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A man in a wet suit swimming underwater.

Why Swimming is Vital to Humanity

05/13/2015, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

What do neanderthals and deep sea free-divers have in common?

 

When I was growing up I hated swimming lessons with a fierce passion. I refused to go. The environment was weird, the instructors strange and the other kids peculiar. 

I never did figure out why I detested swimming. 

Until now. I hated swimming because it was just about the furthest you could possibly get from hockey. Here was a bunch of kids in bathing suits and nice, quiet coaches telling me to jump in a ten foot pool of dark water with no real instructions about what to do when you inevitably sink to the bottom. 

As a five year-old, I’m pleased to report that swimming taught me I was a human being.

A twitchy, introverted human being. 

Here’s why swimming is important to human beings everywhere. 

Swimming Defines Limits

You can’t breathe underwater. Swimming is like a governor on a car, it lets you know the limits of human capabilities. However, athletes in every sport are hell-bent on breaking those barriers, as is evident in people who push themselves to survive for longer and longer stretches underwater without the aid of scuba gear. James Nestor is one of those people, and the only place he’ll find his answers is the bottom of the ocean

“They hold their breath for as long as 11 minutes. But why would they want to?”

Swimming Teaches Discipline 

In addition to teaching us not to stay underwater for too long, the sport of swimming teaches how to shape our bodies as well as our minds. Competitive swimming is an all-encompassing sport that requires countless hours of training and strict adherence to nutrition habits and sleep patterns. It’s an all-in sport; either you go all the way or you’re left on the shore. 

Swimming discipline helps us learn:

  • specific strokes 
  • training and living habits 
  • complex muscle memory 
  • breathing patterns

Imagine swimming to the point of utter exhaustion - where everything burns and your mind is screaming at you to stop - and continuing. Swimming teaches us to push though and persevere, a lesson we’d do well to adopt on dry land.

Swimming Reminds us of our Primal Origins

You heard it here first: the healthiest neanderthals were good swimmers.

While they may have lived in caves for the most part, our ancestors lived near water and over time overcame their fears to use it as a resource. Indeed, the alpha male of the tribe did well by bringing home fresh catches of seafood for the horde to gorge themselves. We didn’t have webbed feet so it might not have been naturally immediately, but we made it work in order to survive, either to find food or as a defense mechanism

What I mean is, no sport on Earth reminds us where we came from moreso than swimming. All you get is your body and the water, the rest is up to you. To win races you need to operate your flailing limbs in conjunction with your breathing while staying relaxed and maintaining a consistent stroke rhythm. It sounds tough, but if a caveman can do it?

Well then so can you. 

Swimming Exposes Us

To ignore the impact of swimming on self body image would be irresponsible. We all want to look like Michael Phelps, but swimming is a quick way to learn to be happy with what we’ve got. Truly, the image we project of ourselves is not the image others project, though the former is all that truly matters. Swimming is about being happy with who you are while working on steady improvements. Kinda like life in general, right?

Although, a healthy self body image won’t win any gold medals. In swimming there’s nowhere to hide - if you’re lacking in a certain stroke the results will speak for themselves. You either win or you lose, there’s no in between or rewards for effort. Sure, you might feel good about yourself after a good attempt, but swimmers want to win. That’s what the sport is all about. 

So who’s jumping in the pool with me this summer?

*twitches uncontrollably*

photo credit: Triathlon St Cyr CKT 2010 (33) via photopin (license)

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