I am so inspired! I was watching the U.S. Olympic team trials in swimming and stumbled upon a sudden determination to swim. Look at those bodies! The taut arms! The strong legs! In the water they undulated like dolphins; on deck, their muscles practically sparked. I tossed the last few Fritos into my mouth and said aloud: "I am going to become a swimmer."
Before starting the new regimen, I would need the proper swimming attire. The swimsuits worn by the Olympic athletes were... well... unlikely to flatter my body type. Instead, I bought a Lycra Speedo with vertical panels designed to slim and cinch although, in the carnival mirror inside the dressing room, they did neither. Maybe they have to be wet. I scowled at my oddly shaped and bulging reflection. Do I dare wear this in public? I looked like a four-pound sausage stuffed into a two-pound casing.
I bought swim goggles, tinted and expertly crafted to distort even the most specific image to a hazy blur. Just as my new puppy thinks he's invisible when his head is tucked underneath the upholstery skirt of the couch, goggles might soften my ridiculous appearance or, better still, obliterate it completely from the rest of the be-goggled swimmers at the pool. I bought two swim caps because that's how the athletes on television wear them, so it must be important.
Hours of additional research revealed an assortment of critical items pertaining to hair. I didn't know this when I began my investigation into swimming, but hair is a very big issue. To protect my hair, I'd need priming spray, which I plan to get just as soon as I figure out what it is, and a leave-in conditioner to coat my hair under the double swim caps. After swimming, a quick spurt of tomato juice into the hair washes out the coppery elements from the pool water and should be followed by a de-mineralizing shampoo. For people like me, who dislike the smell of tomato juice, vinegar can be substituted. As if vinegar is easier on the olfactories. Aspirin dissolved in water makes a handy rinse as well, but that's only if your hair is really green. Green hair?
Tomato juice, conditioner, priming spray, de-mineralizing shampoo, aspirin, vinegar? What sort of shopping list was this? I added cucumbers and red onion as a fallback. If the hair thing didn't work out, I could at least scavenge a few of the ingredients and make gazpacho.
This must be how Dr. Jekyll felt, I thought, before accidentally turning himself into Mr. Hyde. In an instant, I was disenchanted with the idea of swimming. There was so much gear, so much preparation. The very thought of squeezing into that Speedo made my eyeballs throb. Without a second thought, I stuffed the suit and the swim caps away and hung the goggles on the hook that keeps my necklaces from tangling. The goggles looked interesting there, like misshapen baubles on a textured cord. Like wearable art. I might find a use for them after all.
EARLIER ON HUFF/POST 50: 10 Great Exercises For Post 50s
Yoga offers a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deepak-chopra/yoga-heart-health_b_900621.html" target="_hplink">myriad of wellness benefits:</a> flexibility, balance, centeredness, strength, mindfulness and others. Yoga is a great option for aging bodies, as it promotes working within your own comfort zone. Postures and sequences range from gentle and relaxing to more intensive for advanced yogis.
Another way to promote flexibility and overall health is incorporating some simple stretches into your daily routine, be it at home, at the gym or even outdoors. Stretching prevents injury, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/24/yoga-stretching-back-pain_n_1029014.html" target="_hplink">can relieve back pain</a> and boosts energy. Note: It's important to stretch properly to avoid injury. Check out some good <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/healthtool-basic-stretches" target="_hplink">examples of stretches here</a> and these <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/08/stretching-mistakes_n_892444.html#s304603&title=Not_Doing_It" target="_hplink">common stretching mistakes</a>.
Biking is a great low-impact, cardiovascular workout, not to mention it's a lot of fun. There are a few ways to incorporate biking into your routine. Joy rides in your free time are always a good option -- alone or with a group. You could consider joining a local bike group or riding to nearby destinations instead of taking the car. <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/456032-stationary-bikes-and-health-benefits/" target="_hplink">Stationary bikes</a> also have great health benefits. Already a cycler? Here's how to get <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/30/6-ways-to-get-more-benefi_n_868670.html#s285033&title=Get_in_tune" target="_hplink">more benefit from your bike ride</a>.
One of the most <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/walking/HQ01612" target="_hplink">beneficial exercises</a> is something humans have been doing for centuries: walking. Simple modifications to your routine, like parking further away and walking the extra distance or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can really add up to boost your overall health. For an even greater benefit, take brisk walks that get your heart rate up.
<a href="http://pilates.about.com/od/whatispilates/a/WhatIsPilates.htm" target="_hplink">Pilates</a> is another low-impact exercise that's ideal for aging bodies. It's similar to yoga but puts more emphasis on gaining control and balance of the body by strengthening the core muscles. Pilates can be done in a class or at home with a video or other guide. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/paola-bassanese/keep-fit-with-classical-p_b_987756.html" target="_hplink">This piece</a> offers a great run-down of the activity, along with images of some classic pilates stretches and workouts.
Tennis is a classic sport, well-loved for being fun and <a href="http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/exercise/tennis.aspx" target="_hplink">great for you</a>. It's a strong aerobic workout and helps keep you agile, especially important as you get older. Tennis is also a very social activity -- great for the body, mind and spirit!
Swimming is easy on the body and is also one of the most comprehensive workouts, hitting <a href="http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/fitness-basics-swimming-is-for-everyone" target="_hplink">all the major muscle groups</a>: shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips and glutes. If you're getting serious about swimming, it's important to learn proper techniques, but even free-styling in the local pool or outdoors in the summer is a great way to exercise.
Dancing is one of those activities that doesn't feel like working out, but is an incredible <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/91589-fitness-benefits-dance/" target="_hplink">aerobic exercise</a>. It's a good option for those that want more physical activity but don't like the gym or in the winter when it's harder to get outdoors. There are a bunch of styles to choose from: ballroom dancing, contra dancing, salsa, ballet, tap, country and others.
As the body ages, running and jogging can take a toll on the joints, knees or back and potentially cause injury. An elliptical cross-training machine is an alternative to running, which still gets your heart rate up but at a <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/elliptical-machines/AN01620" target="_hplink">lower impact</a>.
You can take a simple walk to the next level by bringing weights along to build strength in your arms and boost the cardio benefits. Strength-building techniques like pushups, squats and lunges are easy to do at home or can be squeezed into buckets of free time throughout the day.
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