Sunday, January 21, 2018

Dip into Wellness

August 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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We get wet to clean up or cool off, but taking a plunge can transform us both mentally and physically. I’m not talking about some elaborate or exotic hydropathy for our health — everyday swimming is a powerful and positive change agent.

Kaitie BrownKaitie Brown, aquatics director at the Suffolk Y JCC, praises swimming because it “uses every muscle in the body, helps to improve motor skills, builds strength, increases endurance, and gives you a grasp on breath control.”

No matter your fitness ability before you reach the shore or pool edge, Brown says that swimming for improved health is achievable. “Every individual learns at his or her own pace — in general, anything is better than nothing!”

A swim pro can help novice swimmers grasp basic techniques, “especially the front crawl and backstroke,” per Brown. She cautions those looking to improve their health not to strive for perfection but to “start slow and set a goal for yourself. If today your goal is five laps of front crawl, make your next goal seven laps. As your goal increases day by day, so will your ability.”

Shawn Slevin, the founder of Swim Strong Foundation, spends her days preventing drownings by providing affordable water safety and swim skill programs. Along with saving lives, her mission is to increase the population’s overall health through swimming. It’s no wonder she enthuses, “From a physical health point of view, swimming is the best total body workout… bar none! It’s the best cardio, pulmonary, and skeletal friendly exercise you can do, and is the only exercise we can do from womb to tomb!”

Shawn SlevinSwimmers learn by engaging their minds as well as their bodies, says Slevin. “When learning a new skill, the mind must be fully engaged to direct the body in a specific manner. This engagement needs to be keen until the new ‘muscle memory’ is developed, and then the brain is free to tackle the next skill.

“Many adults are surprised at how physically and mentally challenging learning to swim actually is. It’s no wonder they feel so accomplished when they can demonstrate the skills with competence and confidence.”

Swimming’s focus on breath is also vital, adds Slevin, “Breathing is a key pivotal skill. It can be challenging to master because we must breathe differently while swimming — in the mouth and out the nose. Most of us are natural nose breathers, but if we do this in the water, we will be breathing water, not air!”

Controlling the pace of our inhalations and exhalations moves more oxygen into our lungs and throughout our bodies, making proper breathing as intertwined with achieving wellness as moving our muscles. Add in an increased ability to hold your breath, and Brown says you can “achieve distance, time, or technique to mentally and physically challenge your body.”

Underwater portrait of coupleThe separateness of swimming is also a way to shut off the outside world and focus on self-care. Brown says, “Swimmers are 100 percent isolated with their goals, achievements, failures (and sometimes a popular song on the radio you cannot get out of your head) for an entire work out. This type of solitude, mixed with the physical demands the water requests from their bodies, helps to set swimmers’ minds straight and ‘leave it all in the pool.’”

Swimming for mental and physical wellness is not a team sport, so set realistic goals that keep you engaged and help achieve goals such as relaxation, strength, flexibility, or weight loss. “Swimmers are constantly setting and resetting their own standards and expectations to bring their skills to the next level; each person is different, so it’s hard to put a time frame on it, but adding any type of physical activity to your routine will always help,” says Brown.

For more information: and

Always consult your doctor or healthcare provider before embarking on a new or stepped-up exercise program.

By Lita Smith-Mines

webPlus_web_green1 Swimming for weight loss and swim tips for boaters

How swimming fights obesity:

Swim tips for boaters:

When it comes to tips for those who go swimming from their boats or along the shore, Katie Brown’s advice is to swim with another person and “always make sure that you’re in an isolated area away from other boats and jet skis.” Shawn Slevin says the swim with a buddy rule serves a very important, albeit grim purpose: “Even the best of swimmers can suffer a heart attack or be overcome by some other medical situation. If you are alone, you are dead.”

Beware of anchor lines that extend far beyond boats and don’t swim in a channel or other high-traffic area. Slevin says that when swimming for exercise, do so parallel to the shore. “And if you are not a strong swimmer, keep your life jacket on at all times.”

A final note from both swim professionals: If you find yourself in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable position, shout, wave, or do whatever you have to in order to catch your swim companion’s attention, and don’t panic.



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