One plunge into the San Francisco Bay brought Melanie Chase, 36, back to her love of water.

By Mary Anderson
Photo: Bill Lott

After a long swim in the San Francisco Bay, my whole body is exhausted in the most amazing post-workout way. If you remember swimming when you were a kid, it's just like that-when you'd get out of the water and you would be happy and hungry and need to take a nap. (Related: Cool New Water Workouts That Have Nothing to Do with Swimming)

Growing up, I was always the first one to get in the pool or ocean, but as an adult, running had become my cardio. I often heard people describe the experience of running as being in the zone, but whenever I ran, I would instead spend most of my workout thinking, When will this be over?

One unseasonably warm day a year ago, a friend who is a triathlete asked me to meet up for a swim in the bay. So I went down and got a thermal cap, ear plugs, and goggles and waded in. I remember doing 30 strokes, then stopping to catch my breath, then doing 30 more, zigzagging my way to the edge of Aquatic Park. I was a little worried about sea lions and getting swept out to sea and my fingers going numb. But it was exhilarating. I was instantly hooked. (Related: This Woman Just Set an American Record for Finishing a 10-Ironman Triathlon)

I never get tired of the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the water. And the current is always changing-some days, it's easy swimming, but others, you have to fight all the way back to shore. (Related: The No-Swimming Pool Workout That You Can Also Do On Dry Land)

I swim nearly every weekend, even in winter, when the water hits the low 50s and I need to wear a wet suit. I track my swims on my Fitbit and watch how I improve. Cutting through the cold water stroke by stroke, I finally understand what runners mean. Swimming clears my mind. It helps me focus. It erases my stress. And when I get out, I will be shivering and running through the fog back to the swim club, and it is just this amazing physical and mental high.

My Swim Must-Haves

  1. A few hours before diving in, I like to make myself a veggie omelet that will stick with me throughout the workout. But if I'm short on time, a handful of almonds or a Clif Bar ($30 for an 18 pack, amazon.com) will do.
  2. I moisturize my skin with coconut oil in the sauna after a swim. (Try Kopari Organic Coconut Melt, $28, sephora.com. The pure coconut oil is solid at room temperature and can be warmed between the hands to apply.)
  3. I put on Super-goop Everyday Sunscreen ($19, sephora.com) before getting into the water no matter which season it is.
  4. By wearing my Fitbit Versa ($200, fitbit.com), I can see my trends in the Fitbit app, like how much I've increased my time in the water and how many calories I burn. It helps me keep track of my progress since I'm not exactly doing.
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