A year ago last spring COVID forced all of us inside. Once the reality set in that our lives required major adjustments until the end of the pandemic neared, I think we all re-evaluated our priorities.  I know I did. I discovered a work/life balance I didn’t know I needed. I began caring for myself in ways I hadn’t before, in particular exercise. Exercise became my partner and kept me grounded when COVID made me feel like I had no ground to walk on.

When the gyms shuttered I needed to come up with a solution for exercise. One summer day last May when the gym wasn’t a safe option, I stood before my pool wondering what kind of exercise I could do that would give me a big cardio boost. I mean I literally stood looking at the pool scratching my head.  Dummy, you can swim, can’t you? But, swimming laps always looked so boring. Up and back. Back and forth.

Mr. Bee is a swimmer and I asked him how many laps he typically swims in a day. Sixty. Sixty laps? There’s no way I can do that.  He asked me why and I couldn’t come up with an answer other than thinking sixty laps seemed a bit much for a non-lapper like me. I mean, my extent of swimming is throwing in the raft and paddling to it and floating on the water with the occasional dip into the water to cool off.

I sat with my immediate, “no I can’t do that” response for a few days. I realized I immediately rejected the idea because I didn’t think it was an achievable goal. If I knew I could do it, would I still try?  I had already set myself up for the failure of something I hadn’t even tried.  What’s the worst that can happen, I hate it and I find something else. But if I don’t try it, I will never know. Sixty laps equal a mile. This was my goal by my birthday on August 29.

I invested in a good set of swim goggles, a swim cap (don’t even get me started, there is no such thing. Believe me), and grabbed Mr. Bee’s abacus and wrote down my intention: May swim 30 laps, June 30, July 40, July 50, and by August 29 swim 60 laps. I tracked my laps with an abacus which is what Mr. Bee uses to track his laps. I prepared a kick-ass Spotify playlist and turned the volume way up on the speakers so I could listen while I swam. I also watched a few videos on YouTube to help me improve my stroke technique and asked Mr. Bee to watch me swim to give me tips as well (he swam competitively throughout college and taught swim lessons).

What happened? I realized I love swimming! I love how it’s a quiet form of exercise. I can hear the sound of my lungs filling and releasing air. I can hear the sound of the water as I take each stroke. When I am doing the backstroke I can watch the clouds, the birds fly overhead, and the sunset. I also work through life’s problems and foster new ideas. When I am done at the end of each workout I get out drenched in water, not sweat (although sweat comes later after I’ve cooled off). I feel terrific. I continued with this plan and on August 29 swam my sixtieth lap! I also lost ten pounds during that four-month training leading up to my goal. On average I swam five days a week spending about an hour in the pool.

The health benefits of swimming are numerous. If you are looking for a full-body workout, swimming engages every single muscle down to your toes. Regular laps will help you burn fat, tone muscle, and increase your overall strength. If done correctly, you can work up to 48 muscles at once.  Here’s a great article on the benefits of swimming.

As fall approached I knew the days would get cooler and so would the water, so I needed a backup plan until I could spend long stretches of time back in the pool. My friend Jac (really Jacquie, but I call her Jac and Jay-Quelan) invited me to join her for a Pilates class at the  Club Pilates studio in Waterside that just opened near my house. I tried Pilates before at the gym, but not in a professional setting with a certified trainer. After my first few sessions, I was hooked. I also appreciated their strict guidelines regarding COVID: all members must wear a mask to enter, the reformers are six feet apart, and all equipment must be thoroughly cleaned after you finish the class. They also installed an air filtration system. You can read more about their COVID-19 health and safety measures hereNote: I choose to continue wearing my mask during my workouts to protect my health and those around me even though I am fully vaccinated.

Again, I found a form of exercise that wasn’t one burpee away from me breaking a hip like when I tried Camp Gladiator. CG, by the way, is an excellent program for people motivated by group exercise and intense cardio intervals. I realize that I am not inspired by intensity or group motivation which is why I think swimming and Pilates work so well for me.

My 100th Class!

I joined in August starting out with three classes a week. Now I am working out five days a week and walking the other two. I feel more flexible, longer, and leaner than I have in years.  I have formed muscle strength and definition I didn’t know was possible. My back doesn’t hurt because I have developed a really strong core, and I sleep like a baby. I lost another ten pounds. Every time I leave the studio I feel like I have breathed out every possible stressor from the day. Do you know how you feel when you get a good massage? Well, that’s how Pilates makes me feel every time I come home. The best news is that I just reached my first milestone – 100 classes!

Joseph Pilates, a German physical trainer said, “In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 sessions you will see the difference and in 30 sessions you will have a whole new body.” When he suffered from asthma, rickets, and rheumatic fever he dedicated his life to improving his physical health. He came to believe that the modern-day lifestyle, poor posture, and inefficient breathing lay the roots of poor physical health. He ultimately devised a series of exercises and training techniques and engineered all the equipment, tuning, and specifications required to teach his methods properly. Here is a great introduction to Pilates.

To celebrate my 100th class, I’ve partnered with Club Pilates Waterside to give away one free one-hour private class at either their Waterside location! Head over to my Facebook and Instagram accounts to follow the contest rules. The contest ends at noon on Friday, April 16. The lucky winner will be selected on Saturday, April 17 at noon. The winner will be notified via direct message with instructions.  If you aren’t sure about Pilates and want to try a free introductory class before you enter the contest, you can book your first class here. If you decide the join Club Pilates, be sure to tell them Home with a Twist referred you and we both receive a $25 credit good toward store merchandise. Plus, right now Club Pilates is running a challenge – if you complete thirty classes in ninety days you will be entered to win a free month of unlimited Pilates! Club Pilates has locations all over the U.S., so if Waterside isn’t near you check here for the closest studio. If you have any questions contact [email protected].

Perhaps swimming and Pilates aren’t your thing, and that’s okay. The point is take the time to find YOUR thing, and once you do stick with it. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

“Everyone is the architect of their own happiness.” Joseph Pilates.