Monthly Archives: February 2016

10 Important Life Skills I Learned From Swimming

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. ” – Albert Einstein.

After some time pondering this quote from Einstein, I realized that Einstein was not just referring to a game of sports, but also life and work experiences. My lifestyle choice as a swimmer started when I was around 12 years old. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere and swimming, just meant cooling off in the river on our farm. The farm was too far from town in order for us to be High school day students. Going to High school meant boarding school.

In my first year of High school, I did gymnastics, but hurt my ankle and I felt doomed as I really would have liked to take gymnastics further. Physical Training back in the seventies meant just that – all kids in the school regardless of ability had to run around the field, play rugby, do athletics, swim, gymnastics, hockey and whatever other sport was available. (I believe nowadays it is optional in schools to play sports).

The school’s swimming pool did not have heaters, which resulted in swimming being a summer-only activity as the winters were quite cold. There was also no swim team 1978 and in general, most of the female students looked for a way out of swimming. It was not the case for me – I was in heaven as soon as my body hit the water.

This is where my love for water and swimming started. At first, it was just swimming for the hour odd during PT. Our routine in Boarding school included afternoon rest, study hall, an hour of sport, showering, dinner, late study and lights out – of course for each activity a bell rang. As a water addict, the hour of swimming in PT was just not enough for me. I wanted more, so when all the athletes went to the athletic field, I went back to the pool on my own to get some more training. There were no Coach, no program, just the pool and endless laps which I swam.

Soon the two sessions a day were also not enough and I started staying after school for the rest break before study hall. 45-minute training session, rush off to make study hall just in time. The Western Province in South Africa is a very hot and dry place in summer. We did not have the luxury of air conditioners in study hall, just those huge roof fans that go “Whoop, whoop” all the time and barely cool anybody down. Swimming for 45 minutes before study hall was great – while everybody else was sweating, I felt refreshed and could concentrate on studying in the heat.

One day during one of my training sessions, a teacher arrived at the school’s swimming pool with her two boys, aged around 7 and 5. I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach (the type you get when you are in a lift) when the teacher arrived and I thought she was going to report me to the Boarding school’s Principal. To my surprise, we started talking and she said that she completed a coaching course, so if I want to, I could train with her two boys. That was music to my ears. The rest became history.

That was 37 years ago. The only times that I did not swim in these 37 years, were when I had injuries, broke fingers, a broken leg and expected my baby. Oh, not to forget the times I left at 2 am for work and got home only at 21:00 pm that night as a representative. Needless to say, I took to the pool at every opportunity I could regardless of the circumstances, depending on pool availability of course.

Reflecting on this lifetime of swimming, professional life and now the job title of Swim Mom, I realize that swimming brings more to the table than just being active, feeling good due to exercise and, of course, controlling weight. Swimming success leads to other success in life. You just need to love the sport and in my opinion, it will contribute to your lifestyle, career and everything else in the following ways:

  1. Set goals and objectives and work towards achieving it.
  2. Plan your life and live your plan.
  3. Do not procrastinate.
  4. Keep records and interpret results.
  5. Adjust your plan if and when needed.
  6. Swim faster and you have more time for rest – work smart and you will have spare time for personal pursuits.
  7. Do it properly, then it is easy – whichever task you undertake, normally, if you work smart and work correctly it makes the job easier. If you execute strokes correctly, it will make the distances you have to train easier.
  8. Keep your routine.
  9. Do what you love.
  10. Enjoy whatever you do and the results will speak for itself.

How Does Swimming Help Your Fitness?

How does swimming help your fitness level?

Do you recall the feeling of looking for something that is lost? Maybe you feel victimized or plagued with the responsibility you may have shirked. It is not fun admitting you made a mistake of misplacing the item. Perhaps you feel embarrassed or in jeopardy with accordance to your loss. This can be similar to no knowing if swimming can help your fitness. You may hope it will work, but are uncertain and that can leave you feeling crazy.

Your hope can be realized through learning about swimming. When watching swimmers swim, it looks so easy and effortless. It seems like you wouldn’t gain a great workout. But, the opposite is true. Swimming has turned other athletes into a more dynamic and overall fit person. It has been known to increase their abilities in other areas. Swimming uses different muscles than the muscles you use on land. This enables the body to become a fearless force to be reckoned with.

My first attempts at swimming were pretty pathetic. I didn’t even want to put my face in the water. After struggling along, I finally got the hang of if it. But, that wasn’t the end. Swimming laps takes a tremendous amount of energy. It is easy to burn many calories. Practicing weekly, helped me to improve my form and thus made it easier to glide through the water.

How Does Swimming Help Your Fitness?

  • Swimming uses your lungs to their biggest capacity. This helps you to increase your cardio which is good for burning fat calories.
  • Your heart rate will increase as you add laps. This will build up a stronger and healthier heart.
  • You use muscles that you don’t normally use when on land. This working of the muscles, tones and builds them in a lean way. The bulkiest muscles you may encounter would be the shoulders and the trapezius muscles that connect the neck to the shoulders.
  • There is always room for improvement. As you get better, you can increase the laps and your speed. This means that there is no cap on your fitness. You can keep increasing and keep going further and faster.
  • To have correct form and glide through the water efficiently, you need to use the large muscles. Your core is what moves you forward. The legs help to propel you and your arms are for guidance. Your core muscles will develop rapidly as you use them the most.

9 Ways to Make Your Runs Easier

Runs, as wonderful as they are at times, seem to be more difficult for some people. If you are one of those people, check out these 9 ways to make your runs easier.

1. Shoes

Do you feel pain on your feet mid-run? Or does your feet feel hot and get tired easily? Most likely, the problem is with your shoes. Running becomes harder when your feet either gives up on you or is being subjected to a lot of stress. Worn-out, as well as incorrect shoes, can definitely do that. Let your feet be as comfortable and safe as possible. For example, wear shoes based on your gait. Choose shoes which are made of breathable materials. If you want to try something different, pick up a pair of Diadora running shoes. The Italian brand is known for quality and technology. Lotto, another Italian brand, is also a good option.

2. Rest

Like any hobby or sport, too much can burn you out. If you feel that runs are becoming harder, especially after pushing yourself even more, then it’s time to rest a while. Rest will not just heal your tired muscles but refresh you, so you’ll be energized for your next run.

3. Find Your Training Time

Sometimes, how you perform is based on the time of the day you feel most comfortable. For example, not everyone is a morning person. And some people are too exhausted to run after work. So it’s important to know what schedule fits your needs. You may have to experiment at the start by running at different times, but it will be worth it when you find your comfort zone.

4. Get the Right Fuel

Not eating the right foods and dehydration can easily wear on you when you run. Eat healthy foods and complex carbohydrates before and after your run. Make sure you’re properly hydrated as well. Of course, there’s no better drink than water.

5. Run for a Purpose

Running for the heck of it may work in the short-run, but it may be different in the long run, especially when factors like schedule and repetition sets in. Running then becomes harder. Make runs easier by having a purpose. It could be about losing weight or staying fit. Another good reason is charity. You can find a lot of runs where proceeds go to a good cause. A purpose becomes a motivating factor for you to run.

6. Shorten your stride

Over-striding is a sin when you’re running. It may seem like you are getting more out of your run, but you’re actually tiring yourself out and setting you up for possible shin injuries. Shorten your strides instead.

7. Crank Up the Music

Get an ‘Internal rhythm’ by using songs. Use the beat and time to prep you up during the run. You can sing (out loud or just in your head, if you’re shy) and before you know it, you’ve finished a portion of your run. Does finishing half a mile in 5 minutes seem daunting? Play a five minute Imagine Dragons song (or BeyoncĂ©, depending on what you like) and conquer your run. However, let the music motivate you and not distract you.

8. Run with someone (doesn’t have to be human)

A good conversation and added motivation from a running partner can really help make a run easier. Most likely, you won’t even notice you’ve covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Mind you, a running partner doesn’t need to be an actual person. A pet dog-or a seriously obedient and athletic cat-can make an excellent running partner.

9. Pick a Good Route

Nothing like a good running route to give you an easier time. Pick a scenic place so it’s easy on the eyes. A smooth route is also good for your feet.

5 Tips for New Runners

Learn 5 Tips for New Runners

Want to live a healthier lifestyle? Drunkenly agree to run the local 5k? Want to impress the woman next door?. Ultimately I chose to run simply because I want to live a healthier lifestyle. Like many people, I wasn’t sure where to start aside from simply tying up the old sneakers lying in my closet and start running. Let me share my 5 tips for new runners.

If you are like me you turned to the internet to try and find some place to start. Well if you type “beginning running” into a search engine, you will quickly be overwhelmed with information and ideas. I wonder to myself how can something so simple end up so complicated. Well several months, many tantrums, and a great deal of frustration later, I wanted to share the top 5 tips from one new runner to another.

Invest in a proper pair of running shoes

This may seem obvious, but I cannot overstate how much trouble you can save yourself by taking 30 minutes to work with an associate at your local running store. They will review your running stride and many times record it so you can see the mechanics of your feet as you run. Who knew that some people’s feet naturally roll outward when the foot lands (Supination) and other’s roll inward (pronation). I certainly did not. After a few minutes with an experienced runner, they were able to recommend the appropriate type of shoe for my natural running stride. They were also able to help me decide on how much support I needed versus how much cushioning the shoe provided.

After being fitted with a proper shoe, the aches in my knees and lower legs (shins and calves) were greatly reduced.

Of all the tips for new runners, this is, without a doubt, the most valuable. If you are making a true lifestyle change then this is a non-negotiable tip.

Less is More

This may sound counter-intuitive, but I assure you that trying to do too much too fast will HURT! Running as with any other exercise requires periods of exertion and recovery in order for the body to adapt and become stronger. Well unlike other activities running requires longer periods of recovery. While sorting through the multitude of plans and advice available on the web as well as through trial and error, the 80/20 rule is the best place to start. 80 percent of all your running should be at a low or very low intensity. Best advice is if you plan on incorporating running into your life, build up your base and DO NOT OVERTRAIN.

Walking is perfectly fine

If you are just getting into or recently started running, then you already know that it takes a while to build up the endurance to run for more than a short distance. (When I started, I could not run a 1/4 of a mile). While you are building up that endurance there is absolutely nothing wrong with incorporating walking breaks into your training. In fact, it is one of the best ways to help build your endurance as a new runner. Provided the walking is at a brisk pace, your heart rate and breathing will be accelerated and therefore, your body will be actively improving its aerobic conditioning. I am not sure where I first heard it, but it rings very true;

“You go just as far running a 5-minute mile as you do running a 15-minute mile.”- Unknown

Develop a Mantra

At the beginning, I struggled with staying motivated. Truthfully, I still struggle with staying motivated. Let’s face it, it is hard to be motivated when you can only run for 30 seconds and then walk for 2 minutes. It can be hard to truly appreciate the small gains you make day over day. Don’t let this struggle get the better of you. Most people who stop running do so in the first week of trying. Appreciate the small gains and celebrate the improvements. Even if you find that tomorrow you can jog for 31 seconds… celebrate the accomplishment. You earned it. If you begin to have negative thoughts and trust me EVERYONE has them from time to time, develop a mantra to push the thoughts from your mind while running. “I’ve got this”, “All Walls have doors”, or my personal favorite and fallback “Today, Define yourself” are each examples of good strong mantras. My own experience suggests that you should avoid negative words in your Mantra. Avoid Don’t, Can’t, Won’t, etc., the subconscious is a powerful thing no need to feed it negative energy. Whenever you have a negative thought as you run, immediately start to repeat your mantra. Soon, you will be able to push the negative thoughts out as quickly as they appear and allow positive thoughts to replace them. This may be the most overlooked of the tips for new runners.

Enjoy the process… Because there are no Shortcuts

I would love to tell you that after only a few short months I am running half-marathons and loving every minute of my newly developed and still growing running experience. The truth however, is that I am just preparing for my first 5K and while I have come a very long way (from 1/4 mile before my first walk break on day 1 to about 4.5 miles before my first walk break after 4 months), it takes work and commitment to wanting to become better. There are no shortcuts to improving your running. Learn to enjoy the process of learning to run. Take a moment on your easy run or during your walk breaks to look around you and see if you can notice one thing that you never noticed before. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment each time you jog a little further than last time or take a shorter break than you did before.

At the end of the day, the best way to get better at running is.. to run. I just hope you can do it with less pain and more education than I did.

Every Mile Counts