.

Yesterday, I celebrated New Year’s Eve with my Piranha Masters in a swim-a-thon for Angel View Crippled Children’s Homes. It’s a nonprofit that doesn’t take tax dollars and provides homes and care for people who are too intellectually disabled to live at home. They have a home for life. I’m so proud that our Masters raised more than $20,000! It was a special way to start the year and be part of something so good. What a way to start a new decade!

Here’s the story I wrote in 2015 about joining Masters:

I tried something new this week. I’ve been thinking about it for months. In fact, it made my New Year’s Resolution list. Yet, it took me until April to get started.

I joined masters! Yes, I got in the water with a group of strangers and a coach. This is the first time I’ve been in a pool with a swim coach since I was 10 years old. It brought back a few scary memories from my childhood. Like, not being able to breathe during a 200 meter freestyle test, where I had to swim four long laps in a row. I think I was around 7 years old and I thought I’d never make it. I was pretty good at the sidestroke though, so I switched to that, and the coach let me get away with it.

oldswimI gasped for air on Tuesday, my first day. I began breath-holding and I thought I’d sink. I also was sure I’d be kicked out of the pool, I was that bad. Or, that I’d drown. The coach assured me he’s never kicked anyone out of masters, nor has he lost a swimmer. It appears my fears were unfounded.

It got better. The coach gave me a drill to work on my breathing and I worked through it. I went back again on Thursday and will try again today. One of the satisfying things about swimming is you can make progress pretty quickly. Hopefully, my strength will come, too. I feel like a weakling—which I am. If I stick with it, I’m bound to get stronger. I’m talking a friend into joining me, too.

My daughter with her first swim instructor.

My daughter with her first swim instructor.

Another benefit of swimming is that it makes you so tired! I’m definitely sleeping through the night, after I swim.

Sometimes it’s fun to try something completely new. Get out of your comfort zone and you’ll find out it’s not that scary out there after all.

Make a list of things you’ve always wanted to do. Take a painting or dance class. Go to a movie alone. Hike. Whatever it is on your list, give some new things a try. It’s not too late and you might have fun.477145_10200347112424226_867714522_o

Jump in with both feet and get wet!

To swim or not to swim.

To swim or not to swim.

 

What new activities are you going to try for 2020? What’s your number one New Year’s Resolution?

Back in the water

Last January, I made my way back into the pool, after my epic failure at skiing. Today, I went to Masters and it was fun to compare where I was a year ago. Unfortunately, my attendance has been hit and miss lately due to travel, guests–and I’m a wimp when it comes to cold weather! And we’ve had a cold and wet winter! This morning it was 39 degrees on my morning walk–and in the 50s at noon Masters, with the pool a cool 78 degrees. This may sound like whining to my friends stuck in 15 inches of snow back home in Washington–but hey, this is Palm Springs! It’s supposed to be warm, even hot by now.

So, today I was able to swim the 1,000-yard warm-up and a mini set that Coach Jeff gave me. (It’s nice to have personalized workouts tailored for my post-surgery self.) I wrote the following story at the end of January last year. I have come a long way in a year–it’s not that bad! Hopefully, I’ll make more progress as the months go by.

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The view from my walk today–in the pool.

Yesterday, I walked on the pool deck at the Palm Springs Swim Center to figure out how I could manage to get some exercise walking. Since my recent ACL injury from acting like a young hotshot skier in Utah, I’ve been missing my morning walks and my Masters’ group swims. I was told that I can’t swim right now, but I could walk. So following the advice of my amazing physical therapist, I decided that I should try walking in the pool.

I have been worried about walking up and down the normal swimming ladder, found on both sides of the pool. So yesterday, I went to investigate and found two options:

 

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These lifts are required at every public pool in California.

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This is the option I used.

The steps were easy, the handrails are put exactly in the right spot. I had no problem getting in and out on my own—without asking one of my lifeguard friends to operate the seated lift. They told me they would. But, I was glad to not need their assistance.

Next, I walked a full 30 minutes following the “heel first, weight-bearing flat foot, push off toes repeat method” that my PT has had me practice. She was right, the pool feels so good. The lack of gravity makes me feel like I can walk and walk.

The views were incredible. My knee was moving and the only trouble I had was watching other lap swimmers. I was ready to plunge in head first and take off in a nice easy freestyle. But for right now, I’ll enjoy the ability to walk without pain, the gorgeous pool views and lifeguard friends. It was spectacular today and I’m so blessed. Hey, it’s January and it’s not that bad!

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These are the stairs I was nervous about.

What are you thankful for today? I’m kind of liking the smell of chlorine on my skin.

Have You Read This “Life-Changing” Book?

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Me and my friend Cindy.

Four years ago my best friend Cindy gave me a present. It was a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It took me a while to open it up and dive in, but Cindy kept pushing and prodding, explaining how this book is magical and life changing.

Doesn’t that sound a little crazy to call a book “life changing?” It did to me. But Cindy told me stories about how the book changed a few of her friends’ lives. It led them on entirely different life and career paths that proved to be more satisfying and creative. At the time, I had quit working with my husband as a financial advisor and was facing my empty nest with both kids away at college. I learned the secrets the book offered—morning pages, prayer or meditation, and daily walks. I incorporated each into my daily life and Voila! I saw changes. I made a routine for myself—and best yet, I stuck with it.

Soon after starting my morning routine, I started this blog, submitted a story to SwimSwam.com, rewrote a mid-grade novel, began a project writing the history of Southern California Swimming with the website socalswimhistory.com. I also dove in and learned to swim myself and joined U.S. Masters Swimming.

Looking back on reading the book The Artist’s Way, it was life-changing for me. My writing projects have multiplied and my biggest problem right now, is not spreading myself too thin. Writing my morning pages, walking and praying keeps me grounded. On the rare occasion I have had to miss my morning routine, I feel at odds with myself — a little off like something isn’t quite right.

It dawned on me to buy another one of Cameron’s books and the title I chose was Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance. It’s more of the same, but pushing me further along my path as a writer. Then, I sent The Artist’s Way to both of my kids. I have no idea why it took me four years to share this gem with them. I just spent a week with my daughter, and we took our daly walks together and we sat at her dining room table writing in our journals.

My son called me this morning and said he had begun his morning pages today. The book says to write three pages every morning when you first wake up. It’s a brain dump of getting rid of all the little worries, fears and negativity that you’ve carried over into a new day. By eliminating all this garbage, or writing down what worries you—or even the tasks you need to get done—you become free. You’re free to see the creative forces and beauty around you. My son said although he found the spirituality in the book a little “90s” he thought the book had some really good stuff in it.

I’m sharing this with the hopes that whether you’re an artist or not, read The Artist’s Way. Give it a try and see how it changes your life.

Have you read The Artist’s Way and how did it change your daily life? I’d love to hear your story.

It’s Long Course Season Once Again

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Long Course at our pool.

I returned to swimming Masters and although I’m amazingly weak and slow, I’m thrilled to be back. I like the summer schedule and the fact that it’s Long Course. For non-swimmers that means the pool lanes run the length of the 50-meter pool, as opposed to across the pool, which is 25 yards for Short Course. I remember a few years ago when I began swimming Masters, I’d never go on Saturdays because it’s Long Course. Now there’s Long Course throughout the week–and I’m there.

I actually prefer it. Even though I’m recovering from knee surgery and I can barely swim 30 minutes without getting exhausted, there’s something about how good it feels. I find a nice rhythm and my mind has more time to think and wander before I hit the wall. I feel like I’m swimming more as opposed to pushing and bouncing off the walls back and forth like a ping-pong ball.

Last week was my first day back to the US Masters Swimming program with Piranha Swim Team since December. Of course, that’s because of the great ski vacation I had early January that ended with a toboggan ride escorted by the Ski Patrol at Alta, Utah. Anyway, last week I could only swim 500 meters without feeling winded, exhausted and my knee hurt. Today is Monday of week two, and I felt stronger and made it 900 meters.

It’s great to be back, and our coach was right. Returning to Masters and being with my swim buddies is motivating and will help me recover faster, as opposed to going on my own. I strongly recommend joining a Masters team to anyone, regardless of their swimming ability.

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Sunset at our pool during a meet.