During one of my recent sessions at the pool, it struck me how good swimming is as meditation and stress relief.
I know that all exercise is meant to be good for stress. However, I find swimming particularly effective at helping me switch off and relax.
Maybe that is because I can’t take in other ideas and information while I’m swimming. When I’m doing other exercise, I listen to music, watch TV or read. Now, I think it is the case that you can get equipment to enable you to listen to music while you swim but I’ve never invested in that. Certainly it is tricky to swim and watch TV at the same time. As for read, well, the book would get all soggy and I don’t think water is good for eReaders!
As a result of this, swimming provides a space in my life when I am not exposing myself to input from other people’s ideas and material.
I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that swimming up and down, up and down, is a great time for ideas and problems to be running around in your head where you can’t do anything about them. However, I don’t find that happens.
Firstly, being in the water, it is necessary to think about breathing. This focus on the breath is like mindfulness. It helps to calm me.
Secondly, there are many parts to swimming. Concentrating on those parts places me in the moment. This sense of being present is another aspect of mindfulness.
I concentrate on technique, on where I am placing my arms and how my legs are moving. It is possible other people do that with other forms of exercise but I find it happens for me only with swimming. In addition, I have to concentrate on my programme and counting laps and rest breaks. The SwimFit Get Tone programme I am following has quite complicated sessions. Without a coach, I have to memorise the programme before I enter the water. So, it’s x number of lengths of y stroke at different levels of exertion: easy, moderate of hard with rest breaks every length, every two lengths or at the end of the group. Then it’s swim z lengths using a float and only kicking or with only one arm or using the arm movement of one stroke and the leg movement of another! Seriously! It happened.
All in all, that takes my mind off everything else that is going on in my life. It absorbs me.
At other times, during longer swims, as I relax into the rhythm, my mind becomes like water. New ideas and solutions occur to me. The trick then is to remember them!
I also find the pool a lovely place to be. The flow of the water, the effect of the light on the water, and the reflections all add up to peacefulness for me. Great! Off for a swim, then!