What helps you when you’re in a bad mood?
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?
This is a photo I found of Caeleb Dressel from last year. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a seven-time Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder. I remember watching him swim years ago at meets with my daughter. They are the same age and he’s one of the top swimmers in the world.
I read something very encouraging. It was from the Wall Street Journal and here was the opening paragraph:
When are we our fastest, strongest and most creative?
Elite swimmers peak in their early 20s, powerlifters peak at 35 and equestrians later still, on average. Creativity peaks either very early in our careers or later, depending on how we think. Our ability to quickly absorb facts reaches its zenith in our late teens, while our vocabulary skills crest in our sixth decade.https://www.wsj.com/articles/heres-when-we-hit-our-physical-and-mental-peaks-3b0f9a01?mod=trending_now_news_3
This article is called: “Here’s When We Hit Our Physical and Mental Peaks: Even when we’ve peaked in one endeavor, we’re likely getting better in another written by Clare Ansberry.
I especially like the bit about our vocabulary skills improving into our sixth decade. That gives me hope.
Economists, sports scientists and psychologists have analyzed Olympic performances and chess matches, as well as thousands of online quizzes to determine the average age when people peak mentally and physically. They are trying to understand how our brain and bodies work and if there are lessons on strengthening each. Checkmate Chess players’ performance rises sharply until the early 20s and peaks around the age of 35.
The good news is that while we may have peaked in one endeavor, we are likely getting better in another.
“At every age, you are getting better at some things and worse at others,” says Joshua Hartshorne, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College, who researches how various cognitive functions change with age.
I didn’t realize at the time I posted the photo above of Dressel (which I did because of the first words of the WSJ article “elite swimmers,”) that after almost a year off from swimming he swam at US Nationals last weekend. For swimmers, who practice six days a week, often two practices a day — a year is a lifetime.
He left the 2022 World Championships in Hungary while the meet was still going on. Everyone thought that was odd and the explanation was health reasons. Michael Phelps was one of the first Olympic athletes to talk about his struggles with mental health. I listened to Phelps discuss his battle with depression at an event and I wrote about it HERE.
Dressel returned to the pool at U.S. Nationals this past weekend, and from what I’ve read he feels like he’s in a good place and happy to be back. Although he didn’t make the US World team and was seconds off his best times (which as a sprinter is another lifetime) he has his sights set on 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. His coach and teammates say it’s the happiest they’ve seen him in years and his presence on the team is a huge plus for everyone.
Back to the article, above. I think it’s encouraging that although we may lose some skills as we get older, other ones get better as we age. I’m also happy for Caeleb Dressel that he was able to rekindle his love of swimming and took the time to get the weight of the world’s expectations off his shoulders.
Here’s an article from Sports Illustrated from called Caeleb Dressel Is Finally Content.
What are your thoughts?
A jade plant I bought myself the other day. I’m hoping the bunnies stay away from it.
I made a commitment that July was going to be a self-care month. It’s because I have a physical, blood work, EKG and minor surgery scheduled throughout the month.
Why not be the best I can be and pass all my tests with flying colors?
My husband and I embarked on a new schedule. We’re up before the sun rises to get out the door for a three-mile walk. Add to that, we’ve been consistently going to the YMCA for swims three days a week.
We’re taking a cacophony of supplements which I have no idea if they are helping or not. I’m cutting out excess sugar, starch, wine, diet coke — and my beloved white cheddar cheetos (once the bag is empty of course.)
The new early morning schedule makes me tired. I keep thinking I’ll get used to it, but between the wee early mornings and heat, I feel exhausted.
Then add to that, my vision is fuzzy. I have trouble reading books, looking at the computer, and spotting my golf ball. I had my annual eye exam and my optometrist sent me to an ophthalmologist to schedule a YAG procedure. It’s a simple and easy laser treatment that should restore my once perfect vision.
Right before COVID shutdowns, I had cataract surgery. I was born with extreme myopia and astigmatism. My Rx for glasses and contacts was a -16. In case you don’t know, that’s really, really bad.
Then things got worse. My growing cataracts had me seeing three stop signs stacked like a pyramid. And yes, I was driving!
Fast forward to cataract surgery and it was a miracle! I came out with 20/20 vision. I only needed a slight correction for astigmatism and reading. That was Winter of 2019 — but now things are fuzzy in my right eye. Today things were really extra fuzzy. I held my glasses up to the light and discovered the lenses were smudged. Oops.
According to the doctors I’ve seen, a membrane grows over the implanted lens and a quick laser treatment will get rid of it once and for all. I was surprised to learn that this happens to 40% of cataract patients!
Sunday, July 2, my second day of self care — I woke up with a pulled muscle in my butt! I’m stumbling around in pain and skipped my morning walk. July 1 we swam, so maybe I did something then? Who knows. So far, my month of health is off to a rocky start.
What special plans do you have for the month of July?
Every morning my husband and I get ready for our walk around 5 a.m. to avoid the heat. We don’t make it out the door for at least 30 minutes, needing clothes, clean teeth and coffee!
Consistently, we see one other couple out early. We say “Good morning!” “What a beautiful day,” and usually walk on.
During the weekend, my husband stopped to ask about their granddaughters who are swimmers. They told us their oldest signed with Northwestern and their youngest is getting calls across the country at top colleges. They talked about how they did at CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) where swimmers compete for their high school teams and how they were top finalists.
“Our daughter was a multiple CIF Champion,” my husband mentioned. Yes, she was. That’s a memory I’ll look back on with pride.
Our neighbors talked about a meet they just returned from in Northern California, the George Haines International Swim Meet. Yes, we’ve been to that meet, too. It’s filled with top swimmers including Olympians from the USA, Europe and Mexico.
Here’s a video I took of warm up from the George Haines International meet in 2017:
The conversation with our neighbors brought back so many memories from the days our kids swam. Busy days traveling to meets, staying in hotels, sitting with favorite parents on the stands. Each morning we wondered what the day would bring.
I felt a little sad and melancholy after talking to our neighbors. I’m glad we were a swim family. But there’s no going back to those days. On a sad note, the team our kids swam with from kindergarten through high school folded a few weeks ago after more than 50 years. I couldn’t count the hours we spent volunteering and supporting our team.
My daughter celebrating with her relay team at the end of a swim meet.
What memories from days past do you think about in a happy or melancholy way?
My daughter leaning on a block, cheering on a teammate who was trying for her first NCAA cut at the PAC 12 swimming championships.
One of the things I like about the resort we visit in Mexico is a super hot jacuzzi outside our patio with a cold plunge pool next to it. We spend the evenings going back in forth between the two.
I’m not alone enjoying this sensation. I read in the Wall Street Journal that a new home trend — besides backyard bars — is cold plunge pools.
In an article called “The Hottest New Home Amenity? ‘It’s Brutal.'” According to reporter Jessica Flint, “Homeowners are spending tens of thousands of dollars to outfit their properties with cold plunges.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Most mornings after Stephen Garten wakes up at his home in Austin, Texas, he goes into his backyard and starts pacing, preparing himself for what’s next. “It’s brutal,” says Garten, 37, the founder and CEO of social impact company Charity Charge. “It’s a real challenge every day.”
He’s talking about lowering himself into a 66-inch-long and 24-inch-wide stainless steel tub clad in customized zebrawood and submerging himself up to his neck in water that he sets at 39 degrees Fahrenheit, with water circulating at 1,400 gallons a minute. “It’s like being in a river,” he says of the flow rate produced by this particular vessel, a Blue Cube cold plunge.
It’s an experience that Garten typically tolerates for less than two minutes at a time, once or twice a day. And it comes at a price of $19,000. Blue Cube, based in Redmond, Ore., makes cold plunge units that cost between around $18,000 and $29,000.https://www.wsj.com/articles/cold-plunge-for-the-home-a836fe17?mod=re_homes_substory_pos2
I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pricey addition to the backyard. Fortunately, our pool only gets a little morning sun and even though it’s June — it’s still pretty cold. Of course not 39 degrees cold, but inviting after sweating during my morning walk! In the winter, it’s cold enough I stand waist deep after a hike on our nature trails. It helps get my legs back under me.
I have a friend from college who lives in Sun Valley, Idaho. Her husband said they have a snowy creek behind their house and he gets in and lays down after working out! Wow!
It reminds me of my daughter’s swimming years. Starting in high school, she’d have an ice bath after prelims. Finals would be in the evening and to get her legs back in shape we’d fill the tub in the hotel with cold water and ice from the ice maker down the hall. She’d get in with some sound effects and sit waist deep in ice water!
Afterwards, she lay on the ground with her legs up against the wall.
Ice baths and cold plunges have been used for years by athletes. Now the trend is going mainstream and the health benefits include less joint, muscle pain and anxiety, boosted energy and more focus.
The good news is you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to reap the benefits. All you need is a tub with ice and cold water!
What are your thoughts about cold plunge or ice baths? Have your tried it? If so, did it help your with pain, sore muscles or stress?
When our kids were young swimmers on the Piranha Swim Team in Palm Springs.
Sandy Beach in Puerto Penasco
Saturday we started out with a huge walk on the beach. The plan for the rest of the day was to hang out on the beach, swim, float, read and relax. Then we’d go out for a dinner at the $15 prime rib place. We’d be leaving early Sunday morning to get our daughter-in-law Buff to the airport in Phoenix so she could fly back to Northern California.
Once we were in our bathing suits and packed our books, towels and waters, I came up with the idea to rent a pop-up tent from vendors on the beach. Shade would be a welcome addition to our day and would allow my husband to join us. His pale Irish skin is adverse to sun.
The first couple hours were heaven. We were out in the ocean together floating, bouncing over the small waves and feeling fabulous.
Eventually, my husband said he had enough sun and headed back to the condo. I sat on a towel reading in the shade, while Buff stayed in the ocean. Like my daughter said, “It’s impossible to get her out of the ocean.”
After another hour, she came running to the shade of the pop-up tent.
“I got bit by a crab!” she said plopping down on a towel, holding her foot in a panic.
I looked at her foot and their were welts below her little toe wrapping around the side of her foot.
“I think it’s a stingray,” I said.
We had experienced stingrays in Laguna Beach years ago when my husband got stung.
“I’ll go up to the condo and get hot water,” I said. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.
“Bring Advil!” she said.
I ran up to the condo and yelled to my husband, “Buff got stung by a stingray.”
We heated up three to-go cups of water in the microwave and made our way back to Buff.
She was writhing on the ground in pain, surrounded by people. Paramedics had arrived by beach motorcycle and I handed them the cups of hot water.
They motioned for me to stand back and one held her foot while the other gave her two shots in the foot. They applied a cream and then took my hot water, soaked gauze in it and wrapped her foot.
My husband asked what was the shot. The paramedics didn’t speak English, so the guy renting pop-up tents translated. It was lidocaine.
We helped Buff up to the condo and put her feet in the tub. My husband heated more hot water as hot water poured out of the faucet. She was somewhat okay until the lidocaine wore off, which was a mere 15 or 20 minutes.
I ran back to the pop-up tent and gathered our things.
The next two hours were spent heating water and helping Buff through excruciating pain. I felt like a mid-wife with my daughter-in-law giving birth. It was that bad.
Hot water kills the toxins but it has to be at least 110 degrees, so that in itself is painful. My son was on facetime telling me to get a thermometer so Buff wouldn’t scald her feet. I tried to explain that we were in Mexico and I couldn’t run anywhere closeby for a thermometer.
I went through this same stingray ordeal with my husband years before. The lifeguard told me to get hot water and explained that it would ease the pain as it killed the venom. I rushed up to a nearby coffee shop and got cups of hot water. The lifeguard said most people go to the ER, because they can’t tolerate the pain. My husband refused to go to the ER and I drove him back to our hotel with him hyperventilating in the car and me afraid he was going into a seizure. Our kids were scared to death.
I kept asking Buff if she wanted to go to a hospital, but none of us were that keen on going to a hospital in Mexico.
My husband, having gone through it, recalled the pain would ease up in about 90 minutes to two hours. He said after that, if she was still in pain, we’d take her to an ER. We were also frantically on google which substantiated our decisions.
Like clockwork, the pain eased according to schedule. We were all exhausted.
“Now you know how to get me out of the ocean!” she said.
It was paradise, until it wasn’t!
Have you ever been stung by sea creatures? If so, what type of creature? What are your thoughts of swimming in the ocean versus lakes?
Here are two bits of music we enjoyed. The first was next to the El Camaronero statue downtown, the other at the pool bar at the condo. I suggested we sit there for a few minutes hours after Buff’s pain subsided to end our trip on a better note!