So looks like my fall season fitness program took a bit of a detour from the plan. Not that I became a slouch or anything. It’s just that the new Meadowvale community centre near me opened up and they put on a promotion that involved free ten visits to their swimming pool. So even though I found out about it about half way into their month long promotion, I still got eight swimming workouts in for free but I had to squeeze this into a period of just over two weeks.
For me, that’s a lot of swimming within two weeks. My original fitness plan was to get into the swimming pool only once per week so I basically increased my workouts in the pool by four times!
During this intensive swimming period, my non-pool days were left for strength training and hiking with my social and small dogs outings groups. I cut out martial arts for this last part of my fall fitness program.
First Ski Day Soon
So now that the weather is colder, the local ski resorts are starting to blow snow. My first day of skiing can happen very soon as a result which will result in switching over from what’s left of my fall season fitness program over to my winter ski fitness schedule.
Like my original fall season fitness program, I have decided that I want to retain swimming once a week for the entire winter. The overall cardio and toning benefits of swimming are just too good to ignore until next summer. So this is what my winter ski fitness program will look like.
Mondays – ski training
Tuesdays – swimming
Wednesdays – ski training/teaching
Thursdays – strength training + super stretch
Fridays – ski training
Saturdays – ski training/teaching
Sundays – ski training/teaching or martial arts
So this program is still very much ski intensive but at least I’ll still get in some swimming and strength training as supplementary fitness. Also, doing martial arts once per week will help me maintain my martial arts forms so that I don’t completely forget them over the winter. I’ll just have to make sure that I pack a hair dryer to the swimming pool so my hair doesn’t end up freezing on my way home!
I have been a scuba diver since 1999 and throughout many dive trips since then, I have never been able to see a whale shark in the water. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. Although many mammal air breathing whales are larger, whale sharks are fish since they have gills and are sharks. However, they are not predators like many other species of sharks. Instead, whale sharks feed mostly on plankton and are fairly docile.
As a scuba diver, one would have to go to the areas around the world where whale sharks are commonly found. Also, it is very seasonal as whale sharks seem to migrate depending on the time of the year. One area known for whale sharks is near Utila in Honduras. I went there during April this year since it was suppose to be the season when whale sharks are commonly found in the waters around Utila.
I was really hoping that after all these years of scuba diving, I would finally get to see a whale shark during my trip to Utila. But much to my disappointment, we searched the waters for three days and did not see a single whale shark. I did end up with a decent nurse shark encounter captured on video though as well as another incident with a psycho moral eel.
La Paz Mexico Scuba Diving
My next tropical scuba diving trip after my Utila and Roatan combo one was to be La Paz in the Baja region of Mexico. I chose La Paz mainly to get the opportunity to scuba dive with sea lions as that area was reported to have very reliable opportunities for encounters with them since there are sea lion colonies there all year round. As you can see from the photos and video (at the last link) of my sea lion dives, I was very successful with this objective during my recent La Paz trip.
One of the bonuses of travelling to La Paz during the fall was not only would I get the opportunity to scuba dive with sea lions but the whale shark season in the Sea of Cortez had begun. So there was a chance that I would get to see whale sharks on this same trip as well. It would be another opportunity within the same year of 2016.
I had three days of scuba diving in La Paz before moving south to San Jose del Cabo to do a day of dives there. My divemaster Trevor Brown of Baja Connections suggested that we look for whale sharks after doing our two tanks of scuba diving on day one. I had already had my first sea lions experience that morning so any whale sharks on the same day would indeed be a nice bonus.
Swimming With Whale Sharks In La Paz
The way it works in La Paz is the boat trolls around a channel near town for any whale sharks. We cannot scuba dive with whale sharks but we can swim with them with snorkel gear. The whale sharks would be too fast anyway for sluggish scuba divers so snorkelling would actually be the better way to see them.
Soon after we started trolling, Trevor spotted a whale shark and the boat quickly went after it. As we approached, we were to get ready to jump into the ocean with our snorkel gear already on so we could get in a position where we might intercept the whale shark as it feeds near the surface of the ocean.
If a whale shark is swimming horizontal, we were to intercept it on its path and then try to swim along side of it as long as we could before it outswims us. This is what happened during my first whale shark encounter.
Obviously, my eyes were not as well trained as Trevor or the boat captain in spotting whale sharks. They pointed towards the whale shark spotted and I just swam towards that direction. The water in the channel was quite murky with poor visibility so I really could not see where the whale shark was at first. Then all of a sudden, it was almost right beside me!
As soon as I saw it, I did my best to swim along side of it before it became too fast for me. This was a young whale shark about 15 to 20 feet in length.
We climbed back on board and trolled again. Things were happening so fast I don’t even remember what the next sighting was like but it was probably the same whale shark again and with a similar encounter. However, the third encounter was the best as it was the longest and most memorable.
This time, the whale shark was feeding in a vertical position in the ocean. Whenever a whale shark is vertical, it would remain in the same position in the ocean for an extended time so we would not have to chase after it. Also this time, we caught a bit of this final whale shark encounter on video!
It’s not a great video, especially compared to my sea lions dive video but it did show a bit from my first ever whale shark encounter day. You will see very briefly in this video how this same young whale shark looked like from the surface of the water when it was first spotted. It’s not easy to see it and you might have to look at the video a few times to see a fin sticking out of the water as it’s dark body is slightly visible moving across the screen from the right to the left of the screen.
The video footage underwater is also very brief too but it does show the whale shark in the vertical feeding position. My actual encounter with it was significantly longer than what the video shows as our group was basically just in the water in a semi circle around the whale shark as it was happily feeding on plankton without a care in the world. Here is the video below.
We were not able to get any still photographs on this whale shark encounter but the visibility was so poor, any images probably would not have come out that great anyway. I’m grateful for the brief video I got out of this trip but even if I did not get it, I would have been pretty happy just to finally get in my first ever whale shark encounter.
We tried to look for more whale sharks the next day but after two hours of trolling in the same area, we were not successful in sighting anymore. Another boat captain reported seeing six whale sharks when he went out with another group so it really depends on luck and nature.
I would like to pursue more whale shark encounters in future dive trips especially in better visibility waters. Plus the encounters I had with what appeared to be the same whale shark over three separate jumps into the ocean as special as they were, they were just too brief. My past encounters with dolphins (Bahamas), stingrays (Cayman Islands), sharks (Bahamas), manta rays (Hawaii) and even the sea lions at La Paz were all at least 30 to 45 minutes in length each time. The whale sharks are really nice to see so it would be great to have more extended time in the water with them in the future.
You too can have this type of inspirational experience and even without being a certified scuba diver since most organized whale shark encounters are with snorkel gear anyway. You just need to travel to destinations where whale sharks are known to be in season so research on your part will be required. I know that in addition to La Paz, there are other areas like Isla Mujares and Holbox in the Yucatan region of Mexico, Belize and Utila all known to have whale sharks at some point in the year.
My last blog post showed the video of the sea lions scuba dive which was the main attraction for me during my recent trip to La Paz, Mexico. But there were other dives which were quite interesting too including scuba diving a world war 2 US Navy shipwreck.
This was the USS Diploma which was used during world war 2 as a minesweeper. After decommissioned, it was subsequently sold to the Mexican government who had it sunk in the waters near La Paz as an artificial reef for scuba diving.
As you will see in the video of this dive, it was like going on a mission or expedition to the shipwreck. Not only did we get to go around the wreck, but we penetrated the inside of it too at one point.
Shipwrecks are another element of scuba diving and like natural coral reefs, they can often attract a lot of marine life as well. In this case, this wreck was a metal one so unlike wooden shipwrecks in salt water, the ship is still in really good shape.
Being able to experience what I did during this shipwreck scuba dive is something that many other people can also have as well. One just needs to become a decent swimmer and then take the scuba diving certification course to become a certified diver. It is truely quite inspirational just to see such as shipwreck in the ocean up close along with the marine life on it.
The main reason why I chose to travel to La Paz in the first place was for the sea lions. There are not many places in the world where you can scuba dive with sea lions in the wild and they were next on my list after the awesome experiences I had scuba diving with manta rays last year in Hawaii.
I knew that the travel to La Paz was going to be rough and the cost of scuba diving would be at a premium compared to many other dive destinations around the world. But I was willing to put up with the three flights from Toronto to La Paz and spending about 50% more on scuba diving compared to your average dive destination just for this unique opportunity. And I was not disappointed!
There are two sea lion colonies near La Paz with the main one of about 300 sea lions at Isla Islotes, an isolated island about an hour boat ride from La Paz. I did two dives here. The other sea lion colony is smaller at about 100 sea lions at San Rafaelito, a even smaller island about 30 minutes from La Paz. I did one dive at San Rafaelito and it is small enough to actually circumvent the entire island during a dive.
The colony at Isla Islotes is the main attraction in the area for sea lion observers. Boats go out there to watch the sea lions with snorkelling and scuba diving options. It’s usually the younger sea lions who are the most curious with divers as the older ones usually stay in the background just to oversee things.
We were told in advance that the younger sea lions would not hesitate to get right you our faces and maybe even start nibbling at our fins, masks, and anything else that sticks out. Fortunately, I arranged with the scuba diving operator, Trevor Brown of Baja Connections, that we get my dives with the sea lions on video.
Here are the best moments we captured from the Isla Islotes dives and as you can see, the sea lions are like puppies.
We start our dives at Isla Islotes checking out the marine life in the deeper areas before venturing back towards where the sea lions hang out which is only about 15 to 20 feet in depth. As a result, we were able to stay down in the water for about an hour at a time.
After the first dive, we were able to spend additional time snorkelling as our surface interval in between dives. This got us even more time watching the sea lions.
On my final day of diving La Paz, we did the dive around San Rafaelito to check out the smaller sea lion colony. Here, the ones who came around to check us out in the water seemed to be older sea lions and therefore a bit larger than the ones we saw at Isla Islotes. But the encounters we had at Isla Islotes were a bit better as the younger ones came up closer to us. Maybe it was just timing and there were less younger sea lions at San Rafaelito but it was still worthwhile diving there.
Overall, the scuba diving with sea lions at La Paz is definitely world class. I know that there are other places in the world to dive with sea lions like the Galapagos Islands but you have to spend a fortune for those dive trips. I don’t know if the sea lions down there get as close to us as the ones at La Paz do. So definitely for any scuba divers (or snorkelers) who want to get sea lion encounters, I would recommend going to La Paz for sure.
In my last post, I showed you a very inspirational moment I had while scuba diving in La Paz, Mexico. It was a video showing you my best ever sea turtle encounter. In this post, I will show you another video I produced from that trip. This one will show you some of the typical marine life fish I saw in the water during my dives in the area.
As you will be able to see from the video as well as the photo above which is from the clip, the marine life is very healthy down in the La Paz waters since it is a protected marine park. Lots of fish as well as other marine animals.
As I was reviewing the video footage and then watching the finished, edited clip, what came to my mind was asking why would anyone who can swim, not want to do this? If you can swim, why would you not want to scuba dive so you can see and experience a similar ocean scene like I did.
Many people who saw this video and the photos from my trip were in awe of my experience in the ocean. They saw it as something like they would see in National Geographic or some ocean documentary. But the fact is, if they can swim, all of these experiences are actually accessible to them.
They just have to learn how to scuba dive. Before I get into more details of what is involved, enjoy the video itself here first.
Scuba Diving Certification
To many people out there, scuba diving with all of its equipment, seems to be an extreme sport or activity. The fact is that recreational scuba diving is not extreme. It does however require professional training in new skills used in the water as well as knowledge about physics and physiology related to the body and the ocean. There is also a lot of safety factors and skills that need to be learned.
All of this is learned through the scuba diving certification courses provided through training agencies such as PADI, SSI and NAUI. These courses can be either a very intensive weekend or over a few weeks, one night per week. Time in the classroom as well as sessions in the swimming pool will take up most of the scuba diving certification.
To finish off the complete certification, one will need to demonstrate the skills learned in the pool but in an open water scenario which means in a lake, river or ocean. A written test is also required to be passed to demonstrate the knowledge learned in the classroom.
The only prerequisites for taking the scuba diving certification course is being able to swim and not have any medical conditions that will disallow an individual from scuba diving. All details would be available at your local scuba diving shop.
So as I enjoy this video again and eagerly plan my next scuba diving adventure trip, I once again ask, why would anyone who can swim, not want to do this?
I went on a trip to La Paz located in the Baja region of Mexico recently and my main objective was to scuba dive with the sea lions. This was a long planned trip to a rather pricey destination but it did not disappoint.
But in addition to the sea lions, I ended up with several very inspirational moments including one very special one during my final dive day in La Paz. This was a dive where I had my best sea turtle encounter ever.
I have seen sea turtle before on previous scuba dives elsewhere but they are usually at a distance and they don’t stay around for too long. On this particular dive, one of the other divers in my group caught my attention after spotting a sea turtle that was almost right underneath us as most of the divers in our group initially missed it.
I immediately grabbed our divemaster’s fin to alert him since he missed the turtle as well. Then I approached the turtle and laid on the ocean bottom. To our surprise, this turtle did not swim away upon our approach. Instead, it just stayed in place watching us for a few minutes.
Afterwards, it did finally swim up to the ocean surface probably to get a breath of fresh air as our divemaster caught everything on video as shown below.
Need Commitment For Inspirational Experiences Like This
This sea turtles encounter was very inspirational for me since it was a close up experience with nature at its best. I felt honoured to be there and it reminded me that not very many people in this world will ever get to experience what our group just did in real life.
However, inspirational experiences such as this sea turtle encounter is accessible for many more people out there. One must make certain commitments to get there.
If one is not a scuba diver yet, then a certification course is required in order to become a certified scuba diver. Then one must make the commitment to go on scuba diving trips to dive waters where such beautiful creatures live, irregardless of whether any of your friends or family members are interested in diving or not.
And if you cannot swim, then obviously a big commitment is required in order to learn how to swim which is a definite prerequisite to taking the scuba diving certification course. So it’s really a matter of whether you are willing to make such commitments or not. If you want inspirational experiences like this which most people in this world will never get, you have to do what is necessary in the form of big commitments in order to get there.
I had my final outdoor swim workout so this always signals the end of my summer fitness program and the start of the new fall season one. Since the pool workouts are so effective for me, I’m going to retain them for one day each week for my fall season but of course I’ll have to go to an indoor community centre pool instead.
So here’s how my fall season fitness program will look like;
Mondays – martial arts & stretching
Tuesdays – martial arts weapons & stretching
Wednesdays – swimming pool workout
Thursdays – weights strength training & super stretch
Fridays – martial arts & stretching
Saturdays – martial arts weapons & stretching
Sundays – weights strength training & super stretch
I will also do a short abs set four times per week just before lunch. Personally, I like to do these as a totally separate thing from my other workouts.
In addition to the above, there will also be two walks/hikes most weeks with my groups, usually one midweek and one on the weekends. So my strength training sessions on Sundays sometimes might get shifted to the Saturdays if I feel it is needed. Same thing with the Saturday weaponry session as they can also be shifted to Sundays, depending on how I feel.
This will be a good fall season fitness program for me to help me prepare for my winter ski season. Extra exercises are always done during the strength training workouts for my legs as pre-ski season training.
So like many others, I was glued to the Rio 2016 Olympics this summer. I just loved all the action and stories behind the different sporting events. The swimming events were particularly interesting especially with Michael Phelps of course but also with the success of our Canadian women swimmers like Penny Oleksiak.
One of the things that the Olympic swimmers did which caught my eye was how they did their swim flip turns at the end of each lap. It was amazing how they flipped over and pushed off the pool wall each time. Believe it or not, I wanted to learn how to do this even though I’m twice as old as the average Olympic swimmer.
But I wanted to prove that it is never too old to learn new skills including a swim flip turn. I do not expect to do it at an Olympic level but just to be able to do a flip turn which enables me to change direction in the pool would be good enough for me.
Learning How To Do A Swim Flip Turn
At first, I just could not figure out how the swimmers did it as I could never turn around in the pool. So I watched a few YouTube videos on how to do a flip turn and continued to watch the Olympic swimmers. Then I realized that I was trying to turn upright too soon as the swimmers usually pushed off the wall upside down.
During my first week of attempts, I could not flip over right around. I got caught halfway inverted each time and was stranded in the water. After a week, I was finally able to flip all the way around but I lost my sense of direction. I was completely disoriented as I did not know where the pool wall was and therefore failed to push off.
After about two weeks since I did not want to give up and there was still time left in my outdoor pool season, I finally did the flip turn well enough to push off the wall and swim in the other direction.
Here’s the video which is the first Motivational WebTV episode I’ve produced in over a year, which shows my flip turns in the pool.
So my experience learning a swim flip turn proves that you are never too old to learn new skills. Imagine what new things you can learn to do no matter what your age is.
I currently do each exercise using weights that I can comfortably do ten repetitions each and I do two sets of each chest, back, arms and leg exercises while for shoulders and forearms, I do just one set. I do strength training twice per week for most of the year while during ski season, it’s once per week.
Most of us agree that knowing at least one foreign language is a good skill to have. Never did I ever think that foreign languages would ever help me in my fitness program.
During the summer, I’m swimming in my pool about three to four days each week. My pool workouts are a big component of my summer fitness program particular for the cardiovascular element. But one thing I have a hard time with is keeping count of my pool laps.
Swimming Workout Involves Laps
My swimming workout has been doing 70 laps in the pool plus threading water. I love the fact that I can get a great workout without sweating since I’m in the water. But since like many other types of cardiovascular exercise, boredom can set in especially if movements are repetitive.
I frequently end up daydreaming while I’m doing my laps and as a result, I lose count. To ensure that I get enough laps in when I do lose my count, I’ll do extra laps.
Counting In Foreign Languages Help
So what I started doing this summer in the pool is instead of keeping count of my laps all in English, I decided to count each set of ten laps in different foreign languages, specifically, Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and French in addition to English.
Before you get all impressed, no, I cannot speak five different languages but I do know how to count from one to ten in these specific foreign languages. And what I am finding is that if I focus on counting from one to ten in these foreign languages, I do not lose count of my swim laps.
Here’s how you count from one to ten in each of these foreign languages;