Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mammalian Diving Response

Caribbean Sea, Jamaica, 1980 by Hiroshi Sugimoto (via

Ever since I was a kid I've been in love with water. I remember taking swimming lessons at age 5 and by the end of the class, I had advanced several classes and was swimming with kids several years older than me. I don't like to swim in a Michael Phelps way, instead I just like to float, spin, and dive for hours. My folks kept a trailer up at Waitts Lake in Spokane and I'd spend my summers in the lake, playing/water skiing/wake boarding all day long. 

T-Dock (image via one of my favorites!)

I've been pretty down this year (I turned 40 in January--I deserve a mid-life crisis!) and when I started therapy recently, I told my therapist, "I seem to be the happiest when I'm in the water!" No surprise there she said and explained the concept of Mammalian Diving Reflex which basically says that any time your face hits water that's less than 70 degrees, it triggers a hard body reset. I've been testing this theory (it's science!) all summer and I couldn't agree more. I can be in the worst mood ever and within a minute of swimming in Lake Washington, I'm full of love all over again. I've been thinking about this a lot lately (mostly because we have a pretty abbreviated swimming season here in Seattle and I'm wondering if I'm going to have to get a wetsuit!) and it makes perfect sense to me. For the entire history of humanity, we've mostly bathed in cold water. It's only in the past 50+ years that we've perfected hot water plumbing (and become removed from enjoying a cold water bath.) Just like our relationship with food, we've become totally disconnected to what we've relied on for thousands of years. 

Anyway, I feel so lucky to have learned this and so happy that I live in Seattle (and not still in Montana) where even though it's cold, it's not impossible to swim year round (at least with a wetsuit!). Two swims a day seems to be about the perfect formula for bear happiness (though I'm getting greedy during the month of August and trying to squeeze in 3 a day!). Throw a six pack of Rainier in the water with me and it's pretty much nirvana. I know lots of you have been wondering what's going on with me, so thanks for being patient with me as I put the blog on hold and spend my days in Lake Washington doing my hydrotherapy. And a funny side note: This past Saturday, I threw my beers in the lake and jumped in after them. When I came to the surface, I heard someone yelling 'hello'. It was my therapist, happily smiling as I enjoyed a beer under the shadow of Mt. Rainier. Summer in Seattle - I love you! 

And if you ever wanna swim, shoot me a text! I can usually be found at the T-Dock or Martha Washington during the month of August. And if you have a wetsuit and want to swim this fall/winter, lemme know! 


ernährungsplan said...

very good post

gala bent said...

I am absolutely the same. A reset button!