open water swimming

Swimming, great for the mind and body

I am a swimmer. Because of a persistent shoulder injury, called scapular displacement, I am unable to swim as much as I used to. But I go at least once a week. It is one of the best activities for one’s body. It allows the mind to filter out one’s problems and focus. It promotes health and fitness. It loosens tight lower back muscles. As one former Olympics swimmer and gold medalist Janet Evans notes: “Swimming is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package, working most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently. Swimming builds these core muscles better than any abs video or gadget advertised on television. Finally, a properly structured swim workout provides incredible improvements to the cardiovascular system. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.”

These are shots I took at an open water swim event at Lake Meridian, in Kent, Washington, in 2012. Some very fit, hyper-competitive athletes were in this group. Most mere mortals can benefit from going to a local pools once or more a week. If you have not taken up swimming, try it out. Go slow. Give it time. It took me about 25 times before I finally switched from hating doing laps to loving my trips to the pool. Like all good things, it takes time.


Open water swimming, sweeping the world


If you have not noticed people swimming in lakes, rivers, and oceans, there is a significant global movement embracing this really old sport. Open water swimming as a competitive sport is taking place everywhere, it seems, and you can find a race and plan a trip just about anywhere to time your travels with a race. I took this race shot in Kent, Wash., at a half, mile, and two-mile contest in August 2012 (the Friday Night Swims at Meridian Lake). Where I live, in Seattle, certain areas of lakes are even protected as swimming areas from boat traffic (smart idea). My only regrets about this great sport are the cost to get wetsuits if the water is too cold, meaning mostly higher-income athletes pursue this sport, and the culture of swimming has yet to penetrate a more diverse group of Americans. The key is to get all kids in the pool as early as possible and show them how great this activity is. I love it. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)