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A swimmer with determined eyes stretching her arms.

Secrets of the Deep: The Ultimate Escape for Parents of Athletes

12/03/2014, 6:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

Part 2, examining the mental health benefits of swimming.


Down here, nothing can bother you.

Down here, where it’s quiet, the world is seen in a different light.

Often, there’s no light at all.

At the bottom of the ocean, no one can ask you for a ride. No one can ask you for money. No one will demand dinner be made for them.

Down here, all the problems we’re faced with in our day to day routine float away on a quiet current of bubbling water.

Last week I spouted off about a confrontation I had with a hockey parent 5 years ago in Edmonton. He probably doesn’t remember the conversation. The fact I remember the conversation is telling. 

But I don’t want to talk about hockey this week. 

I want to talk about something else. A different environment, a magical world that precious few are taking advantage of.

The swimming pool. 

No, not our swimming pool at the North Shore Winter Club. Although if you want to explore that one then I’ll be right behind you (in 6 months).

1. Developing the Major Muscles

Dealing with stress in a constructive way like swimming develops more than just our major muscle groups, it develops our patience. 

Building physical strength builds mental mental strength. As you stretch and power up your shoulders, arms, chest and your core strength, your mind will gear up in order to push your body along.

I challenge anyone to do 5 lengths of breaststroke and not feel more powerful, both physically and mentally.

It’s impossible. Pulling yourself through the water and looking the end of the pool straight in the eye will empower anyone looking for a stress outlet. 

2. Losing Weight

Adopting a weekly swimming routine will inevitably have positive effects on your health and wellness if you stick to it. In the pool, every inch of you is battling against the natural resistance of the water. Your heart pumps to sustain the firing muscles in your body and your lungs are put to the test, soaking up carbohydrate stores that would normally turn into fat. 

So, while you’re decompressing mentally, you’re decompressing physically. 

Try This:

Warm up with 5 lengths of backstroke to fire up your core. Every exercise starts from the core, so having a strong start will maximize the rest of your session. 

3. Flexibility

Swimming is a low-impact training exercise that makes it easy to move your limbs in new directions and stretch out further than normal. 

Swinging your arms over your head can be uncomfortable for many of us (especially ex-hockey players or football players who’s shoulders have taken a pounding over the years), but pushing and pulling through the resistance of the water will slowly build up your muscles and your flexibility.

Try This: 

Forward stroke for 5 lengths, or once your core and shoulder muscles are engaged.

4. Decompressing in a Different Location

Sometimes it’s important to explore new places. When we travel somewhere new, our minds are opened up like a child who just saw Dora the Explorer for the first time. Since the pool at NSWC is currently out of commission for the winter, it’s an ideal time to go somewhere where nobody will recognize you and you won’t recognize anyone else. 

This isn’t exclusive to the North Shore Winter Club. Whenever you spend a lot of time in one place pursuing an activity you or someone in your family is passionate about, at some point you're going to face a drop in energy. 

It happens, it’s natural. 

Plunging into a new environment will let you return to a familiar one refreshed and more ready than ever.  

photo credit: Sarahnaut via photopin cc

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