The park near my home where I’ve been walking Waffles.
I have two big changes in my “new normal.” One, because our city pool hasn’t opened up yet, I finally dove into our backyard pool to swim. It’s too short to do more than ten strokes, so I ordered a swim bungee cord that connects to a velcro strap that goes around my waist. It took me a day or two to figure out this is really good exercise — although I don’t swim as long as I would at Masters in the city pool. When you swim against the bungee, it’s resistance training and I get really sore!
I’ve done five days of swimming and I’m making progress. My back and arms are killing me. I should have started this 88 days ago, but hey I’m doing it now! When I take off the contraption, I feel free like I can fly through the water. This has to be good for me in addition to my daily walks.
The second big change comes tomorrow. My girl and Waffles the pug have decided to return to their lives in the Bay Area. I do know this is for the best but wow. I am going to miss them both. I’m getting a little teary-eyed at the thought.
One of the blessings of this horrific pandemic has been the time we got to share together while sheltering in place. It gave us time together for several months that I doubt would have ever happened without COVID-19. I’m happy for her to move on with her life, but yes, I’m going to miss her and Waff.
Waffles on my lap. I’m going to miss this good boy!
Five years ago, I joined US Masters swimming. I swam with the team I’d been a part of for 15 years as a swim mom. I wanted to try Masters for years, but I was too chicken. Finally, I jumped in. I wrote about my first day of practice five years ago this week:
The home town pool.
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.
I 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.
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.
Jump in with both feet and get wet!
To swim or not to swim.
I cannot wait for the pool to open and for my Masters group. I want to see my swim friends, coaches, and experience the wonderful feeling of floating and moving through the water.
What do you miss most during the shelter in place?
If I could go back in time, say 15 or so years, I’d do things differently as a parent and a swim mom. I’ve loved every minute of being a swim parent and truly believe that signing my kids up for our local club, the Piranha Swim Team, was the single best thing we’ve done for them. Sticking with the team through ups and downs was a plus, too. Not only did my kids become crazily physically fit and skilled swimmers, they learned to never give up through tough times—whether it was an illness, a plateau or learning what a new coach expects.
So what would I do differently? Here’s my list:
One Not focus on performance.
Sometimes, I get way too caught up in big meets and best times. I wish I could kick back, relax and enjoy the little moments more.
Medals at a meet.
Two Not get involved in parent drama.
Like most sports today, where you find a bunch of enthusiastic and involved parents, there’s bound to be some drama. If I could do it over, I’d never take sides or get involved. At times, I didn’t have a choice because of being on the board. But, the drama and problems we lived through don’t amount to beans, anymore.
Three Realize everybody is different.
Not every swimmer has the same drive or goals. Not every family is going to focus their lives around the pool. It’s okay for some kids to skip practice and have other interests besides school and swimming. I’d be less judgmental if I got a do over!
Four Not compare my kids to others.
When my kids were young and new to swimming, it was common for us to compare their progress to other swimmers. That led to upset feelings all around. Looking back on it, things that seemed so big at the moment, were only a fleeting moment in time.
My son learning to dive with the swim team.
Five Enjoy every moment of the process.
The years go by so quickly. The friends made with other parents, coaches and officials are ones to treasure. Enjoy it all.
What would you do differently as a swim parent?
Back when my daughter liked her green fuzzy robe better than the team parka.
This week I received an email from a mom of a nine-year-old swimmer who wanted to know how to help her child after she missed the cut for a big meet. This is something I know all too well. I talked today to my daughter and son about it and they definitely remembered those days, too. My son said, ” That was my life!” Here’s a link to the SwimSwam.com article “Ask Swim Mom” I wrote. It also reminded me of this post I wrote five years ago!
One of the most important things they learned is perseverance. That stick-with-it never give up attitude that is ingrained in their brains after years of trying for swim goals and just missing them. Then trying and trying again and again until they make them. The very nature of swimming 50 weeks a year, six days a week, makes kids tough.
I’ll never forget my daughter’s frustration of missing her junior national cut by fractions of a second for two years. She didn’t give up. She worked hard. She would still miss.
“Are you kidding me!” She said looking at the scoreboard to see her missing the coveted junior national cut by mere tenths of a second after dropping three full seconds on an 800 meter freestyle race.
The next race, she said, “I’m so done with this!” She dove in with more determination than ever, and yes, she made her cut, dropping seconds on her 200 meter free and coming in second place to one of the fastest girls in the country.
So, what does all this have to do with life? Take her hardest class, AP Stats. She knows that she can do it. She just has to put in the work and time. That may mean getting up and into the classroom at 6 a.m. for extra help, rather than staying warm tucked into her bed. But, she does it — all on her own — without me suggesting it. Her teacher told me, “I know that she will do whatever it takes to be successful, so I am not worried about where her grade is today.”
My son also swam. He worked so hard for every goal, trying to qualify for meets through ten years of year-round swimming. I’ll never forget his determination as an 8th grader. I was a chaperone for his Washington DC trip with his class. He knew he’d be missing too much swimming, so he would run up and down through the Mall, up and down the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, while everyone else strolled. At night in the hotel, he ran the gray cement staircases, up and down the five flights.
When he returned to the pool, he did it! He made his first Junior Olympic time.
Now he’s in college and he knows how to persevere. He wanted to work at the campus radio station. He put in his application as a freshman and was declined. As a junior he has been assigned a time slot on the FM station, moving up from his prior show on the AM.
He wanted to be in the College of Creative Studies, “a graduate school for undergraduates.” He applied and was devastated when he was declined. I told him to move on, it was okay, get a ‘normal’ degree. But, he didn’t give up. The next year he applied again and was accepted. Learn more about the UCSB CCS program here. Just click.
I’ve had friends ask why my kids spend so much time in the pool, aren’t they missing out?
I beg to differ. Spending most of their lives in the water has served them well. Being mostly wet has given them skills for life.
Photo credits: The Palm Springs, CA Pool — one of the most beautiful views while swimming ever. My daughter diving wearing the yellow cap. Yellow-capped swimmers sometime at some club meet. And a great meme for a distance swimmer.
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.
A map of the Isles of Scilly and route courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.
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 experiencethe amazing swimming and beautiful scenery Scilly has to offer.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.
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?
This past week, I experienced so many emotions, from numb to raw. It was the end of an era for us as our daughter experienced another milestone. I reflected on how much swimming has been a part of our lives. Since she was five and our son eight years old, swimming has been a common thread.
One of the biggest emotions I felt was pride. It’s amazing that through some tough times and disappointments, she stuck with it. Through illness and injury, she doesn’t feel she ever reached her full potential in terms of speed and success. In all honesty, she didn’t swim as fast as she potentially could have. But as far as success, she gained it in leadership, grit, friendships, and hard work. She learned that life doesn’t happen in a straight line upwards from one success to success, or joyous occasion to the next. There are tough times in between to make the good ones count.
Swim moms at the PAC 12 Champs.
Our son was with us and he also felt so much pride in his little sister. He said watching the meet made him realize how much swimming meant to him and how much he’d like to be a part of a team once again. He decided to focus on music and academics and gave up on swimming before college. We were blown away by the races which included the greatest athletes in the world. We watched in awe as American and PAC 12 records dropped right and left at my daughter’s last meet. My son kept saying, “This is amazing that my little sister swims in the PAC 12.” He hadn’t been to a conference championship meet before to watch Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel or Abbey Weitzeil, to name a few of the amazing athletes competing. Having him stay with us in a hotel room for a few days brought back memories of the many meets we traveled to as a family. I’m proud of him and the kind and considerate person he’s become and felt comforted having him by my side.
Getting ready for the final swim.
I steeled myself against getting too teary-eyed—that’s where the numbness feeling crept in. The only time I had to wipe my wet cheeks was during the last 50 of her 1,650. The final race. I was touched beyond belief at the extent the other team parents went to honor the seniors and the parents—especially the moms. One created the most original, personalized necklaces just for us senior moms which lit up with red hearts pulsing with our daughter’s names and photos included. The rawness came in when I’d have moments of being overwhelmed by trying to keep it all bottled in.
A truly special week, which I’ll never forget. Thank you swimming–for giving our family so many memories together as well as giving us amazing friends.
What recent milestones have you experienced with your family?