For three years now, on an average of six days out of the week, you will find me in the Alaska Club pool sometime between 6:45 AM and 7:00 AM, everyday but Sunday. Some days I’m in the water for 20 minutes, some days for an hour. It is simply the most important thing I do to start my day. That kick-back-post-swim-rejuvenation feeling of well-being is so priceless, there is nothing like it. It’s an internal blast of energy that comes seemingly out of nowhere. Most swimmers experience this. I’m not the only one either who knows this and is consistently there at that seemingly ungodly hour. The regulars know each other by face, if not by name. We all have seen the same swim team members, various coaches, water-aerobic teachers, Richard the mechanic who works all night and me, the autopilot teacher. I say autopilot because I convinced myself about three years ago that I would be a better teacher, friend, colleague, wife and person if I peppered my life up with a pre-work work-out. Hence, I jump start my day with some smooth, gentle activity that energizes me in a seemingly non-arduous manner. Sometimes I swim in a lane with Richard and we discuss my crazy brother in Florida, or we just joke incessantly while swimming. The other morning another swimmer gingerly pointed out that my neck tie was precariously untied and we laughed raucously while discussing our mutually embarrassing water experiences. Many times, I simply am entranced in meditative swimming and zone out my surroundings.
There was an article I read recently that stated that a common habit of successful leaders is that they start their day with exercise. I have zero aspiration to be any kind of a leader other than the teacher role I find myself in, but I can tell you this, that swimming (or biking, or weights, or whatever your exercise thing is) is the elixir to whatever ails you. I come from a family of swimmers. My brother swims a mile a day. My 91-year-old aunt in Germany swam every morning without fail until aging-related health problems at the age of 87 eventually prohibited this. She often tells me that swimming is the fountain of youth.
There is no price you can pay for that wonderful sense of incredible well-being by starting your morning with exercise, any exercise. I do it so often now, that I no longer agonize over whether I should do it or not, I simply find myself on autopilot, walking into the Alaska Club in the dark, the rain, the snow, the sleet, on ice, sometimes avoiding a moose…I’m like the post man. I make it happen. To get to the autopilot stage, you simply practice getting up and heading out. Pack the sports bag the night before. It’s that simple. After a while of having done this, there were no more inner arguments with myself. No reconsideration and rolling over in that deliciously warm bed on a really, dark, cold morning next to my cuddly spouse and warm dog. Just get up, do a few morning routines, drink coffee, whatever, and go. Get on autopilot. Get the exercise rush. Be a better you…and love it.