Photo by Yanichka Ariunbold

Photo by Yanichka Ariunbold

by Yanichka Ariunbold, staff reporter

Welcome, readers, to “Setting the Tone”! It’s finally summer, and while everyone is hopefully enjoying some sort of well-deserved rest from a rough last couple months of school, use your (again, hopefully) newly freed schedule to explore the whole plethora of opportunities in the fitness world. As an introduction into this blog, I’d like to set the tone and share my own fitness story.

For almost eight years, I swam. Not the casual, lazy floating you learn as a toddler (those were the days), but the countless strokes, flip turns, laps, grueling sets and stressful competition that served to make up both some of my most treasured and yet most painful moments. Because I relied on swimming to keep me in shape throughout all these years, fitness never really seemed to be that much of a concern for me. After all, I had a so-called “swimmer’s body.” I mean, have you ever seen a professional swimmer? Most likely, they’re equipped with freakishly long limbs, lean muscles and insanely broad shoulders (Michael Phelps, anyone?).

However, despite my (impermanent as I would find out) childhood swimming talent, I decided to quit competitive club swimming in the summer of 2014. The level of competition, in all honesty, had already given me quite a bit of anxiety by the end of freshman year, as I grew increasingly dissatisfied with the sport. It had reached a certain point where the only way for you to be considered “really good” was getting into sectional and national competitions. That added an underlying factor of stress and expectations at practice everyday, which unfortunately resulted in self-deprecation whenever I couldn’t make a set or compared myself to the faster kids in the pool. Ask me if I did that everyday, I say often. Swimming used to make me feel empowered, but now, it made me feel inadequate.

Regardless of removing that negativity from my life, I was still helplessly unhappy. Although I was still attending morning high school swim practices, going from swimming four hours a day to four hours a week (sometimes less than that especially as the year went on) made a huge difference in my body. I gained around seven pounds after a couple months because, being a swimmer, I was used to eating oceans of food and burning it off just as quickly. It just so happens, however, that the latter part of that cycle is only in effect when you’ve been, say, pulling your own body weight through water for hours at a time. Don’t get me wrong though, it wasn’t like my health was deteriorating alarmingly rapidly, it was just that I just felt less confident than I had ever felt in my own skin. Most of all, however, I missed that hard-earned, satisfying sense of accomplishment I used to gain after a particularly challenging workout.

A good month after high school swim season ended, I eventually caved in and got a membership at the Aerofit gym on Longmire. In my effort to not spend any money at all, I had unsuccessfully tried jogging everyday but had abandoned the whole concept after a few sweltering trial laps around my neighborhood. Exercising inside my house wasn’t really working out (haha) as I would do it while watching Netflix, which had seemed like a great idea at the time (entertainment and exercise in one!) but soon proved to be ineffective because of shows like “Arrested Development” that one simply cannot watch half-heartedly. Getting a gym membership, however, motivated me to be fit, and not just because of the membership fees. Here was a, thankfully, air-conditioned facility that offered all sorts of exercise machines, weights and most excitingly to me, classes like yoga, Zumba and Jazzercise that I vowed someday to go to. Although I did feel a keen sense of intimidation the first time I stepped into Aerofit by myself, I soon realized that everyone at the gym just does their own thing, working hard to become stronger, fitter and happier. And that, I think, is very inspiring.

Simply said, don’t write off fitness completely if you’ve had trouble with it in the past. If you’re way more motivated than I am and can stay active at home, I sincerely applaud you. Seriously, that requires a lot of determination. Otherwise, there’s always a vast variety of ways of being active, so get up every once in a while and find yours, maybe in morning jogs and bike rides, playing some b-ball with your bros or even at a gym. Point is, you can definitely try new things. Exercising, to me, is more about gaining strength in optimism than in the body, which, of course, isn’t so bad either. Although you don’t necessarily have to literally keep swimming (I didn’t), set the tone for the summer and just keep swimming in your adventures in fitness.