‘Why we swim’ is a narrative, in-depth book about the importance of swimming. As a sport, survival method, a way of being together, and a way to physical and mental well-being. According to Americans, swimming liberates your mind and puts you in a state of flow.
‘Swimming. In the Netherlands, it is part of education. A strict upbringing, sometimes. Who doesn’t remember that stern lifeguard who admonished you when the breaststroke wasn’t good enough? For some, the love of swimming stopped after that. Others continued. I have rediscovered it myself in recent years. I prefer to avoid chlorine, rather give me a river or a lake where I stand with my feet in the sand. Wild swimming with Lifeguard Pretest. How beautiful does that sound?
IMMERSION OPENS THE IMAGINATION
Swimming is in her genes. Her parents met in a pool in Hong Kong, and she later swam on a swim team herself. When her child was 6 years old, decided to join a swim team when she was 40. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology and social sciences, she describes her ‘unshakable surrender to an element’.
Swimming is her life. It is therefore not surprising that in the book she asks that one important question: Why do we actually swim? The introduction already gives an idea that we do it for so many reasons. Just look at history. Swimming helped in prehistoric times to get from one bank to the other and escape predators. It helped us dive for new food sources. And it is a source of joy, pleasure, and achievement.
Swimming can heal, but it’s also just healthy – a path to well-being, the author says. Swimming together can be a way to form a group or community through a team, a club or a shared, beloved body of water, such as a lake or the sea. In the water we discover a new way of being in the world, you flow. It’s about the human relationship with water and how immersion can open up our imagination.
Swimming frees your mind, according to the interviews did with scientists and swimmers alike. She notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental as well. Swimmers often reach the “flow” state in the water and get their best ideas while in the water.
Her travels took her to the California coast, where she dove for abalone. She swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, a grueling swim. In Tokyo, she heard about the martial arts tradition of ‘samurai swimming’. In Iceland, she met, a local celebrity who survived six hours in a wintry sea in 1984 after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname ‘the human seal’.
IMITATIONS OF A FISH
While humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author found that some have additional benefits in the water. For example, the Baja people of Indonesia can dive below the surface for as much as 10 minutes while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most of us, though, it’s just a matter of practice.
The book makes the reader long to be in the water. Water becomes the refuge of the mind, as the body moves in its best imitations of a fish. We will never be the fish, Tzu makes us realize.
How wonderful, especially with the warm summer, to discover our flow in the water.
As human beings, we strive for a healthy lifestyle by eating and drinking healthily, but also by exercising a lot. Exercising a lot makes us feel more vital and fitter, which means we are able to do more things. One of the healthiest forms of exercise is swimming, where muscles and joints can fully relax. Swimming pools are the place for swimming lessons. With this we increase swimming safety, especially in a water-rich environment such as the Netherlands, with the aim of reducing drowning. A safe and healthy swimming environment is therefore of great social importance.
Swimming pools have an important position in society. However, many swimming pools are (or have been) closed due to corona. Now that we are carefully focusing on a corona-free society in which swimming pools are allowed to open again, the question is: to what extent are swimming pools able to provide a vitally safe and healthy swimming environment after the jab?