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?

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.

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.

A Healthy Update On My Progress

 

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Our gorgeous Palm Springs pool has reopened after replastering.

This week was fun and busy. I had lunch with a couple great friends on different days. I am so thrilled that our friendships continue through the years and different stages of our lives. They’re both inspiring women who are smart and kind. Next, I got the results of my MRI, saw the doctor and started Physical Therapy. I will work on strengthening and improving my range of motion for several weeks and go back to the doctor to schedule reconstructive surgery on my ACL. The good news is it can wait until I go to my daughter’s last home meet and PAC 12 championships. I wouldn’t want to miss them for anything! Not even for a fixed leg.

Earlier this school year, my husband and I flew to Salt Lake City to visit our daughter and watch her swim. On the flight home, things didn’t go as planned and we had to get off the plane and wait for another one, due to technical difficulties. While we waited on and off the plane, we were seated with two young women who looked like athletes—tall and fit. We got to talking and they were a former swimmer and softball player who are physical therapists and own their own business in our area called Dynamic Therapy.  We enjoyed their company and bonded over swimming and college athletics. Now, I’m visiting their office as a patient. It turns out the swimmer has been part of our team’s Masters program and I’m working on convincing her to get back into the pool.

My physical therapist said I can get in the pool—but not to swim. She suggested walking and exercise. I won’t have to wear the uncomfortable leg brace and the lack of gravity should make it easier for me to move. My only concern is how do I get in and out of the pool? The walking in water sounds like a great idea, but how do I start and how do I leave? Yes, there is the required handicapped lift, but do I want to use it? No, I don’t. I’ll see how that one goes when I get my courage up to jump in.

I also have a list of seven exercises that I’m supposed to do several times a day. I did three of them, which are done standing, but I have this fear of the ones where I am supposed to be sitting on a mat. What happens if I can’t get up? It’s not the actual exercises that are the problem, it’s my mobility in getting down and off the ground, just like in and out of the pool. Funny problems, if you think about it.

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I’m missing my morning walks but should be able to return to this view soon.

 

In any case, things are shaping up and I’m feeling better getting on track to recovery.

 

For Your Health: Just Breathe! And Act Silly!

 

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Act like a child to improve your health. You too can pretend to be Sailor Moon!

I’m beginning the New Year with a focus on health. It is something I attempt each year, to do something more and better than the year before. I started walking seven days a week several years ago, and have doubled the miles I do each day. Then, I started swimming and I definitely have improved—from not wanting to drown to swimming five thousand yards. In addition to freestyle, I’m getting the hang of breast and back, too. Butterfly is still an enigma. However, this year after I tweaked my knee skiing, my health goals have little to do with activity.

Instead, I ran across two articles that I can do while awaiting knee surgery—work on breathing and acting silly. Yes, according to these articles breathing and acting like a child can improve your physical and mental health.

When I took a prep course to pass the Series 7, a financial advisor exam, our instructor Tina from Training Consultants gave us some advice about breathing. She said during the exam, to stop every 45 minutes and breathe. She said to lift our arms to the sky and inhale through our nose, release our arms slowly and exhale through our mouth and repeat five or six times. She guaranteed a five-percentage-point higher score if we did the breathing during the test. I did it and didn’t worry about looking weird. I wanted to pass–and did.

In The New York Times “Want a Better Workout? Just Breathe” by TATIANA BONCOMPAGNI the article gives several tips to better breathing, gives some app ideas, and tells you the benefits:

 

Twice a week, often between video calls or meetings, Andrew Lowenthal takes a break from work to open an app on his phone that helps him focus on his breathing.

The payoff? Better stress management, clearer thinking at work and — to Mr. Lowenthal’s surprise — more strength and power in the gym. “It’s such a fundamental part of being human but not something that we think about often,” Mr. Lowenthal said about his breathwork.

As the executive director of Out in Tech, a Manhattan-based nonprofit, Mr. Lowenthal, 33, typically spends three to 10 minutes on an app created by Inscape, a New York meditation studio. He inhales, holding and exhaling his breath for various lengths of time according to prompts. Mr. Lowenthal said that he now exercises more regularly and takes care of himself better because of his breathing exercises. “It definitely helps me with my endurance,” he said.

Long a key part of meditation and some kinds of yoga, breathwork is now becoming a discipline in its own right, with proponents offering classes, one-on-one sessions and apps dedicated to the practice. And whereas the focus has predominantly been on the mental and psychological benefits of breathwork, fitness industry professionals are increasingly saying that it can also enhance athletic performance or speed muscular recovery after a workout.

As far as acting silly, I will always remember when we were visiting our daughter in Salt Lake City and she was cranky and angry. We tried to lighten the mood, but it seemed to frustrate her more. Then, my husband stopped at a Walgreen’s for a quick errand. A few minutes later, he sat behind the steering wheel and slipped on a big red clown nose (which he found in the store.) He turned and looked at my daughter and we couldn’t stop laughing.

I found a story on a website called StudyFinds.org, “Be Sillier For Long, Happy Life? Study Finds Key To Feeling Younger Is Acting Younger.” This article inspired me because I felt so much younger by taking up something I did as a child—skiing. However, it was short lived as my old body didn’t live up to my memories. So, I may try some card or board games instead–or just stick my tongue out at someone while waving my hands from my ears.

LONDON — It’s hard to ignore tired feet and that constantly-achy back as we get older, but a new study finds that a key to a long life of good health and always feeling younger — no matter our age — is to simply act younger from time to time.

Researchers from Healthspan, a supplier of vitamins and health supplements in the United Kingdom, polled 2,000 British adults on the effects of nostalgia and youthful behavior on mental and physical health.

Woman wearing gag Groucho Marx glasses
Being silly gets tougher as we get older, but a new study finds that acting immature is actually good for your health and well-being, and a great way to start feeling younger.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that occasionally forgetting you’re an adult and tapping into a more immature mindset — be it watching old cartoons, pulling pranks on friends, or playing classic board games — was important for their health.

 

robkatrock

Smile and don’t forget to breathe!

What goals do you do to improve your health each New Year?