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Its 6 a.m., the sun is just up, and I’m strapping on goggles and preparing for my daily lap swim. It’s a passion I have. People often remark, “Laurie, you are so disciplined!” I say, “Actually I’m addicted.” I live to swim and I swim to live — that’s my motto.
Ever since I was a baby, I have been in love with water. My parents knew it was important for all of my sisters and me, for our lifelong safety, to learn to swim. I was fortunate to learn to swim at the age of four; luckily for me, I learned from the best of the best, who showed me it was safe and fun to let go of the side of the pool. I’ll never forget the thrill of moving off the pool edge and feeling the freedom in the Olympic-size pool. It started with bobbing and splashing for pennies in the shallow end, and as my swimming skills and confidence grew, I found myself regularly enjoying the deep end playing Marco Polo.
I was in my late 20’s when I began to swim for exercise and relaxation. Thirty-seven years ago, I was a couch potato and my boss was a heavy smoker who swam three times a week at the YMCA. He encouraged me to join him. Swimming in Cleveland, Ohio, at the local Y and then the JCC, a young lifeguard encouraged me to keep at it, even though I was winded after one lap. She coached me to improve my breathing and kick, and within a week, I was swimming ¼ mile. That was the beginning. I moved to Southern California a few years later, and thought, no blizzards, no thunderstorms, no excuse. I can do this every day, outdoors! And so my love affair with lap swimming got its start, swimming a mile daily. Recently, I calculated I have swum about 13,500 miles in my lifetime. That’s nearly halfway around the world! But it’s not about the numbers for me.
In the early days I swam purely for the meditative quality — I can lose myself and let my mind flow freely in the water. Being in the water is my inspiration for daily thoughts and a way to boost my creativity; yet it also helps me process the stresses, strains, challenges and excitements that life’s circumstances bring about.
It was in 1980, after a serious slip and fall and injured my tailbone and back, that swimming also became my physical therapy. While I had trouble walking, sitting and standing, the water was buoyant and friendly to my injuries and I found I could swim, giving strength and peace to my body and my spirit, while I healed. I continued to swim every day, and I am convinced my daily swim helped lead me to a full recovery.
In 1996, I experienced a near-death auto accident; I was hit by an airborne driver who barely missed my head. Luckily I had swimming on my side, as once again it was swimming that helped me heal from the emotional shock and the physical traumas that plagued me for several years.
I am a living example of the wealth of health benefits one can earn from swimming and water exercise. I am blessed that I have access to an outdoor pool seven days week, just minutes from my home. I love to swim in a pool. I love the meditative quality a pool offers. Swimming pools are a source of renewal for me.
I can’t imagine what life would be if I couldn’t swim every day. Swimming energizes me, provides fun and friendship, and captures a lightness and pure pleasure found in few other activities.
I admit that I am driven. If I hurt, I get in the water. If I am feeling sick (not feverish), I get in the water. I do this because, after 20 minutes I am feeling SO much better, and so that’s the addiction. I always want more, because I always want to feel good. And so I am led to the water, rain or shine, rainstorm or cold windstorm, holiday or workday, I find my way to the pool.
Swimming is the grace in my life, and the pool is my temple.