Make Learning to Swim a Priority for Your Children: Guest Blog from Summer Sanders

Chlorine is in the air.

It’s that time of year when kids are itching to hit the pool and parents are trying to find their swim suits, digging for their goggles and possibly wondering how in the world do I get my kid swim ready.  Well, I am here to help and believe me, after 5 months of the schlepping the equipment of ski season, the swim season is a sinch!  There are a few things I will tell you up front.  Make learning to swim a priority.  No matter how great you are as a parent and how much you watch your child at the pool, bad things can happen right under your nose.  I was chatting with my friend in the baby pool when Spider was 1.  I was right next to him, sitting down. My mistake was looking at my friend while she was talking and not at Spider.  I had looked up at her for what felt like 3 seconds, but when I looked down, Spider was face down in the pool…he hadn’t yet figured out how to pull his feet/legs back under him to stand up.  He and I were both freaked.  It doesn’t matter how well YOU swim, it’s how well your child swims without you.  Get them in lessons first and foremost!

  1. Find a lesson and instructor that you trust and that works for your family. www.swimtoday.org I have said this about a million times to anyone that will listen….Take your child to swim lessons with a calm and happy demeanor.  Even if they scream and cry, smile and tell them you love them.  Hand them over to your trusted instructor and get out of eye-sight.  I cried every second of my first set of lessons!  You cannot give in!
  2. If your child is beyond pool safety and you want them to learn to swim, set expectations with the instructor. Yes, it should be fun but learning the strokes can and should be a part of their curriculum.
  3. Repetition is key! The more days you swim in a row, the better it will sink in.  Often times if a kid hasn’t swum all winter they will jump in the pool for the first time at the beginning of summer and “forget” what to do.  Get them back in the swing of swimming with a one or two week long EVERY DAY series of lessons.  And these lessons don’t have to be long, maybe 20 mins.
  4. The bag! You must create a swim bag with suit, cap (mostly for girls), goggles, towel, sun screen, conditioner and lotion.  Suit, rinse it out after every swim. Cap and goggles, got to www.speedo.com to learn how to put them on properly and how to get the correct fit. Conditioner, it helps the hair from getting super brittle and tangled.  Lotion, chlorine water dries your skin out like nothing else! If you don’t put lotion on, you will itch like crazy!
  5. If you are wondering whether or not your child is ready for swim team, I have three words for you GO FOR IT! I firmly believe that kids get better, faster in a group/team environment.  Yes, they are forced to swim more and practice is longer but you will see such incredible improvements and that leads to some serious confidence and smiles!
  6. Once your kid is on the swim team, you need tolearn about the strokes and their times.  The greatest part of swimming is that it is all time based.  Therefore the kids can focus on their own PR’s as opposed to what color ribbon they won!
  7. Celebrate a competitive attitude! If you child is bummed they didn’t win, I think that is fantastic.  You can help them learn about ways they can be faster.  If they are a sore loser, you can teach them that it’s not acceptable to act that way.  The joy of an individual sport is that the outcome is in their hands.  Such incredible life lessons can be taught through the ups and downs in the swim pool. 

Enjoy and Happy Swimming!

Summer Sanders Takes Us Inside Her Struggle With Melanoma

The east is defrosting and the west has been unseasonable warm.  The sun is shining and I think after most people’s winter, we are feeling an extreme right to sit outside and soak up the warmth. Which, of course, is one of my favorite things to do. Over the past year, I have had to look at that moment a bit differently. And because of that shift in thinking, the change in season makes this the perfect time for me to tell my story.

I grew up in Northern California, Roseville, CA to be exact. I spent every waking moment in our backyard pool. I took my first lessons at 18-months and hated every moment of it. For the next 16 months, I would hold onto the side of the pool… walking my fingers around the kidney bean shape all day long. And then, I went for it. At 3, I started to fully swim and loved every second of it.  First it was summer swim team then I joined the year round team. If I wasn’t in the pool I was either eating or sleeping, which were really just considered breaks in the action.

I remember getting sunburn several times during long swim meets and I remember hating it, almost beating myself up mentally for allowing it to happen. When I was in high school, my dad took me on vacation to Turks and Caicos. I remember him giving me a hard time for putting on so much sunscreen. I just never wanted to get sunburn. Even now, my husband will laugh at me when I seem a little red at the end of a day in the sun.  He giggles at how afraid I am, of the burn.

In my defense, I never went to a tanning salon. My source of tan came from hours and hours face down, for the most part, in an outdoor swim pool. I was in that pool morning and night for up to 24 hours a week. I never trained indoors. And, honestly, I loved it. You could always tell the kids that trained indoor when we got to Nationals. The skin color said it all.

My skin color came from my dad… and his mother. Grandma Elaine was from British Guyana in South America. My dad, Bob, is a firm believer in the power and healing properties in the sun. He would come home from work everyday and take a good hour nap in the sun. He has never, ever worn a drop of sunscreen. My dad was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley in LA. He ran track and was outside doing so. He tanned quite well. My brother used to say, “My dad and my sister tan so easily they can tan indoor with the fluorescent lights.” Add to that, the fact that on both sides of my gene pool, there were no cases of melanoma. It simply doesn’t run in my family. That was a comfort for sure.

About 2 years ago, I noticed a little brown, round freckle on the back of my right calf. It was tiny, but quite dark and definitely new. As time went on, my husband would mention it often. “That’s definitely new. You should get that checked out.” It wasn’t odd shaped, it wasn’t raised and it seemed completely normal. I just didn’t think anything of it. And, I thought of all the reasons it wasn’t anything to worry about. My skin color, my family doesn’t get skin cancer… It can wait. 

Those are the 3 most dangerous words. “It Can Wait”. And that is meant to scare you a bit.

I didn’t even make the dermatologist appointment for the frole. (that is what I called it, freckle-mole) Have you ever tried to get an appointment to really get checked out by a good dermatologist?? You literally have to wait 6 months. Well, this dermatologist could see me in a couple of days. I had him look at something on my face…and then, it was a total and complete after-thought. I said to him while pointing at my calf, “Oh yeah. What do you think this is?” He said, “How long have you had it?” When I told him only a couple of years, he said, “You really shouldn’t be getting any new moles.” Hmmm. Interesting. And then, the classic line… “I am not worried about it. We don’t need to take it off now.” I quickly went back and forth in my mind. And then decided, “I am here. Let’s just do it.”

About ten days later on a Thursday when my mom was visiting, I got a call that went a little something like this.

-Hi this is Summer.

-This is Dr. X’s office, we got your pathology results and the doctor needs to see you tomorrow.

-What? Tomorrow? That can’t be good. What’s wrong?

-Well, you have a severely A-typical malignant melanoma.

-Ok. What??

-He wants to see you tomorrow to talk about it. You need to get it out.

-UH. Ok.

And then we made the appointment and hung up.

I turned to my mom who was staring at me the entire conversation and she wanted to know what the woman said. I had no idea. So I called the office back. Then, I got my pathology. Yup, melanoma.

We didn’t know what any of it meant and there were some words that comforted us and some that freaked us out. I won’t go into detail about that but I will say that when you take your own pathology and then hop on the internet to attempt to understand it, the results can be frightening.  Managing your health when you get news like this is a full time job. I called one office about getting it taken out and their next appointment was in 2 ½ months. I am not a doctor but I knew I didn’t want to live with this in my calf for that long. So, I called another doctor and had the procedure a week later. A friend of mine came with me to the appointment. I had not heard anything from a doctor’s mouth what my pathology results meant until he walked through the door. And the 3rd sentence out of his mouth was, “Well, I can’t tell you that you are not going to die from this and I won’t know that for 5 years.” I started to laugh…. I assumed he was kidding. And then I looked at my friend and we both sat up straighter like we had been misbehaving in class.

Melanoma is a tricky SOB. Basically, they “excised” the area around the mole. I describe it like an ice cream scoop out of my calf and stitched me up. I was chatting with my friend the entire time. I then showed him a tiny speck of a freckle on my other calf. He said, “I would never take this off but since you say it looked a lot like the other one, let’s get it out and take a look.” He used a hole-punch like tool and sent me home.

A week later, good news and bad news. Looks like they got all the right side out. Now just the wait and see if any little cells went off on their own to cause trouble. But, that left calf came back “severely A-typical melanoma”.  The right calf was stage I and left was caught even earlier…it wasn’t even stage I yet.  They cut out a small amount around the freckle and, again, away I went.

When I walked out of the room, I suddenly realized I had never had a full body scan. In this whole process, it was always my detection that caught the skin cancer. Two super harmless looking spots on my brown skin. But I knew that I needed the real scan done. So, on Feb 24th, 2 months after making the appointment, I got into the Cancer Center and every spot on my skin is documented. I now go in every 6 months. I now have my husband checking my hair every now and again. I now look at every spot with a “guilty until proven innocent” type of mentality. 

I am not scared of the sun. I am not mad at it. Honestly, the doctor couldn’t even tell me how or why I got this. Sure, I assume it’s because I was face down in the pool for so many years but I am not sure that is the cause. What I do know is that melanoma can look like anything…brown, black, pink…it can be raised or flat…it can be round or odd shaped. You have to know your own skin. And, if you are in your 40’s or older, and you get a new spot, a new freckle you MUST get it checked out! If you have a spot that has made you curious, NOW is the time. Please don’t say, IT CAN WAIT…because it cannot.

What’s in Summer Sanders’ Swim Bag? Find out!

I know that starting a new sport can be quite a daunting task for many people…myself included! Understanding the etiquite, the lingo and the equipment is a part time job. But, I have found that if you get your bag set with the proper equipment, the journey is partly successful before you even begin. 

Find you perfect bag.  Speedo.com has a bag for every size and type of swimmer. My kids have backpacks that a bit smaller than what I can handle.  The key is that the zipper opens the backpack up completely…so you don’t have to take everything out to get to your precious goggles that fell down to the bottom.  And speaking of goggles, most of Speedo’s backpacks have lots of littlier compartments that house your little things…like goggles, caps, hair ties, brushes, etc.

Once you’ve located the perfect bag, let’s fill it up with the MUST HAVES in the SWIM BAG…

  1. The essentials.  Cap, goggles, swim suit and all the other equipment for you stage of swim training…ie, paddles, fins, pull buoy.  These NEED to stay in your bag because, although swimming is NOT equipment heavy, it’s pretty hard to swim without the 3 essentials.
  2. Towel. Don’t be shy on the towel. Especially in the wintertime, the choice of towel is critical.  You need one with enough umph to dry you off a few times. First when you exit the pool and second when you exit the shower. And, you need a little spot to dry your feet at the end.
  3. PJ’s. This is mostly for the kids but now that my kids are doing it, I wish I had back in the day. They pack their yummiest, coziest PJ’s to change into after practice. Now, all they have to do when they get home is eat, brush their teeth and it’s off to sleepville. Brilliant children.
  4. Cozy shoes. Don’t be crazy and try to change back into your work shoes after swimming. I don’t care where you live, when your feet exit the chlorine after a long swim, they want to be nestled by something snuggly…not sharp and pointy! No heals, just comfy. If you are going straight to work after your swim, change into the “grown up” shoes at the last minute.  Trust me, you will be happier!
  5. Extra Essentials. Always keep an extra cap, pair of goggles and swim suit in your bag at all times. Trust me, you will need this and you will thank me.
  6. Overnight kit for your swim bag. Whatever you would need for overnight, pack into your bag. When you try to transport one kit with your make-up, lotion, deodorant, etc. Just make a duplicate and keep it in your bag. The last thing you want is to get out of a magically happy swim to be bummed by your lack of mascara!

I hope this gives you a better grip on the equip! Happy Swimming!

Why Runners Should Swim: Guest Blog from Summer Sanders

I cannot say it enough and my friends sure do know this to be the truth…so, let me say it again, if you run, you should swim. The two exercises go hand and hand…and it’s not just because I love them both.

This might shock you but swimming didn’t come naturally to me…at least emotionally. Because we had a backyard pool, my mom wanted my brother and I to be pool safe so I took lessons at 18 months. I cried every moment of every lesson and didn’t learn to love the water until I was 3. At age 4 I followed my hero-brother to rec swim tryouts and even though I was supposed to be 6 once I swam a lap of the pool the rest was history..so to speak.

I found running during my first year of the Presidential physical fitness award. I LOVED every bit of that test…until they added the flexibility section. But I was especially fond of the mile run. So much so that my swim coach asked if I wanted to run cross country as cross training. I never did but I kept that running card in my back pocket for about 8 years. That’s when I hung up my competitive swim suit and dusted off my running shoes.  I loved running for everything swimming wasn’t. I could feel myself sweat, I could do it anywhere from anywhere and I could chat as much as I wanted to.

The more I ran, the more I realized I needed swimming even more. Swimming and running create the perfect cocktail. Swimming was my yoga before yoga was uber popular. It still is my original zen workout. A true exercise that connects you holistically, mind and body. And think about it, what aches the most after a long week of running? Your joints, your feet are beat up from the pounding. Swimming, on the other hand, is as gentle as a pillow on all that has been pounded. Yet works the areas that are often neglected, your core, arms and back. And, don’t be intimidated by swimming. No matter how much you run, how in shape you feel, when your lungs hit the water, it’s as if you have been sitting on the couch eating chocolate all year. I know it’s not fair but this should be exciting to you. Swimming works a whole new level of your cardiovascular system. By adding swimming to your training, you will be a stronger runner or at least your lungs will think you areJ

I like to either pepper my runs with a swim by running for 40 mins and swimming for 20 or alternating between running and swimming by days. If you are on the fence and hesitant to dive in, let this be your catalyst. Here is the simple “to-do” list to get you started.

  1. Find a proper training suit. Your causal Target wear wont work anymore. It’s Speedo time kids.
  2. Locate your pool. Drive there and get to know it. Own it.
  3. Create your bag. You will need a towel, a cap (if you care about your hair) and a pair of smart fitting goggles. And if you plan to shower…soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion.
  4. Hop on Speedo Fit to learn all the basics of equipment and proper usage. (like how to put on a swim cap)
  5. You need to know your pace when you pick a lane at the pool. They usually start slower and work across the pool to the fastest. If there are only 2 people in the lane, you can swim sides. (You take one side of the black line and the other person takes the other) If there are already 2 people in the lane, you need to stop both swimmers and let them know it’s time to circle swim. Just like driving, you always stay to the right of the middle line (the black line at the bottom of the pool).
  6. If someone catches you in the pool, they should let you know by gently touching your feet. You should then stop at the closest wall and let them pass. You can then go right afterwards as long as no one is right behind them. DON’T EVER SWIM OVER SOMEONE. AND DON’T LET THEM SWIM OVER YOU.
  7. No, you shouldn’t pee in the pool.

And, that should about cover it! Let me know if you need some more convincing, I am always up for the challenge.