By Kathryn Millhorn
Water is the ultimate respite during these long, hot summer days. No matter your age or ability level, there’s nothing like cooling off in the spray of the Heritage Park Fountain, amidst the animal sculptures of the East Bay Public Plaza, or by diving into one of our many local swimming pools.
Fitness hub LiveStrong.com praises swimming as “being a non-weight-bearing and low-impact way to get an aerobic workout, which means that the chance of injury remains relatively low even at competitive levels.” It’s also a prime work-out post-injury or when newly approaching a fitness routine because “Swimming is worth the effort. This full-body workout improves both your cardiovascular fitness and your muscular strength–all while causing no impact shock to your body. (Where do injured runners go? The pool!) And if you swim regularly, you’ll see progress within a month.”
Whether for exercise or to simply spend a fun summer day with the family, the aquatic offerings of the South Sound YMCA are second to none. Beginning at the downtown branch of the Y in 1910, the Y’s staff now provides swimming lessons for infants, youth, teens, and adults, a hosted swim team, open swims, and even synchronized swimming classes.
Briggs Community YMCA Aquatic Director Paul Avery is proud that “during the Fall/Winter/Spring months we average about 845 pool users each day; in the summer months we average about 1,140 pool users per day. Swim lessons alone count for about 4,100 participants each year.” Many families start their children in beginner lessons—the most popular offering—and then continue on for successive years, some to gain confidence and others to compete on one of the Y’s many competitive teams.
Outside of water training, the Y’s pools are available for open swims, lap swimming, and even birthday parties. Says Avery, “This is a popular option; with very seldom a weekend passing that we do not have Saturday and Sunday birthday parties that include the pool.”
Some lesser known water opportunities include “Ai Chi class, which is Tai Chi in the water. It is great for people with arthritis and other join/muscle related medical conditions. The emphasis is on balance and relaxation. Also Aqua Zumba, which is known as the Zumba ‘pool party.’ Aqua Zumba blends a challenging, water-bases workout that’s cardio-conditioning, body-toning, and most of all, exhilarating beyond belief.”
Concludes Avery, “The fact that surprises so many people are all the Aquatic Programs and activities that we offer, which include 15 levels of learn to swim classes including adult lessons, swim team, master swim, lifeguard classes, CPR/AED/First Aid Training, Senior Water Volleyball, Ai Chi, Joints in Motion (Arthritis Class) and 10 different Water Fitness Classes. The fact that we open at 5:00am on the weekdays also surprises people. Yes, we actually have some regular early risers!”
Amber Wetzel, the Youth Development Director at the downtown Y branch says that for her—and her own family who use the facilities regularly—the sense of community is vital. As she explains, “people notice if you don’t come in for a while. There’s a big personal connection between the people: the lifeguards, teachers, and members; we’re all one big family.”
Because the South Sound YMCA has a policy of financial assistance to everyone, their doors are open to community members across our area. This means that membership is open to everyone and “with two locations in the Olympia area, the Y is a great place to become part of a community committed to helping you learn new things, explore new activities, and make friends at any stage in your life.”
We live in a region defined by water. Whether it’s the salty Sound or the misty rain, living in the Pacific Northwest means dealing with every form of H2O known to man…and a few I’m fairly certain are unique to Olympia. But that’s why we love it here! Indoors or out, whatever the season, let yourself continue to be surprised by the soggy offerings all around us.
You can contact the South Sound YMCA at 360-753-6576.