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  • Omlade (Lade) Sogade

Pools, Plaits, and the Prospect of Swimming

Even though we're in these final hot days of summer, we are staying active...

...And swimming can be the perfect exercise for this weather. As a great cardio workout and muscle toner that’s easy on your joints, swimming is both effective and relaxing as a sport.

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for all ages. I grew up swimming competitively as one of my main extracurricular activities from elementary school to high school, and I still swam from time to time in college. While swimming for relaxation is great, the exercise benefits of  swimming laps and treading water (maintaining a vertical position by continuous circling of your arms and kicking of your  feet -- a kind of water equivalent of running in place) are numerous. A good swimming workout can burn more than 500 calories an hour and can have many health benefits, including improved heart and lung health, better flexibility and a happier mood.

The first step to reaping the benefits of swimming is deciding to get into the water. When I was first learning how to swim, I was terrified. Every Saturday my dad gave me swimming lessons at our local health center. He did this because my parents believed swimming was a life skill that all of their children should know. Even after these lessons, later when I took lessons at a swim club, I was still afraid to put my head under the water or swim in the deep end. Over time, and with my parents’ persistence and my coach’s coercion, I eventually overcame my fear and began to enjoy swimming.

If you do not know how to swim, there are many options for swimming lessons in the Cambridge and Boston area:

If you don't live in the Boston area check-out your local Y, Red Cross, high schools or universities in your area to see if they offer classes.

If you already know how to swim, try swimming laps or taking a water aerobics class.

Access to both a swimming pool and someone to teach you might not be what’s keeping you from jumping in. You’ll need to find the right bathing suit. When I used to swim competitively, my perception of my own body image would often make me feel self-conscious. But I remembered my motivation for swimming and was able to push those thoughts aside so I could focus.

Once you’ve decided to swim and find a swimsuit, there’s one more thing to consider. Many black women I know do not swim because of the time it takes to prepare. Deciding how to manage their hair, and finding a bathing suit they feel comfortable and confident in can be overwhelming. The Speedo swim company and RealSimple Magazine offer suggestions of different swimwear styles for different body types for both leisure swimming and lap swimming.

I have found that there are plenty of hairstyles that allow me to swim laps without too much maintenance. Box braids have worked best for me, but other protective styles -- even rockin’ my natural hair have worked too. Articles in EBONY Magazine and Black Girl Long Hair also review ways to protect natural hair while swimming, including wearing a swim cap. Follow the links for tips to taking care of your hair before and after swimming.

I love swimming because of the benefits. It’s a great exercise, and it’s just kind of an escape - I feel happier and relieved of stress after I swim.

Although summer’s flying by, it’s never too late or too early to start swimming...with indoor pools, swimming can be a year-round sport. :) I encourage you to try out some of these swimming tips and get into the water with your family or friends!


About Omlade (Lade) Sogade

I’m Lade, a rising senior at Harvard College and originally from Macon, Georgia. I study Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology and am pursuing a secondary field in Global Health and Health Policy. In addition to gaining a better understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying diseases, I am also passionate about reducing healthcare disparities in the US and abroad. I plan to attend medical school after college and hope to use my medical degree to study and improve health systems around the world.


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