Friday, November 9, 2007

Like Anita

I came up for a breath and looked around, confused. I was sure I'd just heard someone say, "I should be dead."

In the lane next to me Anita, an elderly woman I see at the pool everyday, was talking to the lifeguard. "Good for you," he replied.

"Yes, swimming saved me."

I probably swim 6 laps to Anita's 1, but bless her, she's there. She moves her body in the water as well as she can, works to get her blood pumping and does her best to loosen her joints. Truth be told, I may swim faster than Anita, but I can completely relate to her because swimming has saved me, as well.

I come from a family of active people. My mom walks every morning and loves it, can't live without it, and goes through withdrawal if she doesn't fit it in. My brother gets on a treadmill and runs until his clothes literally (and disgustingly) drip with sweat. My dad's exercise is usually limited to the golf course, but he loves an excerise bike. Until recently, however, I did whatever I could to avoid raising my heart rate.

That all changed one Hawaiian day in July when my son, boyfriend and I decided to go snorkeling. It felt so good and natural to swim through the water in fins and I thought, "I should do this when I go home." So as soon as I returned I bought a pair of fins, some goggles and signed up to swim at the local pool.

It isn't the fanciest pool, but it is about a 3-minute drive from my house, I can usually get my own lane and the people who swim and work there are lovely.

When I first started going I was a little shy about protocol, but I soon felt like a regular. There's a lot of comradery, support and encouragement amongst the swimmers I see. Jim always has a wink and a smile for me when he swims by on his kickboard. John Michael, the lifeguard, will walk back and forth alongside me so we can chit chat. Frank relentlessly bores us with his nutritional advice.

I'm just so happy thought to have found an excercise that I look forward to and crave. It feels so good to push through the water and I've figured out what strokes are relaxing and what strokes really get my heartrate up. I used to go to my back doctor once a week but haven't been since I started swimming. And best of all, since swimming I have corrected a bothersome elevated triglyceride issue I've been fighting for awhile. Now my triglycerides are way below normal, my good cholesterol is higher than normal and my bad cholesterol is lower than normal. What does all that mean? Simply put, as my doctor said when he delivered the good news, "Your cholesterol is something most would be jealous of."

So yes, like Anita,swimming has saved me. And given my family's history of heart disease, without swimming I might soon be dead.

I never thought I'd fall in love with any form of exercise, but I feel so lucky that I tried swimming and liked it. If you're like me and dread the idea of suiting up for the gym, keep trying different ways to break a sweat. You might just find one you actually like and working hard at it might just increase your chances of living a really long time.

No comments: