Why you should start swimming today
by Noah Kotlarek
The swimming pool is a powerful mechanism for healing, reflection, and peace. When I think about the pool I can’t help but sing “these are a few of my favorite things…” from The Sound of Music. Just as the young postulant Maria remembers “raindrops on roses” and “bright copper kettles… when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when [she’s] feeling sad,” I remember the swimming pool when the midterms come, when the sleep deprivation hits, or when I need a break.
The swimming pool has a sort of isolating characteristic about it that can temporarily remove you from the pings and small inundations of life. It’s a pause, like a Mass or other time of intense focus. Staff swimmer Sebastian says that “swimming underwater is like being in a hyperbaric chamber, where your youthfulness is preserved and your body is in a pleasant, void-like state. For a time, nothing matters. I haven’t actually been in a chamber, but I saw a video of Lebron rejuvenating himself inside of one, and I imagine it to be a similar experience.”
Swimming as a form of meditation offers two beneficial and unique features: liquid submersion and repetitive, unvarying movement. The fact that you are fully submerged in water while swimming makes it all the easier for you to briefly detach yourself from reality. The water around your head blocks out external sounds and your vision is limited to the empty white plaster pool floor. Lastly, being submerged in liquid is a “weird” experience, it’s completely different from being surrounded by gas, which is what we are used to. For this, the pool is an especially refreshing break. It is completely different from the world you are trying to escape for an hour or so. As for the second feature, the healthy mundanity of swimming lap after lap allows you to concentrate and focus on your thoughts without interruption. The physical movement of swimming requires little thought, which frees up space for you to do some “deeper” thinking. The physical movement keeps you awake but does not overwhelm or tire you out. The consistent sameness of swimming laps is relaxing. Have you ever watched one of those “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to” live streams on YouTube? The looped clip of the calm anime student studying by the rainy window is what swimming feels like. Thus, this aerobic activity is both a sleep and an exercise: you can daydream while swimming. To me, that’s a great luxury during a taxing time.
Beyond the meditative benefits gained while swimming, swimming also offers a range of post-pool benefits. After the swim, showering and drying off can be almost as satisfying as swimming itself and leaves you reenergized to continue studying or doing whatever you do. Further, you will feel good about yourself for exercising and enjoy the endorphin release that comes with it. Many people exercise to improve their mood, I challenge you to try something new and visit the Fordham natatorium. Pool hours can be found on the Fordham aquatics center website; however, the pool is not opened on Sundays. I recommend swimming late at night when very few if any other swimmers are there for maximum reflection and relaxation.
Hopefully, after reading this article you are convinced that swimming is a valuable form of meditation and are encouraged to visit the pool. If you don’t know how to swim, even better. Not only can you gain from swimming but also learning to swim. If you are feeling down, learning to swim could be the goal you need to keep yourself motivated. It will give you something to work towards and can be picked up relatively quickly, so you’ll see the results and feel accomplished for them. Knowing you can accomplish something will further propel you to take on greater challenges. Moreover, the value of knowing how to swim is long lasting. Given the “low impact” and gentle nature of swimming, the sport can be practiced even when you’re elderly. Swimming is a lifelong activity that can always be there for you.
Now is the time to make an investment in yourself, both mentally and physically. Find a swimming suit, put on some goggles, and take the plunge. If you are unsure of where to start check out some introductory swimming videos online or ask a swimming-able peer where to begin. Good luck and see you in the water.