How vanity led to my latest obsession--Swimming
I was in a panic. My niece’s wedding was six weeks away and I had two choices in my closet: a floor length purple gown or a red beaded dress. Both frocks have straps which reveal my arms. My flabby, chicken wing arms. During the pandemic I made a point of walking 10,000 steps very day. It felt good to be outside in one of the only places besides my house and car that didn’t require a mask. I could watch rabbits scurrying up the hill, walk past coyotes, and even pet dogs on my walk. I did exercises to strengthen my back, knees and ankles. But I forgot to work my upper extremities. Hence the 'skin flapping in the wind' look. There was an added caveat: my niece asked me to sing the first dance, 'Tacones Rojos' by Sebastian Yatra. I had no choice, if I was going to be holding a mic, I'd better have toned arms.
Luckily, the zipper closed on both gowns. While the purple dress is very pretty, the red beaded number is a showstopper. But those arms! Blech. I’ve always criticized older women who appear at awards shows wearing spaghetti straps. Do they look in the mirror before sauntering down the red carpet? And now look, I had become one of them. What was I going to do?
The answer came to me one morning while in the shower, where I get most of my good ideas. Swimming! It's great exercise for the entire body and it really works the arms. There's a pool nearby but it's woefully short. I can swim from one side to the other in 11 strokes, not enough to get any kind of momentum. And you need a wetsuit in the winter, it gets so cold.
I googled 'swimming pools in Los Angeles' and decided to check out the gyms first. Equinox has a beautiful pool with a sauna, steam shower, and all the Kiehl bath products you could dream of slathering on yourself. Very zen like but it comes with a hefty price tag and a 12 month commitment. LA Fitness was next. More supermarket style fitness, the pool was not as appealing. I spied someone getting in with tennis shoes. Ew. Next, I looked at the local Y. It was ok but the times were very limited.
In desperation, I went to a county pool. I figured they pour in so much chlorine it would kill any icky germs from all the people swimming there. I was pleasantly surprised, however. Bathrooms and changing areas are very clean. Pools are 25 yards long so it takes about 28 strokes to get to the other side. And to top it off, they're heated! All for the cost of a dollar. 75 cents if you buy a 30 swims pass. Pools are open as early as 6 am and close at 8pm.
I began working my way up. 40 laps, then 50, then 60, then finally reaching the magic 72 laps which equals a mile in the short course of an Olympic pool. I figured I could skip a swim every few days but my body literally craved the water. For the crawl, aiming the arms down, around, and sweeping back as your legs glide is just soothing. And looking up at the sky doing the backstroke? Heaven. If I arrived late and there was a time limit, I would send my legs into overdrive, furiously kicking so I could get that mile in. Many times I share a lane when it gets crowded and it's strangely peaceful, passing a stranger while gliding along the water, .
By the time I arrived at the wedding, the flapping had decreased significantly. As a bonus, my pants fit better and the dress was less snug. I didn't feel self-conscious gripping the mic and dancing as I sang. Since I've been back in LA, I can't get enough of swimming. I've discovered new pools; some are close by, others can be an hour each way but I don't care. They're worth the trek. I plan to hit every single one in Los Angeles County. I am also determined to eliminate any further jiggly movement so I've added water bottles as weights to work my arms.
There is a moment after swimming. It happens once I've taken a shower, and I'm in the car. As I turn the keys in the ignition, I feel a wave of relaxation and contentment wash over me, like my body is saying, "Ahh, that was wonderful, I feel great."
"The water is your friend...you don't have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move."