Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

I was under the, apparent, misunderstanding that it takes three weeks to form a habit. (Some bad habits maybe sooner, but a life-changing habit, that is!) Come to find out in a study published by the European Journal of Social Psychology (I guess they would know), it really takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit. That gave me food for thought.

By late winter, most New Year’s resolutions have gone the way of old Christmas chocolate, and we are back to our slovenliness; the habits we love best, the reasons to stay exactly the same. The holiday weight is still on the belly, the treadmill remains dusty and there has been little to no change in the Jan. 1 zest for a lifestyle change.

Let’s face it — most of us humans are not athletes. A true athlete will exercise in all weathers and pay serious attention to what goes in and out of their bodies every second of every day. My sister Mary is one of those people. She lives on the Isle of Man in the middle of the Irish Sea and rain, shine, sleet, snow, Artic front — she is out there. Whether or not her poor Lab wants to go out for a run, they are going out twice a day. Oftentimes she will run, cycle and swim like a triathlete during the course of one short day. That is what you might call hardcore. I call it nuts; but I am likely just envious of her triceps, biceps and all the other ceps there might be.

The one sport I have always held close to my heart is swimming. I was raised in, on and by the sea. To me, it’s the most primal thing in the world. During the winter, it can be harder to find bodies of water to splash around in. (The hardcore will then just don a wet suit!) I have been in water on the East Coast of England in December and January, but only for a minute, and it’s really not that much fun.

It was January and I needed to get the ageing body moving in the right direction. Then I saw a post about the Soledad Pool. “Now reopening!” Oh goody, that’s more my kind of thing. I had enjoyed some evening water aerobics classes there prior to the holidays and then the classes stopped and so did my slowly developing habit. 7 a.m.? Oooh, not really my time of day — but could I make it into my time of day? I’ve always been known as the slug in my clan, because I can never get up and out in the early hours. (Unlike my sister, the athlete. Can’t is a little harsh, I can with the aid of an alarm clock, but I mostly choose not.) I would try and that is all you can ask of an old dog. I would endeavor to work on this new habit that was knocking at my door.

The first day I had all my kit laid out and ready to go, lest I falter at the gate. No excuses. The early morning light had a pinky hue to it and all around was quiet. It was pretty much me and the school bus navigating the roads. I could do this. At 7:10 promptly, about 10 ladies like me began splashing around with their water weights in the shallow end of the pool, vaguely trying to follow along with the instructor. (No penalties if you can’t!) The music played through the large speaker — a whole mish-mash compilation of ’70s, ’80s and Spanish music to keep you awake and moving.

And we kept moving, boy did we. For a whole hour indeed. I was pretty impressed with myself. Can’t injure yourself in the water, can you? Well, the next morning the kit was all dry and ready to go, but the leg muscles were not cooperating. “Mother, you don’t need to be an all-out warrior during your first week at class!” my darling daughter tells me. Well, I did, obviously, and it bit me back. Sometimes I forget how old I am.

Day 2 and I was already limping. Oh dear me. But I got back on the horse, as they say, and took it a little easier the next couple of sessions, making sure to stretch appropriately at the end of each session and not give myself reasons to not get up and go the following day. And sure enough, this new habit became habitual more quickly than many others I have chanced in my life, because I liked it — I really did — and I loved how I felt afterward. I’d be back home just after 8 in the morning to start my day and I would already have an hour of wonderful exercise under my belt. I’m sure my mood was much improved as well.

To any of you non-athletes out there like me (can’t run to save my life), think about a water aerobics class to help your overall health and agility. One thing I have realized, after injuring my knee in a ranch accident and not taking care of it quickly enough, is that, like many things, you can lose your mobility rather quickly if you don’t use it. I learned this the hard way and am still under repair 18 months later. Yeah, don’t be like me. Swimming is the most all-round kindly sport you can do for yourself and there are no age restrictions, just the will to get up and out and into the pool.

The Soledad-Mission Recreation District claims to be much more than swimming, and they are. But they are especially good at swimming. The pool is large and warm. It hosts swim teams, lap swimmers, family swims and more. It also hosts, super importantly, the early morning water aerobics class where all are welcome. I’ve found that my internal clock has even improved with my new habit. On the weekend, I can be seen awake with the dawn and wishing there was class. Never mind I turn over and go immediately back to sleep, but the thought was there briefly, the intention intact.

My goal is to go every morning, five days a week, and I still haven’t accomplished that; but I did attain 4/5 last week, and I felt like a complete winner. If you want to be a bit more winning in your life and general health, you might like to try it.

The Soledad Rec is at 570 Walker Drive; 831-678-3745; soledadrec.org.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].

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