It’s all in the stroke for senior swimmers

SWIMMING ain’t what it used to be and seniors are making the most of it.

People come to public pools and the ocean with all types of floating apparatus plus flippers, masks and snorkels.

Any embarrassment by poor swimmers at being seen splashing about in public has gone down the gurgler. And fair enough, provided they don’t block the lanes of us swimming regulars.

It’s all nicely supervised with most public pools setting aside times for special groups with lanes for slow, medium and fast swimmers.

Some groups do water exercises under the direction of supervisors with music blaring. There is definitely a place for the senior, the disabled and the struggling or shy swimmer.

Swimming pool managers, exercise leaders and local councils all pitch-in to play their parts. Newcomers can phone ahead and ask the best times to take their dips when numbers are lowest.

Octogenarian Tony Smith has swum all his life and it helps his asthma. He’s a regular among Cottesloe Surf Lifesaving Club ocean swimmers and now swims with the crabs – that’s Cottesloe Crabs.

On Sundays, about 60 swimmers have handicapped races and events at HBF Stadium (formerly Challenge Stadium).

“You always feel refreshed after a swim and miss it if you don’t do it. There’s also the camaraderie in the group,” says Tony.

“You’re swimming in a heated pool and you can be aged 70, 80 or 90. We have coffee, home-made soup and sausages after the swim. It’s enjoyable and the swim is good for you.”

Experts tell us swimming has advantages over other activities. Swimming uses all the muscles in the body whether you swim a gentle breaststroke or do butterfly.

“Exercising in water makes your body work harder so 30 minutes in a pool is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land,” says one instructor.

A great form of cardiovascular exercise, swimming 30 minutes a week can help to guard against heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

It is ideal exercise for people with osteoarthritis who find weight-bearing exercises excruciatingly painful. Swimming decreases arterial stiffness, a risk factor for heart trouble.

Swim training is linked with lower blood pressure among people with hypertension.

The coolness and buoyancy of water appeals to overweight or obese people who find load-bearing aerobic exercises like running, too hot or uncomfortable. Water supports up to 90 per cent of the body’s weight.

“Just 30 minutes of swimming three times a week alongside a balanced, healthy diet and lifestyle is one of the best ways to stay fit, healthy and maintain a positive mental outlook,” says the instructor.

“Do it with friends, and it’s even more fun.”

A gentle swim can burn more than 200 calories in half an hour, more than double that of walking. It is great for general well-being.

Susannah Carr

Channel 7 newsreader Susannah Carr gives swimming a top-rating.

“It’s all about fitness and health. When I started swimming in my twenties I changed my circulation problems and increased my lung capacity,” said Susannah who swims 20 laps (one km) twice a week.

Do you miss it when on assignment or on holiday?
“Sure do but unless you go to a resort with a big pool it’s rarely possible.”

Do you mostly swim the same stroke?
“Mostly freestyle but sometimes breaststroke every fourth lap.”

Do you vary you speed?
“After all these years I’m still not fast. It’s frustrating but that’s just the way it is. I’ve considered getting some coaching and may still do that. But a friend said if your stroke is inefficient you use more energy so maybe I’ll just stay an inefficient swimmer.
“It’s harder in summer when more people use the pool… we all-year-round swimmers feel a trifle resentful towards fine weather-only swimmers.”

Do you feel it does you better and feel good afterwards?
“Always feel great and it’s very meditational.”

Any downside?
“Not really… I have to wash hair anyway!”