The benefits of open water swimming

It’s aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

Swimming is an all-body workout. It strengthens your muscles, heart, and brain. It’s better than any medicine out there.

Swimming is gentle on the joints. It’s the opposite of running, which is like putting your knees and hips through a meat shredder.

You can’t bring your phone into the water, so it’s a forced disconnect. No checking your phone when stretching or taking a breather.

It’s brain yoga. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the water that keeps your lizard brain firing. Will a shark eat you? Is the swell or current knocking you off track? Is that a fish or a turtle? A dynamic environment keeps you in the moment and gets you out of future thinking or past thinking.

Swimming in cold water requires more energy from your body to keep you warm and regulate temperature. That’s a workout in itself.

You will meet like-minded people and build a community over time. That’s good for your mental state mind.

Living close to the ocean is good for your health and longevity.

After the swim, you get to have a hot cup of tea and warm up.

Go.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Pexels.com

Choppy shallows

I never swim late in the day because the water is darker and fewer people are out. But today, the later afternoon was the only time I had.

The wind had picked up, and the beach was empty. I was tempted to turnaround and leave. I finally saw someone else in the water, and I decided to head in.

I was still nervous and hugged the shoreline. It’s comforting when I can see the bottom, and I have an exit strategy even if it means clambering over the rocks. I was getting pushed around by waves in the shallows, and the visibility sucked. It was exhausting. I realized I was paying for my anxiety.

When I turned for home, I decided to go deep and swim out into the deeper water channel. Everything inside of my head and around me calmed immediately down. The swells were more spaced out, and the visibility was spectacular. I got out of my head and focused on one stroke at a time.

There’s a tax to mitigating risk. My mitigation was swimming close to the shoreline, and the charge was a bumpy, murky ride. No fun. Once I was more comfortable, I didn’t have to pay that tax anymore, and I went deep. It paid off that afternoon.

If you de-risk your life, be prepared to pay the tax.

Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

Ball machines are predictable

It’s easier to criticize or dole out advice than it is to do. If people don’t have skin in the game or consequences of a decision or actions, then their opinion doesn’t mean much. 

It’s the same as getting advice from a highly paid consultant who has never run a company day to day. Everything always looks simple and obvious when the outcomes are academic. Academic recommendations don’t factor in real-world dynamics that are unpredictable and filled with unknowns.

Getting academic advice on how to implement something in the real world is like practicing tennis on an indoor court with a ball machine. At the end of an intensive tennis training camp with the ball machine, I’m sure the error rate will be low, and the person will have a stable backhand. Now take that same person and put them on a tennis court in the middle of a sunny day with a breeze. See how their tennis game deteriorates when they are serving with the sun in their eyes and their opponent charges the net after returning serve. Ball machines are consistent and predictable. Real-life is the antithesis of predictable.  

Instead of asking for advice, ask for shared experiences and draw your conclusions. If a person doesn’t have any shared experiences with the task at hand, then press mute and move on.

Believe in someone

Imagine this clip wasn’t about sport. Imagine it was about academics and encouraging a young kid at school. It’s a little hazy now but I can’t recall ever hearing a teacher talking like this to me or anyone else when I was at school.

Marry someone who believes in you, work for people who believe in you. Then pay it forward and make sure your kids or young people in particular hear that you believe in their potential.

The ocean of life

I spent some time in the sea this summer, and it reminded me that the more acquainted I become with ocean swimming, the more respect I have for the ocean. I found some sage safety advice from Michael Christie and Australian ironman Craig Riddington on staying safe in the surf. I couldn’t help but chuckle and think that this information may as well apply to most things in life.

I’ve taken Michael’s points and added more context and color in italics.

Know your limits as a swimmer. Oceans aren’t swimming pools, and every swim is different. Understand the bail out areas. Know and understand your beach.

Never panic. Always keep calm. When you panic you start using up precious energy that you’ll need to get back to shore. Panic clouds your judgment. I’ve seen people swim in the wrong direction because they get disorientated.

Time entry and exit to set waves. Timing is everything. The ocean is more powerful than you. Take a walk on a beach sometime note the massive trees washed ashore. That’s raw power. Don’t fight it, go with the flow.

Go out on the rip current. Study your surroundings. Don’t fight the flow. Go with the flow. An Olympic swimmer will lose one-on-one against a strong ocean current.

Come in on the sandbank. Surf in on the waves, feel the sand under your feet. Just because you see the shore doesn’t mean you can swim straight in.

Swim a maintainable pace so you:
Keep your breath. Breath slowly, stay calm and feed your body.
Keep your energy. Don’t burn calories worrying. Pick your exit, don’t fight the ocean and go with the flow
Keep your courage.

Come on in; the water is warm.

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain

I picked out some gems from a Terry Gross interview with British neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli first set out to study Alzheimer’s because of his grandfather died of the disease. It’s worth a listen.

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. When we exercise, the brain releases a protein called Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF. BDNF acts as a fertilizer for the mind and can aid the growth of new neurons and new synapses. Next time you work out you are doing some gardening on your brain.

A Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s. So eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Cook with olive oil and cut back on the red meat.

The spice turmeric has been seen to be a super good for brain health. Get going with the turmeric lattes and learn to cook with the spice. It pops up in a lot of Indian food staples. Another natural reason to eat more Indian food.

Compounded benefits

Nine women can’t make a baby in one month. It’s an overused phrase in business, but it’s still a goodie. The sentence is typically a response when someone on the project team asks if more people will accelerate the timing of the project. More doesn’t always equal faster.

Got a beach holiday planned this summer? Doing 200 sit-ups the day before you hit the beach isn’t going to get you that flat tummy. You’ll probably strain a back muscle in the process though.

Want to get a clean bill of health during your annual physical? Staying off sugar, not drinking booze and cutting back on red meat for one week before the blood test isn’t going to help your cholesterol levels.

Are you saving for retirement? Living large and waiting for a liquidity pop or a lottery ticket to play catch up when you are older is a risky move.

Some things you have to do every day. Slow and steady. Be patient and find joy in the day to day rituals. Most things in life compound over time. Start with a little bit every day, and it’ll grow over time.

Mushin

The difference between the first time you do something and the next time is incredible. Muscle memory kicks in after a couple of times. Repetition increases confidence and creativity, and it’s easier to get into the concentration flow. With enough repetition you don’t think anymore you just do. In martial arts, this mind state is called Mushin. It comes from the term mushin no shin which means the mind without mind. This flow state is possible anywhere whether it’s hiking, exercising, working, playing. Rinse and repeat.

Blue fire belly breathing

Here’s a breathing tip

Sit in lotus pose or if it’s more comfortable then kneel on the floor. Relax your body from head to toe, and slowly start belly breathing. Inhale and exhale through your nose.

Imagine a small fire at the base of your belly. Every inhale of fresh oxygen fuels the flames. The exhale relaxes your tummy and lets the light expand. Inhaled fuel the fire and exhales loosen up the body. Grow the fire by inhaling until changes from yellow to orange to blue. The flame is so big now that it needs more space. Your exhales are turn blue as the heat escapes your body and fight more space around you. Keep feeding the fires and feeling you tummy becomes warmer and looser. Wind it down slowly with slower, and longer inhale. Expel the blue flame with your last exhalation. Sit and feel the warm afterglow permeate through your body.

Done.

Keep moving

Take a moment to reflect on some of the toughest days in your life. The moments  where you wanted out, but that wasn’t an option.

In the darkest hour, sometimes the only way out is through. You’ve made it. Keep going