This afternoon's swim. Also, the commitment to staying in good health via exercise is not a "new year's" resolution but should be a decade by decade promise to oneself.

Warm ups at the master's nationals indoor swim meet at
the Jake Jamail Swim Center at UT Austin.
Ahhh, the luxury of an indoor pool.

I can't shake the image of a bunch of fifty and sixty year old men moving from debating about various cameras to debating the relative "charms" of an exercise treadmill. I think a whole bunch of people either spent too much of their lives chained to desks or they were too easy on themselves, underestimating how much good work a body can do and how invigorating and renewing (physically and spiritully) pushing one's fitness boundaries can be. I'm not suggesting that anyone who has been relatively dormant for decades at a time rush over to a pool and pound out a quick couple of miles in the next hour but I'm very much in favor of people pushing themselves enough to get out of their comfort zones for an hour a day. 

It was cold in Austin today. We woke up to temperatures under the freezing mark and scattered sleet showers. The wind gusted from time to time and the wetness of the day made it feel chillier than the mercury might suggest. A good day to make a cup of tea and hew to the easy chair to leaf through some books about landscape photography from the 1950's? Not on your life.

I worked in the studio until about 11:30 am. The place was in desperate need of a cleaning and with people coming in tomorrow for portraits I had already pushed my self-imposed deadline. With the last bit of vacuuming done I hopped in the new Subaru and headed out to the pool. I left a bit early so I could drop a check by my bank and then some letters to the post office. I got to the (outdoor) pool at ten minutes till noon and changed in the locker room. 

When I left the locker room the sleet was coming down hard and pelting me in the face. The sleet was also starting to stick to the cold ground. I looked ahead and thought I could see the first little icicles forming on the horizontal bars of the lifeguard's chair. When you are wearing a swim cap, a swim suit and a pair of goggles a sub-freezing temperature and biting windchill factor is ........ bracing. I didn't stop on the deck to chat with my fellow swimmers; we just jumped right into our respective lanes, did a quick couple of hundred yards to get warm and then read the workout that was written on the white board at the end of the pool. 

There was a thousand yard warm up followed by 12x100 yard swims on 1:30, alternating I.M.'s (individual medley = fly, back, breast, free) and fast freestyle. After that was a set of 12x75 yard swims alternating between one's best (or favorite) stroke and freestyle. After the two sets we had the option to warm down with a two or three hundred yard swim. So, about 3300 yards. 

During the middle of the workout the sleet storm went bonkers and ice pellets started piling up on the roof of the main building and all over the grounds. The swimmers laughed, plunged under the surface of the 80 degree water and then popped up and kept swimming. A little sleet is hardly anything to worry about. Now hail would be a completely different story. 

By one we'd finished with our midday swim and were heading to the locker room to change back into our street clothes. But I can still see the little drops that popped up an inch or so above the steaming surface of the pool each time a piece of sleet struck the surface. It was fun and kinetic magic. 

We swam a hard enough set and got in nearly two miles of swimming over the lunch hour. But this wasn't a "new years resolution" swim for any of us. It was another swim on a massive foundation of previous swims. An almost daily routine for the past 56 years (I started swimming in a year round club at six). It helps keep me right at 158 pounds, keeps my blood pressure and heart rate slow, keeps my joints and muscles happy and improves my general attitude by 1,000 %. It seems like a tremendous advantage to me. Not something I have to sell to myself. 

In a small business, as in staying in good physical shape, the key ingredient is the discipline to show up and do the work. If you do that everything else falls into place. 

So, what's the real cost of swimming in a six days a week, masters swim program? About $50 bucks for a Speedo Jammer Endurance swim suit and a pair of goggles. If you're good to yourself you'll refresh those basics every year. Then there's the $90 per month dues. That's a total of $1,170. per year. 

We have workouts that fit most people's schedules: 7-8:15 am, 8:15-9:30 and Noon to 1pm on weekdays and then 7:30 am - 8:30 and 8:30 - 10:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. You can choose one per day or come to all of them, the financial cost is the same. 

But focusing on one exercise exclusively is not the most productive way to go. I also try to run a five mile trail course a couple times a week and then walk through our downtown area with cameras two days a week. My idea of hell? Sitting at a desk and staring at my computer for eight to ten hours a day. 

63 is the new 25. You just have to reset your brain to accommodate for the bad habits of the past. Just about any medical problem you want to bore me with (bad backs, sore necks, insomnia, anxiety) might just be curable with enough exercise. But it starts with commitment. You have to want to make your life better. And who wouldn't?


Hal Knowles said...

Kirk, this is an wonderful and inspiring post! While I have done a couple of sprint triathlons in the past and I do the occasional weekend warrior mountain bike ride with some friends, I am in need of a more regular routine. My eldest daughter is on the local swim club and between watching her workouts and reading about yours, I may need to join the adult group. Keep up the great work and thanks for the motivation!

Peter Manns said...

Hello Kirk. Definitely agree. I’m the same age as you. Exercise most days since I was eight. Currently gym before and swimming after work. Happily, I have access to both for free. Been freediving for 48 years and down the coast this weekend to spear some fish. Needing to be able to move easily in the ocean has always been a big driver for remaining fit.
As a doctor I see a never ending procession of overweight, unfit, unhealthy people who look surprised when you tell them they have developed diabetes or heart disease. There have been public health programmes for decades urging people to get outside and exercise, so it’s not like they haven’t been told. I think it is too easy to become complacent and to think that nothing is ever going to happen to you.
And the time to do something about it is when you are young. It’s a lot easier to not become a diabetic than it is to un-become one.
And, as you say, the benefits go well beyond physical fitness.. Improved mood, better sleep, increased vitality and a greater appetite for life.
Exercise is its own reward.

Henk said...

"I can't shake the image of a bunch of fifty and sixty year old men moving from debating about various cameras to debating the relative "charms" of an exercise treadmill" made me chuckle. Thanks Kirk for another top post (yes, intended)

Anonymous said...

Your workout is truly inspiring. It is really easy to get sucked into an 8 hour day at the computer, then followed by more hours in front of a screen at home. I will have to shake in an excerise routine now, while I am still young.

An interesting product I have tried is Swimming goggles anti fog spray. As here:

I thought I would pass this off to other swimmers.

David Bateman

Anonymous said...

Fitness is not a sprint, its a marathon that is practiced daily.