As you might have seen, there’s a fitness challenge going on here at ScienceBlogs. A few years ago, when I first started blogging here, my non-participation in any fitness-related activity would have been a safe bet. But that was then.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize that the numbers coming off the blood pressure cuff were not actually figments of the doctor’s crazed imagination. I’ve also started to recognize that the number “2” should not be appearing in my weight twice, and it probably shouldn’t be the first digit in the number. I’ve finally acknowledged, in other words, that I’m not that young anymore, and not that immortal.
And I’ve been working at a gym.
That’s working as in employed, not working as in “working out”. When we relocated to Alabama, I discovered that, for a number of reasons, the hours and schedule for lifeguards at the base Physical Fitness Center was the job that best matched our family circumstances. That means that I’ve been spending an average of 40 hours per week at the pool.
Adding some workout time to that wasn’t too hard. This is good, because although I might be a lifeguard, the only way I’m going to get close to the Hoff’s bodytype in the near future is with photoshop. I’d already decided that I need to get into a shape that’s not round, so when Ethan proposed a fitness challenge, I actually took notice.
Some people might like calisthenics, and some might like free weights, but neither of those is my kind of thing. On land, I’m all about the machines, because the machines let me multitask my way through the workout – the thing that I hate the most about exercise is knowing that I could be doing something else that interests me a lot more. But that’s the minor part of my exercise plan. Mostly, it’s about the swimming. (Go figure.)
If you’re looking for a whole-body workout that will get your pulse rate up without putting undue stress on your bones and joints, you might want to think about swimming. A good swim workout will simultaneously work your arms, legs, and core. Kick-boards, fins, pull buoys, and paddles can be used to focus effort on specific parts of the body, and you can set workouts that will build strength, endurance, or both.
If you do decide to start swimming for fitness, I’d suggest a few things. To begin with, I’d suggest that if you don’t know how to swim at least three of the four basic competition strokes (breaststroke, front crawl [aka freestyle], back crawl, and butterfly) you look for an instructor. It’s not as easy to injure yourself swimming wrong as it is if you’re lifting free weights wrong, but it’s far from impossible.
Like any other form of exercise, you should start off slow and build up gradually. Swimming can look deceptively easy, but swimming too hard for too long can be just as painful an experience as overdoing any other form of exercise.
If you have the time to swim regularly, and swim well, you also might want to look into masters swimming. Even if you’re not interested in competition, there are a lot of benefits. There should be someone there to help you develop your form, and the workouts will be designed to accomplish specific goals. Swimming with the same group of people is also good, particularly if you need a little motivation.
The important thing is really just to do it. I’m going to try to keep working out through this year, and keep writing about it. In the short term, my goals are:
- Work out for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, every day. I’m not always going to have time to swim a full 30, and I’m definitely not always going to have time to get over to the gym side of the building, so I’m going to use a very, very simple definition for ‘work out': activity that elevates the heart rate to at least 125% of my normal resting rate, and keeps it elevated at least that far for the duration of the exercise.
- Drop weight. I’m not looking to lose weight fast, but I’m looking to lose a lot. I’m going to start by increasing the exercise, and as I get used to that, I’m going to start changing my diet. My thinking is that I’m trying not to make too many changes at once. Instead, I’m trying to develop healthy habits a little more slowly, and give each major change time to become part of a new normal before I add another one.
- Improve my swim endurance. It’s not too bad right now, but there’s definitely room for improvement. I can swim breaststroke comfortably for long distances without stopping, but I’m not as comfortable with the front crawl.
- Lower my resting heart rate. Again, it’s not hideously bad, but there’s definitely room for improvement.
Anyone else have fitness goals to share?