Clarity In the Chlorine

Clarity In the Chlorine

Self Care can take many forms. Mine requires a locker rental, a shammy towel, and goggles.

That’s right. I swim.

I have spent my entire life in and around chlorine. It has taught me lessons about dedication, responsibility, competition, friendship, physical limitations, inner strengths, and much more.

Swimming has been a passion (I swam competitively in school); it’s been serious therapy (I had reconstructive knee surgery at 16), it’s been playful work (teaching swim lessons is crazy fun); it’s been a rewarding job (coaching a sport is a principled pursuit); and it’s been an enjoyable life skill (being a strong swimmer expands your options of holiday excursions).

As a PGR in my mid-40s, though, swimming has become a “old” new kind of friend to me. I use it to de-stress, but also to be at peace. I forego aquatic Mp3 kit and groovy swimming apps and simply concentrate on my body. Swimming can’t be done without focus. My rotating arms calm my racing mind. In the chlorine, I listen to my breathing, I focus on my pacing, and I listen to my inner voices that the outside world often drowns out. In the water , I can hear that voice in my center that says to me:

You can do this.
You are capable.

You are strong.
You are on the right path.

Oftentimes things that are heavy on my heart become weightless in the pool. A problem with my research that I can’t work through becomes fuzzy and floats away, and for an hour or so I think of other things. Or I think of nothing at all other than my form, my stroke, my glides through the chlorine. I’m not going to tell you that afterwards, all the solutions to my scholarly struggles melt away in the sauna, then congeal with clarity when I return to laptop. But it has been known to happen. Clarity in the chlorine.

And on a cold windy Glasgow day? The warm pool (and saunas) of the UofG Sports facilities can be such a treat!

Let me be clear. I am not saying the YOU should become a swimmer. YOU should do what’s best for YOU. Many men and women struggle with negative body images issues and if you feel this is a recreational activity that will add to your anxieties, consider it carefully. Check out the helpful resources recommended by UofG counseling about managing anxiety. Self-care is often about trying new things, but it’s also about knowing your limits. But here are some reasons to consider giving swimming a try:

  1. Mental strength building (it’s not just me, it’s science!)
    Regular exercise reduces inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, which fosters new brain cell growth. Swimming allows you to burn off excess energy, which helps “train your brain” to concentrate on one thing for a longer time. (It’s often used in ADHD therapies.) Cardiovascular exercise causes the hippocampus to increase, allowing more oxygen to flow into your brain. This will in turn helps boost your memory capacity!

  2. It’s better than running.
    What other cardiovascular activity other than swimming works as many muscles at once? Running, cycling, cart-wheels? None of the above. If you are a jogger, that’s great. But science tells us that not everyone’s joints (and backs) are built for running. When you compare swimming to running, you can burn more calories swimming laps in the pool than you can running for an hour. Also, regular swimming can delay the effects of aging by reducing blood pressure, increasing muscle mass, improving oxygen and blood flow to the brain, and increasing cardiovascular health.


Also, you runners out there? Will you PLEASE stop trying to recruit me. There, I’ve said it. I will be that girl. If you want to run a 5K, have at it. But can you go three consecutive days without suggesting that I join in? #challenge Thanks.

3. It will make you healthy and trim.
Regular swimming can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke. It can also boost your mood and help you lose/maintain weight. Swimming is a resistance exercise, similar to weight-lifting, but without the possible negative impacts of weights, because swimming places almost no stress on your joints and bones.

(Hydrotherapy is used for humans and animals alike!)

The  UofG pool has been a valued resource in my PGR life and there is almost always time in their schedule to fit mine.

Feel inspired to get in the chlorine but don’t know how to swim? Or need refreshers? The lovely Aquatic Staff at UofG can help with swim classes or drop-ins. Expert swimmers may consider joining the UofG Swimming Club and if you are really adventurous, consider some wild swimming; there are some incredible spots to do so in Scotland!

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