The Curative Powers of... Swimming

Strangely, the times I desire going for a swim the most is the morning after a night out of drinking. It is probably just my body begging for some water and telling me to completely immerse myself in it, but I often find I gain so much more from swimming. If you knew me as a child, you would not have predicted my love of swimming now. 

I never fancied going to the gym because it sounded like being in pain for an hour. What put me off more was the not doing anything competitive to distract me from the pain. I have always enjoyed competitive sport, but usually they happen at the same time same place, meaning I would end up skipping it since I was not willing to work my other (bigger) priorities around that fixed time.

Swimming works firstly as a gentle exercise. There is a reason I see so many older people swimming in the slow lane with me. I often wonder if I am actually doing any exercise, until I reach the end and place my hand on my heart. It is normally racing. I also know I am doing exercise because I always crave some chocolate afterwards, and, later, sometimes my legs will ache a little bit. Further, if I swim regularly, I find myself being able to do more lengths as time goes on, meaning that I am improving in something from swimming. Point is, I do not feel like I am torturing myself while swimming, there is no “no pain, no gain” attitude, but I am clearly getting some gain.

I also love the flexibility of swimming. Even though the swimming pool in the student union is not always open, I still get roughly three opportunities a day to go for a swim. Sometimes this can be bad if you keep putting it off and going “I can go tomorrow”, but, as I said earlier, I was not going to the weekly competitive sports either. The flexibility of swimming allows me to fit it in when it works for me. Swimming can take up a chunk of time with getting changed, showering, and being located at the student union, so I appreciate being able to decide when I am able to achieve all of this.

I don’t think of swimming as something to do with a friend, just because there is little room to chat with people. Rather, I like the isolation of swimming. It is an opportunity to be completely alone. It forces me, a bit of a social media addict, to lock my phone away. I like to go swimming if my mind is very busy and I have lots of thoughts, so I can swim and “think them away” as I go. If I do not have things to think about, I end up just focusing on the lengths I do when I am swimming. Just counting them as I swim. I may be wrong in saying this, but it feels almost like meditation. All I am doing it focusing on one thing, and it really trains my brain to focus since losing count of how many lengths I have swam can be an issue! After a swim, I always come out of it with a clearer head. That philosophy essay or that maths problem always feels less overwhelming after I have stepped away from it. I also feel physically energised and ready to step back into work after my swim.

I think my desire to swim after a night out goes beyond just feeling dehydrated. After a night of fun, socialising, and maybe a bit of chaos, stepping away from the world and into a pool helps everything feel calm again. If you haven’t found your sport yet, I recommend giving swimming a go. It seems to make a big difference.