WATER BABY

Get­ting into the swim of things may be as good for you men­tally as phys­i­cally. Rebecca Field Jager takes a dip

ZOOMER Magazine - - FITNESS -

THE LIGHT dances be­low the sur­face of the pool. Once I fall into my rhythm, the world slips away, and I am lost in the de­li­cious noth­ing­ness that comes with swim­ming lengths. I have no weight. Sounds are muted. And the water, but for its re­sis­tance, is barely per­cep­ti­ble against my skin. My mind slows to an easy pace. I am, in the ver­nac­u­lar of fit­ness buffs, in the zone.

“The water holds you in a dif­fer­ent way than the earth can,” says Cana­dian swim­ming icon Mark Tewks­bury, who, among his many ac­co­lades, cinched gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games. “It’s in­cred­i­bly med­i­ta­tive.”

Un­for­tu­nately, the day I in­ter­viewed Tewks­bury I had messed up and was late. Day­light sav­ings had kicked in the night be­fore and, while my com­puter and cell­phone ad­justed au­to­mat­i­cally, my house­hold clocks did not. There I was, try­ing to fig­ure out what to make for lunch, when my email dinged.

Just mak­ing sure we are on for to­day around now …

Damn, I thought, re­al­iz­ing my mix-up. I was 17 min­utes late! What’s wrong with me? How can I be such an id­iot? Why am I so …?

And then it hap­pened. A sense of calm washed over me. I made the call, apol­o­gized and got on with the in­ter­view. I credit the save to my daily swim rou­tine.

Here’s the thing. While no one en­joys mak­ing a stupid mis­take, for some, it’s like water off of a duck’s back, whereas for peo­ple like me, it’s akin to an oil spill. Even a low con­se­quence blun­der can leave me coated in icky feel­ings that cling for hours, some­times days. To help com­bat this, I’ve al­ways tried to do some sort of fit­ness rou­tine, but it wasn’t un­til al­most a decade ago, after mov­ing across from a lo­cal com­mu­nity cen­tre that had a pool that I be­gan swim­ming laps. Once I was fully into my rou­tine, I no­ticed that I experienced a sense of well-be­ing that tran­scended the en­dor­phin rush I had with other car­dio work­outs – a state of be­ing more in line with what my yoga friends raved about. It made sense. Low im­pact. Con­trolled breath­ing. Sub­dued stim­u­lus. All that and, for me, a life­long affin­ity for be­ing in, on or un­der the water.

Canada has one-fifth of the earth’s fresh water and the longest coast­line in the world so, like many kids across our na­tion, I grew up with ac­cess to places to swim. My home­town, North Bay, Ont., is sit­u­ated on two lakes – the large, warm and shal­low Lake Nipiss­ing and the smaller, cold and deep Trout Lake. Swim­ming lessons were prac­ti­cal, af­ford­able and of­fered at the pub­lic beaches of both lakes, so sum­mers for my sib­lings and me al­ways in­cluded ad­vanc­ing our swim­ming skills. Rain or shine and with only the threat of light­ning as a cat­a­lyst to can­cel an end-of­ses­sion test, we took the plunge, and I have fond mem­o­ries of grin­ning like a carp with chat­ter­ing teeth as my mother con­grat­u­lated me and wrapped me in a towel.

MYLOVEOF water ex­tends to swim­ming pools. I re­mem­ber hang­ing out in my back­yard lis­ten­ing to the splash­ing and laugh­ter com­ing from the neigh­bour’s and pray­ing for an in­vite. When my own kids were lit­tle and we were set to pur­chase our first home, I re­fused to consider any­thing that didn’t have an in-ground pool. And more recently, when I was on the hunt for a condo in to­day’s com­pet­i­tive down­town Toronto mar­ket, I rode out many a miss and waited two full years to fi­nally land one in my dream build­ing – the one with the siz­able in­door pool. I’m not ex­actly a master of self-dis­ci­pline, you see, and if there’s one thing I know about me and my ex­er­cise com­mit­ments, the closer I am to the venue, the more likely I’ll fol­low through.

In­ter­est­ingly, Tewks­bury doesn’t swim reg­u­larly but ap­plies his wealth of self-dis­ci­pline to ex­er­cis­ing as well as run­ning Great Traits, a lead­er­ship and devel­op­ment train­ing com­pany he co-founded with Olympic coach Deb­bie Muir. Cer­tainly, the pull of the water never leaves him. At the Rio Olympics last sum­mer, where he was part of the CBC team, he de­cided to do laps after a stress­ful day. But since step­ping off the podium and re­tir­ing al­most a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago, Tewks­bury has filled his life with try­ing new things.

“Let me put it into con­text ,” he says. “I joined a swim­ming pro­gram when I was eight years old after watch­ing the Mon­treal Olympics and think­ing I want to be part of that. But for the next few decades, I was never al­lowed to do any­thing else.”

Also, he said, as some­one who grew up swim­ming com­pet­i­tively and as part of a team, he found it dif­fi­cult to swim recre­ation­ally and alone.

I get the alone part. Com­pared to the other ac­tiv­i­ties I’ve par­tic­i­pated in – vol­ley­ball, dragon boat rac­ing, curl­ing, run­ning groups – my daily dips are very soli­tary.

They don’t have to be, says Sandy Oliver, 76, a Toronto woman who didn’t learn how to swim un­til she was 40. Hav­ing al­most drowned when she was a child, she was pet­ri­fied of the water and, al­though she made sure her four chil­dren took lessons, she her­self stayed on the side­lines. But then, re­al­iz­ing she was miss­ing out on the fun and a way to stay fit, she en­rolled in a Scared Skinny pro­gram of­fered at a nearby YMCA. From there, she joined Masters Swim­ming Canada (MSC), and it changed her life.

MSC is a not-for-profit group es­tab­lished in 1971 that pro­motes swim­ming for adults at all skill lev­els from new learn­ers and up. To date, there are some 10,000 reg­is­tered mem­bers aged 18 to 105 and more than 250 clubs across Canada. Find­ing a club is as easy as go-

in go nm asters swim­ming canada. ca. While fees and pro­grams vary, es­sen­tially all clubs of­fer lessons, coach­ing, group swims if you just want to do laps in the com­pany of others, in­vi­ta­tional meets, and pro­vin­cial and na­tional com­pe­ti­tions. The Cana­dian Masters Cham­pi­onship is held an­nu­ally with com­peti­tors, their fam­i­lies and friends gath­er­ing in a host city, tak­ing over ho­tel rooms, tour­ing the town and, of course, cheer­ing each other on. Su­per keen­ers head off for the in­ter­na­tional masters meet.

Oliver, who be­longs to the Thornhill Masters Aquatic Club, com­peted for years on all lev­els of com­pe­ti­tion, ac­cru­ing many medals and a wealth of self-es­teem. Fit­ness-wise, her ef­forts have been re­warded with a con­sis­tent ideal weight over the past three decades, low blood pres­sure and a vi­tal­ity that those who meet her re­mark upon and fu­els her to take care of her home and gar­den.

Al­though she’s proud of her phys­i­cal ac­com­plish­ments, it’s the so­cial as­pects of the pro­gram that she holds most dear.

“I’ve met so many peo­ple and made so many friends, not just here at the club but from all over the place,” she en­thuses. Her coach and the owner of Thornhill Mul­ti­sport, Ian Feld­man, at­tests that the ca­ma­raderie felt among mem­bers sur­prises those who may have joined sim­ply to get or stay in shape.

“You put a group of peo­ple to­gether reg­u­larly who share a com­mon in­ter­est and goal, and friend­ships nat­u­rally de­velop whether it’s strik­ing up con­ver­sa­tions in the locker room, hang­ing out around the pool or go­ing out for a drink after­wards.”

For me, while I value my alone time in the pool, adding a so­cial el­e­ment has its ap­peal.

It might be nice to see the light danc­ing be­low the sur­face of the pool with a kalei­do­scope of new friends.

THE GEAR

In­te­grated un­der­wire and strate­gi­cal stripes give sup­port, while side pan­els add a slimming ef­fect. Blue La­goon Finja one-piece, Rosa Faia, Anita Canada, www. anita.com/en_­global LAP TIME

PLAY­ING POOL A 15-cen­time­tre in­seam al­lows for just the right amount of move­ment and mod­esty. Bull­dog Roc Pool Pho­to­graphic mid-length swim shorts, Or­lebar Brown, Holt Ren­frew

SOAK IT UP

Post work­out, soothe your mus­cles and aid cir­cu­la­tion with a bath in­fused with min­eral salts. Au Nat­u­ral Dead Sea Bath Salts with Av­o­cado and Ar­gan oils, Beau­ti­tude, beau­ti­tude.ca

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