I started a new approach to exercise today: swimming. And I have learned that I have some way to go before I can call myself a strong swimmer.
At the start of the new year, I made a promise to myself to make the lifestyle changes it will take to get into better shape. I've not made a resolution to lose weight; I think it more useful to resolve to change the way I do things in a way that may result in weight loss.
I started strong, adopting healthier eating habits and increasing my levels of activity. My sciatic troubles, though, have reduced the activity side of that equation. I just can't stay on my feet as long as I'd like. At least, not yet.
Instead of my habitual walking lunches, therefore, I've decided to jump into the 8-lanes and try swimming for exercise at the Dover YMCA. I've been a member for years and I've tried to get into the weight room for the treadmills or the weight machines at least a few lunches each week.
Today, I took the the pool-exit from the locker room and joined the ranks of the swimmers.
Not without trepidation, though. The pool is a whole new place, with its own rules and traditions. I was ever so slightly worried that I might offend the regulars.
In the locker room, I ran into two older gentlemen who I have often seen at that time of the day, coming out of the pool while I get ready for the weight room. Today, I asked them for any tips on the etiquette of the lane-swimming set. They were most helpful, outlining the "way to be" in the lane-pool in a few short suggestions.
And they were inspiring. One of these fellows is probably in his 70's. He suggested picking a number of laps and keeping that number in mind. Start slow. Rest when you have to. But keep going. Eventually, that number will increase. He had just finished 70 laps, he said.
So I, like fool, started fast, going right into a lap of my old head-up, life-guard style Australian crawl. Too fast. I slowed down a bit, mixing in a slow breast-stroke, some relaxed back-stroke, and a sidestroke.
I swam for 20 minutes. My arms felt like lead. My legs were tired and my heart rate was elevated. But I was able to get some exercise without aggravating my sciatic nerve.
And I didn't drown. That's important.