Mark Foster 
World Champion & Olympic Swimmer

For me, swimming has been my passion since I first got in the water with my Dad at age six. My earliest memories were the excitement, the sense of wonder at being underwater, and how calm and fascinating that sensation was. Even though, I went on to compete and race for most of my teenage and adult life, that sense of "other" I got from being in the water has never left me. I have now moved away from the racing and competition, but I am still really committed to promoting health and well being and want everyone to recognise all the other benefits that moving in the water can provide.

There’s enough choice of water-based activity to keep everyone interested and I love watching all the classes at The Lab; aqua-jogging, sprint work, water aerobics, fitness drills, training aids; every swimming session can be different, allowing you to beat boredom and stay motivated.

I love the fact that you can work out as hard or as gently as you like, making it perfect for competitive swimmers and beginners and even if your mobility on the land is restricted, once in the water you get a renewed sense of freedom. Water-based activity is a low impact sport and it’s easy on the joints, making it suitable for every age and stage of life. Being immersed in water is a great stress reducer and allows you to relax and switch off from the rest of the world.

And, like all exercise, swimming releases those feel-good hormones, endorphins, into the bloodstream giving you a natural post-workout high. In addition, once you have mastered swimming skills, other doors open to exciting water-based sports such as surfing, diving and water-skiing and it’s perfect for all the family – from babies to grandparents. Let's face it, swimming is a great social activity for all age groups.

It is the perfect all-round body workout and even a medium-paced half hour of freestyle swimming can burn up to 255 calories and it’s something you can do all year round.

More recently, I have been exploring yoga and the idea of mindfulness and meditation and realised that swimming provides that same sense of peace and calm. I know a lot of people find that swimming up and down in lanes
can be boring but with the right mindset, it can be a meditation in itself. I encourage everyone to try swimming as a form of mind relaxation and enjoy just 30 minutes for yourself. I guarantee it will reduce stress and provide a greater sense of well-being.

Whatever your reasons for taking the plunge, enjoy the sight, sound and feel of the water. Remember don’t fight the water – feel it – the water is your friend.

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