Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How to Start Swimming for Exercise

I'm taking a brief break from telling about my European travels to talk about my favorite form of exercise: swimming!

Even though swimming is a lot of fun and extremely safe sport (great for injuries), it can be really intimidating too. I've had a lot of questions from friends in real life about getting into it, so I figured it might be useful to put some of my answers in a blog posts. 

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What equipment do I need to get started swimming?

You need a sports bathing suit. I recommend Swim Outlet, I got my Nike one for $30. You can also get some good sale bathing suits at Athleta, especially at this time of the year. You will also need goggles and a bathing cap, which you can find at most sports stores and often are on sale at pools. That's really all you need. A towel is good of course!


Where do I find a place to swim?

This is usually much harder than getting the equipment together. Most people start swimming a pool, so you'll need to find one near you. First look to see if there are any YMCA's near you, because they always have pools and it's usually not too crazy to get a membership. Also, cities and towns may have an indoor aquatic center. I found a great one in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when I was visiting last summer. That is a SMALL town, so if they have one, you should be able to find a pool near you :) 

What is the etiquette of swimming in a public lap pool?

First, check the schedule to see when lap lanes will be available. The busiest times seems to be weeknights and weekend mornings, so maybe avoid those at first so it won't be a crazy intimidating situation. When you arrive at the pool, maybe you'll be super lucky and a whole lane will be open. If so, just hop right in. If not, check for a lane with only one person swimming. Try to get the swimmers attention, and ask if you can share the lane. With only two people, most people will just stick to one side. Occasionally people don't want to interrupt their precious workout to talk to you (absurd), so they will just move over and give you a side, this means they realize you are going to come in and it's okay to not ask them. If you are on the left side of the lane, just swim up and back, both on that side. Same with if you are on the right, just stay on the right (which will now be the left on your way back, yikes). Things get more complicated if every lap lane already has two people in it. Then you will need to do something called circle swimming. This means, you and the other 2+ people will all swim up on the right side, and back on the left (which will now be your right because you will turn around) in a circle motion. If you need to pass someone, it's best to just do it at the end. I've heard people say you should tap them on the foot to warn them you are passing, but I've never seen anyone do this and I think it's weird, so either just swim fast past them, or do it on the end when they will likely stop for a second. Some pools have a slow, medium and fast circle swim lane. My pool does not, so if I have to start a circle swim I just look for people who look nice and ask them. Some people will say no (not that you are allowed to, people are just rude) and then just ignore them and ask someone else. 


What should I do when I get in the pool?

This all depends on what your goal is. Most people who ask me about swimming are either recovering from an injury or doing a sprint triathlon. Either way, I think the first time you swim, you should just focus on getting in and swimming 10 laps or so, if you can. Swimming is hard if you haven't been practicing, so just do what you can the first day. After that you will probably want a plan to keep yourself from getting super bored swimming back and forth. Here is an example workout: 

Swimming Workout

1 x 50 Free Warm Up
1 x 50 Backstroke Warm Up
10 x 50 Free (no rests, flip turns if you know how to do them)
1 x 50 Kick Only
1 x 50 Arms Only
1 x 50 Breast Stroke
4 x 50 Alternate between freestyle way down, backstroke the way back (no rests)
4 x 50 Fast down, slow back Freestyle (no rests)
1 x 50 Cool Down- choose your stroke
Total: 1250 yards
After you master this workout, you can start making a few of your own by mixing in some of the strokes listed above. You can also mix in some drill work, including making a fist while swimming the freestyle stroke, or doing catch up where you leave one hand above your head until the other "catches up." You can also start some sort of swimming program, like Zero to 1650 (learning to swim a mile!). 


What if I am doing an open water triathlon? 

I would still recommend starting in the pool if you have access to one, just because it's easier. When you are ready to try out open water swimming, you'll need to find an ocean, lake or pond where you can do this. I recommend searching where local triathlon clubs do their swims. They will often have maps with distance online so you can actually do the exact distance you will have to do in a race. If they don't have this, you'll just have to ballpark. I think with open water swimming it's more about the mental battle anyway, so if you don't practice the exact distance, it's not a big deal. You will need the same equipment for open water swimming, but I would recommend taking a friend if at all possible or meeting up with a triathlon group. I've been open water swimming for two years now, but I still don't go alone. Even if you can't find someone who actually wants to swim, at least bring someone with you who can watch and make sure all goes well :) Open water swimming is intimidating at first, but I love it SO much more than lap swimming now. 


Do you swim for exercise? If so, did I forget anything that someone new to the sport needs to know? If you don't swim for exercise, would you ever consider it? 



Monday, August 26, 2013

Salzburg and Schafberg Railroad

While we were in Fuschl am See we mostly just relaxed, but we did do two fun things that I think should not be missed if you are in the area. 

The first was a trip on Schafberg Railroad, which is a cog railroad that brings you up a beautiful mountain overlooking another lake called Wolfgangsee. The railroad lasts about 45 minutes and you are rewarded with a beautiful view at the top. 

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You can even see the Dachstein Glacier, second glacier of the trip!

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 There are a few things to know if you are going to do the Schafberg Railroad. First of all, there are two restaurant bars on the top of the mountain with beautiful views. But, despite being big restaurants, they don't take credit cards at all. So if you find yourself in a position like we did aka your ATM cards are shut off and you have only been in Austria one day so all you have is Icelandic krona… solve that before you get stuck on the top for multiple hours with no food. Also, kids on the train under 6 don't get a seat. I'm assuming they are free, but I don't know that for a fact. If the train is packed, which it will be in the summer, that means if you have a 5 year old they have to sit on your lap. I don't have kids (obviously) but I do teach five and six year olds and I can't imagine one of them sitting on my lap in a crowded warm train car for 45 minutes. Fortunately, we will crowded in a car with much smaller children who were all delights and prompted me to read about the secrets of European parenting. 


We also checked out the city of Salzburg on the way out of Austria. We didn't really do anything there other than park and walk around, but it is definitely a beautiful and old European city. 

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And just like that, we were saying goodbye to Austria and headed off to Munich. If I had to choose, I'd say Austria was my favorite country of the three we visited. It might have been the relaxation talking though :) 

Where is the most beautiful place you have ever visited? 


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fuschl am See, Austria

We have been home from our big trip almost a month already (!) and I'm just getting back to the recap. I swear if I don't blog while on vacation, I may not ever do it. But this was such an epic trip for us, I don't want it to go undocumented. I wrote most of this on the plane anyway, so here it goes!

When I was planning our trip to Germany, I knew we'd want to spend some time in Austria. My first thought was Salzburg because its only an hour and a half from Munich. However I couldn't think of anything I absolutely had to do there (that required staying for multiple nights) so I decided it would be more relaxing to stay outside in the city in a beautiful spot. A few hours of lurking in the Tripadvisor forums and I had decided on a town called Fuschl am See about twenty minutes outside of Salzburg.

When we arrived we were greeted with these gorgeous views...

We got off to a bit of a rough start, beginning with the hotel putting up in small tiny room in what can only be described as the attic, despite the fact that Eric could not stand up in the shower. Apparently they claimed that the person in our room had not yet checked out, um ok, but then don't they have to take the crappy room for not checking out on time? Ha.

But, I have to say our new room the next day totally made up for the weird start and then the hotel surpassed our expectations times a million.

Not only was the view amazing, but the food at this place I am still missing. We chose to do "half board" which meant we got breakfast and dinner included. Every morning at breakfast, we got to pick our main dinner course from three options. Then, at dinner, we got to start with a bread and salad buffet, then a soup, then an appetizer and then the main course. That would've been more than enough but they also included a ridiculously delicious dessert. Besides the food being great, I loved that I didn't have to search for a restaurant every night with an English menu and wait forever after we eat for the bill. Yeah yeah, I know that's a European thing but my stomach doesn't like to eat and then sit around :)

Just so you guys would not think I'm exaggerating, I took some food photos for you.

The best dessert night was our last night with an ice cream buffet, obviously right up my alley.
The last thing to love about this lovely hotel was the lake, obviously. It provided a lot of opportunities to burn off all the delicious food we were enjoying. Of course you know how much I love swimming and I'm starting to bring Eric on board with my obsession so we did some lake laps more than once. I also enjoyed a quick paddle boarding trip. I've been wanting to do this again since our honeymoon but somehow haven't had an opportunity so I was psyched to see there were a couple of boards for guests to enjoy for free.

If I could plan this trip again, I might just spend the entire time in this one hotel alternating between reading, water sports, eating and just relaxing :) What could be better?

Do you prefer relaxing vacations or vacations where you are seeing a lot and always on the go?


Monday, August 5, 2013

On Tap for August

It's been months since I last posted goals. I've had some, but I didn't post them, which in turn means I don't remember what they were or if I met them. Issues. It's a few days late, but I want to post my August goals in hopes I'll actually stick to them! August is a hit or miss month for me productivity wise, some years I bust everything out before school begins again. Other years I spend most of the month in denial about summer being over. We are going to hope that the first one happens this year. I have slightly less tutoring than usual so that SHOULD give me time to be productive. We shall see. 


1. Swim across my favorite pond. It's a mile total. Right now I'm up to a little under 3/4 of a mile, so this should be doable if I just keep increasing my distance each swim. I'm swimming about 3 times a week right now, so I'm hoping to be across the pond around mid-month. However, even if it's at the end, I'm okay with that. I just want to DO it. 


2. Get rid of clutter, part 2. In April I was AWESOME at getting rid of clutter. I got rid of so much and for the most part, I've kept clutter out and things organized. My closets, for example remain, clean and organized, I can find my clothes and stuff a lot easier now. However, some clutter has definitely started to return on surfaces, particularly my kitchen table (we eat in the dining room) and my desk. There is a distinct possibility I will eventually decide to eliminate my desk entirely as I always do work on the couch anyway, and all I do with my desk is accumulate clutter. But would I just find somewhere else to put it? Unknown. See below for my worst two spots. Everything else is MUCH better I promise! 

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3. Read 4 or 5 books. I know once the school year begins I won't have as much time for reading. I have a book goal of 40 this year but I've been considering raising it to 45. 


4. Improve my breakfasts. Back in June I was on a really good breakfast kick. I was having either oatmeal or an egg over easy/piece of bread with avocado. Then all the vacations in July lead me back to the bagel addiction. I'm not sure exactly what my plan will be to change this, but I just want to be mindful of it and try to make better choices at least a few days a week. 


What are your plans for the month of August? Did you read any good books in July that you would recommend to me?