fitness · Guest Post · swimming

I’m swimming, get out of my way! (Guest post)

Recently, and along with recent trends inspired by social media, I have taken a more dedicated approach to recognizing when my emotional climate is at risk, the waves of change it goes through and how an evolving emotional climate can affect my day-to-day. While I won’t get into any mental health aspect in this post, I really wanted to share how tracking physicality can act as an indicator for emotional climate.

I probably would never have recognized what being physically active does to me had I not taken up swimming. I started swimming in lap pools a few years ago after taking a swim cycle class. Side note: Have you ever taken one of these? It’s where you drag the spin bike into the therapeutic pool for a semi-submerged spin class. It’s quite something!

Getting into the water that day inspired me to go my local community pool, sign up for a very inexpensive swim membership, and swim laps when I can. I had swum for fitness once before and that was during a swim course in university. Before that course, swimming had always been a part of my life – just in a more casual way.

Going to that community center lap pool was challenging. The centers were difficult for me to get to, especially since I wasn’t used to winter months, and most days it just didn’t work out. However, I recently moved to a new home which is conveniently located five minutes away by foot to a YMCA. The pool there is quite nice; it is large, well-kept and there is usually at least 1 lane open throughout the day (and during optimal times, 3-6 lanes).

Before I even started swimming at the Y I bought new gear. Why? Because I was super uncomfortable in my old gear. To clarify, this wasn’t a familiar uncomfortableness. It wasn’t that I was worried about how I looked. No, for once, my gear was actually uncomfortable. My swim cap didn’t fit and it was extremely tight on my head. This combined with an ill-fitting suit and some hand-me-down goggles left me in a poor state. I’m honestly surprised I had put up with it for as long as I did.

Recognizing that my gear was actually uncomfortable was validating. When I judge myself about my body on a regular basis, knowing that I am happy with my body in the water makes me smile.

I also noticed that even with all its convenience, I still had trouble scheduling swims. I work from home, so I think it goes without saying that my daily schedule is usually unique. But, having to carve out time to go to a very convenient gym with a very convenient lap pool schedule made me realize that I was the one not prioritizing my health.

Recognizing that I wasn’t prioritizing my health was disappointing, but useful. Now, I schedule it in, and I use a habit tracker to stay on top of it.

Now, my swim sessions usually take around 30 minutes and that’s what I’ve found works for me. Since I know this about myself, I commit as much of those 30 minutes as I can to constant movement – easy or hard, it doesn’t matter. This mindset helps me to keep moving, it helps me to more accurately assess my mental and physical health, and it forces me to do one thing and one thing only (the water helps with that too).

Recognizing that 30 minutes of swimming is okay relieves me of the pressure to swim more or faster.

This dedicated 30 minutes of putting on my goggles, my cap, and being submerged in water is enough for me to ignore any other obligations I have and have a conversation with myself. These conversations are usually good. In fact, I’ll notice when they are maybe too much or distracting because I stop swimming. I usually stop swimming because my breathing is off and I have to catch my breath. If my breathing is off then I am distracted. Then I start again.

And of course, recognizing that I am distracted while I’m swimming helps me to stay present.

I also love what swimming does for me. I’m not able to be aware for every second of the swim, but it is rather supporting to know that something as simple as getting in the water can act as a type of recalibration. I don’t need any fancy doctors or medical knowledge. I just need movement.

Score! Free health care for life.

Most importantly, this form of movement has tuned me in to patterns of negative mental and physical health that seem to overtake my lifestyle. Getting back into the water helps to create a routine of swimming, where I realized that before I did not have a routine of swimming let alone self-care (and honestly, what was I doing?).

Not working out should be a major indicator that I am not taking care of myself, but that’s not how life works. This is why I now have a lifestyle coach. Okay, so it isn’t completely free health care, but it is very affordable and it will keep me dedicated to recognizing my physical, emotional and lifestyle patterns.

I think for those on this blog, using physical activity as a tool for feeling good and refreshed might be normal (right?). However, I think a large majority of people don’t see it that way, especially when it comes to being water active. In this overworked world, being active is a chore (#fitlife), while getting out to the water is called leisure or vacation. There’s a book by Wallace Nichols that relates to the transformative power of water (let alone being active in the water): Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. It’s on my must-read this.

As I woman I find that shutting off the world for 30 minutes – 30 minutes every single day – is necessary. There are so many balancing acts that I am trying my best to navigate and to un-navigate. And now, instead of having to claw my way through self-care, I can just go swimming. Swimming is easy and, for me, there’s something entirely ungendered about it.

Cami is a PhD candidate at Western University studying the ethics of women’s sports science. Her studies stem from her past as a professional volleyball player and personal trainer. Now she prefers to climb rocks, tend her vegetable garden, camp, hike, surf and play in the water.

Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash
Image description: Blue water, a yellow pool deck, and a stainless steel ladder
Guest Post

Falling ain’t that bad (Guest post)


Since my first blog contribution to FIFI in September, I realised that many of the experiences I was considering writing about were based around new experiences. From trying “spike ball” the first time, to wiping out at surfing (that one never made it on here), to my frustrations with winter running (that’s more a venty-blog – ironically, my winter running has never been better), all these activities arose because they seemed to rattle me because they were so new.

Don’t get me wrong – I know there is nothing wrong with trying new things. In fact, I’ve had a ton of fun with all these new adventures! I recently went skiing for the first time, which has long been on my list of things I need.to.do, and I am obsessed. Yes, I’m already looking out for those outdoor gear discounts so I can buy some swanky ski pants.

I seek out trying new things because I recognise the importance of continually put myself out there and being exposed. I feel a heightened sense of vulnerability when learning new activities. It’s not like I am overly bad at any of them, but trying something new, particularly physical, can be daunting. I find that’s why a lot of people don’t do much, or end up with a long list of things that I just-can’t-wait-to-do that seems to never go anywhere.

So, in the hopes that somebody out there reading this is scared to try something new, I hope that some unsolicited advice from a regular trier-of-new-things might positively trigger something in you:

  1. Everybody falls.

This one is my favourite. When we hit the slopes at the small hills just outside of Toronto, I was hoping I’d get off the bunny slopes. After learning to pizza and french fry, we went across the tracks and asked if we could upgrade to the ski-lift runs. The instructor we asked was shocked, “We don’t usually get that request over here,” he told us. We upgraded. We ski-lifted.

Once we got to the top of the ski lift, we see the small pile of fallen skiers and snowboarders and the realisations start setting in. I hop of the ski lift and catch the small hill down from the lift on both skis and my bum, because I guess I didn’t want to stand up! We laugh off our unceremonious exit, get situated, and prepare ourselves for the first hill. What we didn’t realise until later is that the ski lift we went up connected to about 5 or 6 different runs. We thought we only had the option of going down this one run – which ended up being a moderately difficult run. I was scared but we tried it anyway. I ended up stuck after my second fall unable to pop my ski back in. My friend had to sidestep back up the hill to where I was waiting and help me get the ski back on!

Naturally, my friend realized how frustrated I was and asked if I wanted to take a break. But I said no, and hopped right back in line. The second time off the ski lift was much better, and it dumped us off at a sign that let us know that we don’t have to go down the same run every time. We breathed a sigh of relief. We ended up going down the friendly (green) line, a trail to an easier downhill terrain, twice and had a lot of fun.

2. Take it in stride

After those slightly successful friendly runs, it was easy to see that nearly everyone was on their bum – and struggling to get back up since snowboards and skis are very awkward.

Skiing is one of those sports that can show anyone on any given day the reality of failure. No one is safe, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying! I like to think of my life in relation to metaphors of successes and falls, since that’s where I embody failure the most. When surfing back in September, I wiped out hard to the point where I curled up into a ball to wait until the wave past. With a dose of salt water up my nose I sprung out of the water and onto my board to beat the next wave. But that wipe out still rattled me.

For some reason, thinking of failures as falls is a bit more managing to me. Because, that’s really all it is. I fell off my surfboard, I fell while skiing, I fell off my training regimen. It doesn’t mean we are banned from trying again. I think the best way to do it is to look around you, take it in stride, and realise that we are all falling together.

3. Do it again!

One of the last things I’d like to mention is that it’s important to find little successes. It can be hard to find success when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others’ success stories. For me, getting out onto the slopes for the first time is a huge success! Wanting to go back is yet another success! The more you go out and try something the more times you’ll realise that success doesn’t have to be spectacular like breaking a brick. It can be simply trying once more to break the brick. You go, Audrey!

If trying new things scares you, make sure you do things that are familiar and comfortable as well. Familiarity is useful for your body to relax and to continue moving while not in a state of tension or high adrenaline. This also helps your body to think that the new activities are part of your routine. If trying one new activity a month is your thing – then you will start to look forward to those falls!

Image description: Head shot of Cami, a young white woman with glasses and long brown hair, smiling, trees in the background.

Cami is a PhD candidate at Western University studying the ethics of women’s sports science. Her studies stem from her past as a professional volleyball player and personal trainer. Now she prefers to climb rocks, tend her vegetable garden, camp, hike, surf and play in the water.

fitness

Playing games is more fun than structured exercise (Guest post)

On the last weekend of August, a few friends and I drove out to the south side of Lake Simcoe to celebrate a birthday. It was the first real camping trip we all did together as friends; I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I gladly took a backseat and didn’t plan at all.

Typical with camping trips there were an assortment of games. This time around the beach/camping fun including hacky-sack, frisbee, throwing a football, disc-golf, and spike ball. It had been a while since I played games like hacky-sack or frisbee, so it was fun to play again (even though I didn’t realize we were playing games so I wore pants!). I had heard of spike ball before, but I usually played volleyball. But after watching a few rounds on day one, by day two I felt ready to start playing.

Spike ball is set up with a circular net that rests on the ground (sand, in this case). It is raised about 6 inches off the sand by 6 yellow posts and holds the stretchy, black netting tight in the middle. The game is usually played with four players – two teams, standing next to each other – spaced evenly around the netting and at least 6 feet away from the net. The ball is a bit bigger than a bocce ball but is soft like a hand-ball.

Image description: Four men wearing shorts and some wearing shirts are evenly spaced around a small black, circular netting with yellow posts. One man in green swim trunks is extended in the air with this hand contacting a small yellow ball. Beach scene with a lake in the background.
Image description: Four men wearing shorts and some wearing shirts are evenly spaced around a small black, circular netting with yellow posts. One man in green swim trunks is extended in the air with this hand contacting a small yellow ball. Beach scene with a lake in the background.

To start, one player will  serve to their opposite, and the receiver must get the ball back to the net within a maximum of three touches between them and their teammate. The touches are similar to volleyball – you can only touch the ball one time in a row and then your partner has to touch it again. Once the ball hits the net, the other team must play it back. A point is scored when a team can’t rally it back, or if the ball bounces twice on the net.

The concept is simple, but is it very fun! You might find yourself scrambling around the net on the completely opposite side, or chasing down balls into the lake. We had some pretty long rallies that left us laughing and out of breath. I had a ton of fun.

When I played there were five of us playing in total, so one player would get a small break. This allowed us to play for about two hours. Lately, I’ve been spending time around my boyfriend’s friends and finding myself awkward and “unathletic” because the game of choice isn’t my forte. This is more about me putting pressure on myself! The guys were all super supportive and happy that I played with them.

Playing the games with the guys did a few things for me. It helped me step out of my comfort zone and become completely immersed in a new game. Playing spikeball also allowed me to build new friendships through a mutually fun experience. I felt welcome into the group and would feel comfortable to play again.

Aside from the game being so fun, I was constantly aware that I was the only woman playing all of the games and playing consistently. Throughout the whole trip I was the only woman who attempted hacky sack, frisbee, or disc golf. One woman played a round of spike ball on the first day, and she had fun, but she ended up leaving that night. And another woman played catch with a baseball and mitch, but nothing else.

Image description: Man in a hat, t-shirt and shorts holding a yellow ball reaching out and high-fiving a woman wearing a blue hoodie and black pants. Beach scene with seagulls in the background.
Image description: Man in a hat, t-shirt and shorts holding a yellow ball reaching out and high-fiving a woman wearing a blue hoodie and black pants. Beach scene with seagulls in the background.

Noticing the majority of women sitting around and being cold helped me to realize that  this trip was all about the play – that’s how we kept warm. Exercise does not always have to be structured or planned so I need to take advantage of all the fun, simple games that can help me stay active and happy. Overall, this trip helped me to realize how much fun the simple games can be.

Lastly, posting this blog has helped me realize how many pictures I don’t take of myself! Some of the action shots provided were from myself (the guy reaching up for the spike ball, and the hacky-sack photo).  It was fun to take action shots! I’m also excited to start taking more pictures of myself.

-Cami

Image description: Head shot of Cami, a young white woman with glasses and long brown hair, smiling, trees in the background.
Image description: Head shot of Cami, a young white woman with glasses and long brown hair, smiling, trees in the background.

Cami is a PhD candidate at Western University studying the ethics of women’s sports science. Her studies stem from her past as a professional volleyball player and personal trainer. Now she prefers to climb rocks, tend her vegetable garden, camp, hike, surf and play in the water.