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?

I want to be a “Scilly” swimmer too!

41788410_10212530986976171_8472671694077558784_n

The swimmers gather with their groups. Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.

I feel like I am standing still in cement while I watch my swimming friends fly off without me. I barely make it to the pool more than twice a week lately–and I’ve had to start completely over this year due to knee surgery.

Meanwhile, my Piranha Swim Team Masters’ friends are getting faster, stronger and swimming longer workouts. Not only that, they are taking on challenging open water swims like the Tiki Swim in Oceanside and the Scilly Swim Challenge in the United Kingdom, 35 miles off the coast of Cornwall.

My friends Linda and Karl, who were former Piranha and St. Theresa parents with me, swam the Scilly Swim Challenge for their second straight year. This swim challenge is a 15k swim combined with a 10k walk.

Event organizer Dewi Winkle said, “We are on year five now and 10th Challenge just completed. Nick Lishman and I came up with the idea in 2013 and we thought the islands are so beautiful and the attraction of swimming between them would be well received. We started in 2014 and have now built to three events a year with up to 150 people per event.”

Dewi said their plans include a race around St Mary’s as a relay event and a test event in Croatia in October. Currently, they have a two-day and one-day swim in September and a Spring Swim in May.

8157119-1

A map of the Isles of Scilly and route courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.

From the Scilly Swim Challenge website

Swim and Walk the Islands over one or two days

6 swims averaging 2.5 km (total 15km) and 6 walks averaging 1.7 km (total 10km) completed as a group with full safety and logistical support.

Whether you choose to complete in one or two days you will experience  the amazing swimming and beautiful scenery Scilly has to offer.

Route

The event will start and finish on St. Mary’s, the main island, visiting St. Martins, Tresco, Bryher, Samson and St. Agnes.

It’s not a race and the emphasis is on everyone getting round safely.

While you’re swimming we will transport a bag for you which will be available at the next island. You will then carry it to the start of the next swim.

Full safety support is included.

There are food stops at the end of each swim.

Wetsuits optional.

42059133_10156057234014527_8060985218896494592_n

The Kestrel, Linda and Karl’s ride for two days, at Hugh Town. Photo courtesy of Karl Siffleet.

According to Linda, her second year was easier than the first. “Coming out early to get used to the water was helpful,” she said. The water temperature was 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast, we swim in a pool with a temperature of around 80 degrees! Yes, she wore a wetsuit the entire time.

Linda and Karl signed up for the one-day swim but arrived several days early and volunteered to help out or “crew” for the two-day swim. The two-day swim allows a more leisurely pace than the one-day challenge. Linda and Karl checked swimmers in and out of the water and helped with the baggage boat. Linda said the support staff is incredible and includes “30 kayakers—they were awesome! Five safety boats (power cats) and a baggage boat.”

Swimmers can swim as much or little as they want. If they need a break they can hang onto a kayak or climb aboard a boat and go to the next island. In between, they are fed snacks and drinks.

41876597_10212536274388353_8070588843079761920_n

Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.

“There was tea, coffee, other hot drinks. Cakes, soup, salads, rolls, candy bars. Diet Coke, homemade pastry and Cornish pasty,” she said.

41830024_10212536275188373_6688716302804058112_n

Hot tea after a cold swim! Photo from Linda Burns.

The swimmers pick which one of three groups they want to swim with according to their speed. “We swam in different groups and nobody keeps time. You can swim as much or as little as you want.”  She said the groups are “Red, amber, green. Swimmers self-select which pod to swim with. Red is fastest. Karl swam amber and I swam green. I was much happier swimming in the front of the green than the middle of the amber.”

I’m sure a lot of the appeal on taking on a challenge like this is the camaraderie. The swimmers must feel so much accomplishment and bond together after their swims. I know it motivates Linda and Karl to keep swimming year round and a goal to work towards in their practices.

Like I said, my friends have been getting stronger and faster. Linda said she felt great swimming. “I felt good. I got into a good rhythm for sighting and really enjoyed it—except the several times a wave broke over me as I inhaled and I thought I was going to cough up my lungs.”

41862053_10212536275708386_2693770163399950336_n

Photo from Linda Burns.

Someday, I’d like to take this challenge, too. I don’t think I’ll be strong enough yet in May, but perhaps in a year or two. In the very least I’d like to travel to the Isles of Scilly and see this quaint, quiet and beautiful area for myself.

What motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and try something incredibly challenging?

 

5196750_orig

Photo courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.

17 Weeks, Four Days and Counting…

33944149_10156550450214612_1114497597600432128_o

I looked at a calendar to see where I’m at in my recovery from surgery. Not that I’m counting the days and hours, but I know I’m stronger and in less pain than a few weeks ago. I go to my last follow up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon next week.

I’m still going to physical therapy, but my therapist has switched me from twice a week to once weekly. I need to do my exercises at home which can be tedious, but I need to hang in there and do them. Like right after I post this I need to do my workout.

The best part of my post-op days is swimming. I rejoined Masters and I started the first two weeks only making it two mornings per week. This week, I’m proud to say, I went four days in a row! I think swimming is a life saver. Literally, because it’s the only activity I can do right now that gets me really tired and exhausted. After being laid up for more than six months, the past few weeks of swimming have been a highlight. I love the feel of the cool water against my skin, the gorgeous mountain view and listening to the sound of swimmers splashing and moving through the water. I also like reconnecting with all my fellow swim friends.

I feel like I’m starting all over. When I started Masters a few years ago, the goal was initially to be able to complete the 1000-yard warm up. I’m able to do that again, but not much more. I wore fins all the time when I first started–they were like my security blanket or training wheels. After knee surgery, it’s not recommended that I use fins, so I’m managing without. Also, I can’t turn, so I stop at each wall and turn myself around. It’s kind of funny to go so far backward, but I am making progress and feeling good and tired every day. I’m thankful to be strong enough to swim again. I realized a few months ago it was a struggle for me to make it across the living room on crutches or even get in and out of the shower. I’m grateful for my health and everything I have in my life—family, friends, and those two fur babies that are driving me crazy. It’s a good time to reflect on the little things in life.

What are you thankful for and appreciate in your daily life?

 

 

Today Really Stinks!

IMG_1148

Waffles the Pug this morning after all the action was over.

Literally. It stinks. My day began at 2:20 a.m. when my daughter texted me from Paris, France. She’s over there and wanted to ask me a question. Yes, at 2:20 a.m. because she’s nine hours ahead. I explained that I was sleeping! Then my husband woke up and we were wide awake for the next hour. She explained that she rarely has WiFi and has to text or call when she gets the chance. Lovely.

My husband got up at 4 a.m. He let Waffles the pug puppy we’re babysitting (for our daughter who is galavanting around Europe) out of his crate and they walked into the kitchen. Waffles bolted out the French doors to the backyard. Of course, I’m not back asleep yet, because they are noisy.

I heard “Waffles, Waffles! Where are you?” and then the jingle of Waffles name tag as he scampered back into the house. Next, I heard “Oh My GOD! He’s foaming at the mouth!”

I gave up trying to sleep and bolted into the kitchen, where my husband was holding Waffles and yes, he was foaming at the mouth! I grabbed paper towels and wiped out inside his mouth and tongue. Then, the odor hit me. It was like nothing we’ve smelled before. It burned my eyes and nose. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and ventured outside to find out what Waffles got into.

My husband locked Waffles in the guest bath and met me outside and we tried to trace where Waffles might have gone by flashlight.

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

“It smells like chemicals.”

“Maybe Waffles got poisoned,” I said. I ran back to the bathroom and discovered that other than foaming at the mouth and running in circles, Waffles appeared to be okay.

We returned outside and found that some parts really smelled worse than others but we couldn’t tell what it was. It permeated the air, this strong industrial, chemical burning that we tasted and smelled. Eventually, we gave up on the dark yard, and I put Waffles in his crate next to our bed. I decided to try and sleep. But, first I googled “dog foaming at the mouth bad odor” and got SKUNK! It honestly didn’t smell a thing like skunk to me, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had such a close encounter before.

I also found a recipe from the Humane Society of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. I jumped out of bed and mixed up a batch, grabbed Waffles out of the crate and did my best to wash him in the dark on the patio. I used up all the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda we had and then hosed him off. Then I heard the shower running in our bathroom, so I tossed Waffles in the shower with my husband to shampoo once again.

I fell back asleep after all of this, but I missed my morning Masters swim practice because of the timing and exhaustion. And that really stinks. Also, the house doesn’t smell too great either, because the number one rule I learned on the internet when your dog gets skunked—leave them outside. Do NOT let them inside the house.

After I woke up again, I went back to the store and restocked on the de-skunking supplies and applied another batch of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on Waffles and his crate.

Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, I have a dear friend in Carpinteria whose Rottie had several engagements with skunks. She said to simmer orange peel, cinnamon sticks and water on the stovetop all day, and place bowls of distilled vinegar around the house. The house is smelling citrusy-cinnamony now, and this stinky day will be a thing of the past.

IMG_1161

Waffles and his crate in the backyard, both soaking in hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda.

Has one of your pets been skunked before? How did you handle it?

It’s Long Course Season Once Again

33944149_10156550450214612_1114497597600432128_o

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.

IMG_5547

Sunset at our pool during a meet.

How to live longer by walking faster

IMG_0142-1

Our Palm Springs city pool.

I read some good news today in “Scientists from five universities say walking faster could add years to your life” by Quentin Fottrell, Personal Finance Editor of Market Watch. He said if you want to “prolong your life, put some pep in your step.”

 “Walking at an average pace was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%, according to a new study. A similar result was found for risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

“It’s not too late to start. In fact, the benefits were far more dramatic for older walkers. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% risk reduction, the study found.”

Now that I’m back to walking every single morning, still sporting my DonJoy FourcePoint knee brace, I found this motivating. I’m walking faster than when I began walking a few weeks ago. Now, with this information, I will pick up the pace.

In the article, Fottrell cites another study, this one from Harvard:

A recent Harvard University study concluded that you could add 10 years to your life by following five habits: eating a healthy diet, exercising 30 minutes or more a day, maintaining a healthy weight — a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 — never smoking and drinking only a moderate amount of alcohol.

In that study, the researchers analyzed 34 years of data from approximately 78,000 women and 27 years of data from more than 44,000 men. The authors predicted that women who adopted these five habits would see 14 more years of life, and men would add 12 years.

This sounds like good advice for all of us. Amazing how we literally can add a decade or more to our lives by walking and keeping a healthy lifestyle. As far as walking, I’ve found that since I’ve returned to walking around the park, I wasn’t motivated to continue my pool walking. It’s been so hot, I haven’t felt like being out in the pool in the bright sun. But, yesterday I forced myself to go to the pool in the evening while my daughter was coaching. I used the pool ladder to get in and out rather than the handicapped steps. Yes, it hurt, but what a major accomplishment for me.

I told our coach that I’d like to come back to Masters but I needed to be able to swim more yards first. He told me to come back now and not wait. He’s right. I will do what I can do. It’s so much easier to be motivated to swim if you have people to swim with. I’m looking forward to seeing my swim friends after five months.

IMG_0796

The view of Mt. San Jacinto from my daily walk around the park.

What do you think about daily walking and the impact on our health? Does it work for you?

12 Reasons Why Masters Swimmers Are So Happy

IMG_4468

Butterfly. 

I was at our local U.S. Masters swim meet this weekend. Since I cannot swim with my torn ACL, I volunteered to time for a short bit with my friend visiting from Seattle. When I walked on deck I immediately saw two grown kids, who were former swimmers with my children on the club team. They were happy to see me, and I was excited to see them and sat with their parents. It was almost as if we were at an age group meet together again to watch our kids swim. I worked my way over to my Piranha teammates, who were warming up, talked with our coach and my other swim friends. I loved seeing all my friends on deck. I truly miss being a part of the team and swimming. Although meets make me so nervous when I’m competing, I was more than okay not to dive off the blocks. Then again, I’ve been nervous at every meet where I watched my kids swim, too, but more so when I’m the competitor.

 

While I was at the Masters meet, I noticed how different it was from age group meets. The main thing I noticed was that everyone is happy. Yes, there are a few nervous swimmers. I know I am fraught with anxiety at meets before I swim. But, generally, the atmosphere is very laid back and upbeat. A friend explained it like this: “It’s more of a party atmosphere of a community of swimmers rather than the nervous energy found on deck at age group meets.”

IMG_0951

Me diving off the blocks at my first meet.

Here are 12 ways Masters meets are different than age group meets:

 

ONE
Everyone at the meet, whether it’s swimmers, coaches, or family, really want to be there. Or, they wouldn’t be there.

TWO
There are no parents yelling at swimmers who miss an event or add time.

THREE
The only person who will argue with an official after a DQ is a swimmer.

FOUR
There doesn’t seem to be that hectic feeling trying to find heats and lanes.

FIVE
Everybody is friendly and although some swimmers may be a little nervous, mostly they’re chatting with other swimmers, laughing and joking.

SIX
Swimmers feel like they’ve won if they make it off the blocks and complete their event close to the time they swam the year before.

SEVEN
Getting out of the deep end without a ladder can feel like a major accomplishment in itself.

EIGHT
You will not see a single crazy parent—anywhere.

NINE
There’s no pressure for junior national cuts or college scholarships.

TEN
Nobody is getting nervous watching you swim.

ELEVEN
Every swimmer gets out of the water with a smile on their face. You won’t see any tears.

TWELVE
Masters swimmers are happy when they age up, because they feel it’s an advantage to be the youngest in their age group.

 

IMG_5008

My daughter at a meet where she got her first Jrs cut.

If you’re a swimmer or compete in another sport as an adult, how do you find it different from youth sports?