Like a Fish in Water

Swimming has mesmerized me since I was very little. It’s one of the main reasons I absolutely love summer. When the weather heats up, I can just hear the water calling my name, beckoning me to dive in.

The dichotomy of air and water fascinates me. In air we can move freely, but we’re still anchored to the earth. Rules like gravity don’t apply in water. I can just float weightlessly in the waves. The fluid resists my movements and cradles my body while floating gracefully in peaceful serenity.

One of the best things about swimming is that it is widely available. During these hot summer months, we can frolic to Lake Macbride, Sugarbottom or the Rez or take a dip in city pools to cool off while still enjoying the warm sunlight. But even when it’s too cold or rainy or wintery outside, a safe chlorinated haven is usually only as far as the nearest Rec Center.

Aside from being fun, swimming is wonderful exercise. Swimming burns tons of calories, especially compared with other aerobic activities. Completing just a fourth of a mile in the pool is approximately equal in caloric expenditure to pounding out a mile running.

Swimming is an ideal activity for people who have injuries, disabilities or joint problems because the water makes the activity no-impact. However, that doesn’t limit its utility to just exercises with special conditions. It is an excellent full-body aerobic activity for any exerciser that can work all major muscle groups –something running and biking cannot claim.

Swimming is definitely a skill that takes time to learn, but is well worth the effort. For people who don’t know how to swim, adult lessons are available through both Coralville and Iowa City Recreation Departments. Learning to swim can open up a lot of fun summer options and help you feel more confident around water.

For those who do know how to swim, there are numerous ways to get a workout by swimming. Simply just leisurely paddling around the water for an hour can burn over 430 calories for women and 520 calories for men*. Some recreation centers and gyms offer aquatic fitness classes where participants do exercises with the water as resistance. Classes availabe in the Iowa City area range from water walking or arthritis aerobics to a basic water aerobics class. Some gyms even offer high-intensitiy aquatic cardio classes or bootcamps. Lap swimming is also a very intense workout that burns even more calories than the more laid-back swims mentioned above.

For swimmers who are looking for some guidance or camaraderie in the pool, Iowa City is home to two Masters swimming teams. The Iowa City Eels practice at Mercer Aquatic Center and City Park Pool. Hawkeye Masters practices at The University of Iowa’s Fieldhouse.

Masters swimming is open to anyone over 18, from the novice to the veteran. Members swim under the guidance of a swimming coach, working on their strokes and improving their cardiovascular fitness in a team atmosphere. Both the Iowa City Eels and the Hawkeye Masters teams are part of the national U.S. Masters Swimming, an organization that hosts swim meets at the local, regional, national and international levels. Participating in the meets is not mandatory for Masters members, but they can provide some added incentive for a swimmer motivated by competition.

Whether you are a seasoned stroker, recreational floater or just starting to get your feet wet, summer is the ideal time to get in the water. Grab a towel and get wet for a workout this summer.

Kelly Ostrem wishes she could breathe underwater, then she’d never have to leave the pool.

*Calorie calculations are based on the average weight for females (160lbs) and males (190lbs) according to the CDC.