Friday, March 20, 2015

Back in the Water

I'm not a young man. As much as I hate to say may age (older IS NOT better in the entertainment business), I'll be 58 sometime this year. I grew up in the Midwest and while I my memory has never been great, I can't ever remember not being in the water when I was growing up.

As a child all our vacations revolved around going to a lake. In my earliest years it was in Minnesota, starting in the early 60s it became Big Manistique Lake in Curtis, MI. There is still a boathouse with my name scrawled on one of the old wooden locker doors. Below it every year from 1963 to 1975 is listed. It was 2 weeks in the water every year.

My family home from 1970 - 1978 had an in ground swimming pool. It was 20' x 40' and 8' deep, complete with a pretty good diving board. I hated cleaning that thing ...

But I DID like being in the water and I've always felt very comfortable in the water. In 1968 we lived in Chicago and my parents had the good sense to send me to the High Ridge YMCA every Saturday to take swimming lessons. I was 11 years old and went by myself, my how things have changed.

I would get on the #96 Lunt Ave bus every Saturday morning and ride it for 15 minutes to the YMCA. My mom didn't take me to the stop, I just walked down to the corner and waited for the bus to get there. I can remember a couple times when I was a little late and since the driver was the same every week he actually waited a minute for me while I ran up the block to make it.

Can you imagine letting your 11 year old do something like that today? In Chicago?

Those lessons at the YMCA made me a very proficient swimmer. I never used those skills for exercise, I just was able to "handle myself" in the water. I spent a lot of my free time in the water until I went into the work force. For the most part, my time in the water ended. I spent very little time in the pool for the next 35 or so years. Until the beginning of this year.

I had been in an auto accident March of 2010 that left me in a pretty rough state. Unable to exercise I gained weight which exacerbated my issues. I finally got to a point towards the end 2014 where I felt ready to start exercising. Walking was out of the question and even though I had run marathons before the accident, that was out too. So my only option left was to head to the pool.

My wife and I joined the local YMCA and made the commitment to go 3 days a week. We started in the middle of January and have continued ever since. To my dismay, I was really unable to swim. My issue was not the mechanics, I still could do that. My big issue was breathing. Aside from having to exert myself because of my size and poor physical condition, I was unable to properly breath when I was doing the crawl. My neck is still so stiff I have a difficulty turning my head far enough and fast enough to get enough air to keep going. I couldn't swim half a length of the pool.

So I ended up starting out treading water for 45 minutes at a time. I chose treading water because I had done some research and was surprised to find out that treading water burns a lot of calories! Treading water at a moderate rate burns the same number of calories as  running at 10 minute per mile pace. That meant my 45 minutes was equal to running 4.5 miles! That was the kind of running I used to do daily.

While treading water got me started my goal is to swim laps. At the end of every session I would try to swim a length and by the end of a month and a half I was able to get all the way. It was very frustrating. I felt if I could get my breathing under control I would be able to start swimming. I just couldn't figure out how to get that right.

Click on the image to see more information

Then I found the Finis snorkel! It's actually made for competitive swimmers. They use it to work on their form.

I am no competitive swimmer but what it does do for me is allows me to do the crawl without having to turn my neck to breath. In addition to that I can breath regardless of where I am in my stroke which is also very helpful.

It had an immediate effect for me. I was able to go barely being able to swim 1 length of the pool to getting in 2 1/2 laps.

That may not seem like much to you but if a person in might shape can make a leap like that ... image what a person in decent shape could do.

I'm also going to admit that I did feel a little foolish when I first started using it. I had those feelings of "everyone is looking at me". Those quickly faded away as it has become easier for me to swim laps.

I'm very confident that using this snorkel is going to help me get into shape much faster. Once I get to a point where I'm not struggling so hard to breathe I plan to wean myself off the snorkel. It's a means to and end for me.

So right now I'm spending an hour in the pool at least 3 days a week. I tread water for 55 minutes and swim laps for 5. My plan is to stay at an hour but increase the amount of time I do laps. So far it seems to be working. Today I was able to get 5 laps in without really losing my breath.

My time in the pool along with getting control of my eating is showing some results. On February 1 I weighed in at 309lbs. Last Friday I weighed in at 296lbs. I have had a steady 2lb a week loss since I've been tracking it.

Next blog I'll tell you how I got control of my eating ...


Dana Dahl-Breske said...

Way to go Matt! Keep up the good work! !

Vilmos said...

Thank you Dana!