Janet Hommel Mangas: Grandma’s power is turning up the heat

I was feeling a bit anxious last Wednesday evening. Not for the usual myriad of reasons one could fret about.

Why was I feeling anxious? My 2-year-old grandson was having his first official swim lesson in our pool. Of course that wasn’t why I was anxious — all three of my daughters were swimmers and we’re most comfortable around water.

As I weeded the gardens of three-foot tall thistle, purslane and deadnettle, my mind wandered in thought. I actually asked myself out loud, “What am I so anxious about?”

The memories came flooding back.

“Ah yes!” I exclaimed — 1970 swim lessons at the Green Urban (later, named the Greenwood City Pool.)

Because my mom wasn’t a strong swimmer, she made sure to enroll her brood of seven in swim lessons. We rode our bicycles in single file from Rose Lane to Florence Drive, then traveled north on the sidewalk on South Madison Avenue, carefully crossed west onto Market Plaza (passing Dog N Suds and Tom’s Barbershop), then turning west onto Lincoln Street to arrive for our swim lessons.

I remember the swim lessons being fun. That was fine.

The trauma was getting to the pool at 9 a.m. and the water at the beginning of June being maybe -5 degrees! I absolutely learned to loathe freezing cold water. Day after day of swim lessons began, knowing I had to endure the initial freezing plunge. The shivering was endless for a toothpick 10-year old.

Erika Mailman wrote a piece for Timeout entitled, “What’s the point of a polar bear plunge?” She noted that “part of the allure of cold plunges is that you feel a surge of adrenaline, just as if you’d climbed onto a roller coaster. Dopamine increases, and you generally feel a sense of accomplishment for doing something your body wasn’t immediately interested in doing.”

That’s a big nopety-nope for me.

Before you judge me, I did voluntarily go scuba diving when I was 29, at Hidden Paradise quarry in February in Indiana with a cold suit with the hubby years ago — BUT my younger brothers were there with a fire ready to warm my heart and soul back to life.

After swim lessons in the Greenwood Pool, we just rode home, with the cool morning breeze warming my frigid bones. I remember that sigh of relief and warmth, the further we rode from the arctic waters of the pool.

An article in Forbes Health by Carley Prendergast (who seems way smarter than Erika Mailman) titled “Cold Plunges: Health Benefits, Risks And More” noted “Sudden cold water immersion in temperatures less than 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit can cause the body to enter into a state of ‘shock,’ which can lead to involuntary gasping, rapid breathing, heart rate and blood pressure spikes and impaired cognitive function, such as clouded thinking and decision-making.”

It’s now Thursday morning after John’s first swim lesson. Braiden D., a Purdue University Elementary Education student who swam competitively for Center Grove High School was his teacher. He was all smiles, and so was I.

I realized I had been anxious because I associated swim lessons with involuntary gasping and heart rate spikes from enduring the biting glacial water.

But GJ (as John calls me, short for Granny Janny) has powers.

Grandma knows how to turn the pool heater up.

Janet Hommel Mangas grew up on the east side of Greenwood. The Center Grove area resident and her husband are the parents of three daughters. Send comments to [email protected].