ILOILO—Each Holy Week for the past three years, I’ve stayed at my wife’s uncle’s beach house in Oton, a town 20 minutes away from Iloilo City. Last year, I wrote an article in Sun.Star Cebu about a sport I exercised here each morning. Here’s a revised version of that piece…
Here in the rest house, right on the front lawn, sits a temptress. She’s dressed in all-blue, is sexy, and winks at me to jump on her. Her name? Swimming Pool. Ahhh… Is there any other four-letter word that best describes this lady in blue?
For the past three days, each morning before 7, I slip on my shorts, tighten the Speedo goggles, and run horizontal for an hour, turning one arm after another and kicking one leg then the next for over one kilometer.
Swimming feels cool. Refreshing. It’s Cold against Hot. Winter versus Summer. And best of all, it offers the best exercise.
During the past week, when one can’t eat chicken, pork or beef—it’s good to eat fish. No, let me rephrase that: It’s good to be a fish. To dive into the water, splash, squirm, blow bubbles—just like a fish.
First, I swam the breast stroke. Don’t you feel like a frog doing the breast stroke? I do. You stretch your arms out in front, twist them outward, push against the current. Your legs? They crawl. On water. Like a frog. But who cares? At least, with the breast stroke, I’m a healthy toad!
After 30 laps, I switch gears and swim the free-style. The most famous of all strokes, it uses every single muscle tissue. You tilt your head down, jerk it to the right, gasp for oxygen. You twist your arms and thrust them forward. Your torso twists. Your calves tighten. Your feet kick against the liquid. Amazing style and, best of all, it’s free!
Back stroke? Sorry, I didn’t pedal backwards. This is another excellent stroke but, this month when God beams the sun straight to one’s eyes like a giant flashlight, doing Back is Bad.
Butterfly? Ha-ha. Don’t ask me because the only butterfly I know has 14 colors and flutters near the Gumamela.
So, here’s my conclusion: Swimming is the best exercise. Don’t believe me? Look at the physique of Michael Phelps. If you’re at SM or Ayala, stride inside Speedo and gaze at the giant poster of the man-fish who’s as lean as a barracuda.
Here’s another conclusion: Swimming helps you at other sports. It’s called cross-training. Since you breathe no air underwater, your lung capacity increases and it helps build your—to borrow a local term…“hangin.”
What else do I enjoy about swimming? You’re alone. You don’t need a badminton opponent or a tennis doubles partner or nine others for a basketball 5-on-5. You swim. By yourself. Which is good because you can meditate. Think. Solve algebra equations, if you wish. And, during the past Holy Week, pray.
What else have I discovered? Swimming is mental. In my case, swimming on a short-length pool, I vowed to finish 120 laps. Half-way through, your legs feel wobbly, your arms, weary; and your brain pleads, “STOP… PLEEZ!” But you press on. You think positive. You continue to count the laps and wrestle with your brain, saying, “GO!”
While doing laps, at times you feel like a robot, circling those arms and staring down at the white tiles then gazing up at the blue skies when you breathe. But you go. Go. And go. You don’t quit. Unlike volleyball where a substitute waits on you, in swimming, there’s no one sitting on that bench. There’s no reliever. If you quit, no one else quits—but you! So you don’t quit. You crush the water and run floating and disallow your body to defeat your brain.
So, if there’s one advice you’ve heard 125,486 times each summer, it’s this: Hit the blue waters. Dive. Go. Swim! Believe me. You’ll end up wet, tired, looking like a barracuda, crawling like a frog, but whispering only one word.