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Being Thankful for Swimming as a Way to Prolong My Life

As I approach my 62nd birthday, I find myself yet again writing about swimming for these pages. The editor wants another swim article? Fine. I do what I’m told! Even though I’m a longtime Santa Monica estate planning attorney, I’ll focus on the swimming articles, and I will leave it up to my colleague, Lisa Alexander, to continue to write her excellent monthly inheritance-related columns for this publication.

Hard for me to believe I’m in my 60s. Still woodburned in my mind is what my dad, the late great Gerald Condon, told me about aging when I was in my early 20s. “Jeff, I promise you, after being caught up in working, paying the mortgage, family-raising, kids’ sports, and just general living, you turn around and you’re 60.”

I didn’t believe him then. I sure do now. As is the usual observation from folks who approach later-in-life birthdays: “What the $%#@ happened?” Wasn’t I just having the famed pepperoni pizza at LaBarbera’s? Wasn’t it just three weeks ago that I cruised the crowded sidewalks of Westwood Village on Friday and Saturday nights? Am I not still sandy after meeting my junior high buddies at the beach north of Station 8? Isn’t Regular Jon’s still in Brentwood with its silent movies and free lollipops?

Okay. Okay. Enough lamenting. Not much that can be done about getting older except this: Wha’ cha’ going to do about it NOW? Well – there is only one thing that you can do about aging up: Do something every single day to keep your heart rate up! Why?

Because being sedentary and still = an early grave. Which should not be news to you. All of us of a certain age have had that drilled into our brains everywhere we turn. From our children to articles in the latest AARP Magazine.

My “something” just happens to be swimming which I have done on a regular basis since 10th grade at Santa Monica High School. We are fortunate to have the Santa Monica Swim Center as our swim community’s nerve center. Terrific facility! Very friendly and approachable staff. Accessible hours.

There are hundreds of articles out there about the science of swimming. This ain’t one of them! I assume you already know of the sport being the closest thing we have to the Fountain of Youth. (It’s true! There are boatloads of research which support the oft-made claim that swimming staves off the inevitable physical and mental decline that comes with aging.) Rather, this is me get­ting you over your excuses to start swimming in the first place, such as:

“The water is wet and cold.”

“The water looks cold. You say it’s not cold? It still looks cold.”

“Too much of a hassle. By the time, I drive there, suit up, swim, get dressed and drive home, I could have already been to the gym and back.”

I get all of that. While swimming logistics are a pain – the actual swimming is not. If I can motivate even one person with this article to get into the water, that one person will thank me later for the pep talk. “No excuses! Swimming gets your blood pumping! It will make you temporarily forget all your problems! You will feel lighter-than-air in the water! So, rearrange your life to get in there, and get in there!”

For that one person who reads this and jumps into the pool immediately thereafter – don’t just do “old-man swimming” where you simply go back-and-forth with no plan. Here is your super-simple swim set that will get you going – and more importantly, keep you interested and motivated.

Do four laps. After you have done those four laps, look at one of the many pace clocks on deck to see how long it took you.

Two minutes? Okay. Then, wait 30 seconds and do that again. Then, rinse and repeat until you’ve done four laps 10 times. In swimming parlance, that’s 10x100 on a 2:30 base. Need more time for your base? Then, add more time to your base. You keep that up. You will inevitably find yourself able to do that on a shorter base. And, that’s where the improvement and blood pump kicks in.

Happy Swimming! Because you WILL be a happier person when you start swimming and keep it going!

By Jeff Condon

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