When thinking of working out, your most obvious choices are by far: running, cycling or some other gym workout, for these there’s not much preparation needed neither need you look for some special place. Swimming is somewhat different and is not everyone’s first choice, although it is a pleasant activity that will sculpt your muscles uniformly and can get you in shape quick. Besides the rather obvious fitness and health side, swimming comes with plenty of satisfaction, is known to: raise self-esteem, boost your mood, improve your sleeping and even lower disease risk.
Everyone has an own best reason for working out, some people find it difficult jumping right on to the desired routine, others on the contrary. If you need help with your quest for a better, healthier and a personal workout strategy, take a look at any of the smartbands we are writing about, a tremendous choice of sensors, type of activities tracked (swimming, running, cycling …), power autonomy, or style.
Anyway, we are going to concentrate on swimming now, an activity somewhat underrated by many.
Starting thinking of swimming you first need to spot a nearby swimming pool and prepare for a schedule of some sort. If you can’t swim you might need to learn how to 🙂 of course. Get some professional help if you don’t manage to learn to swim by yourself, there are plenty of courses, resources and good trainers for that. Maybe at a later write we will dive into some best practices on learning how to swim, but for now let’s assume you already are at least a decent beginner swimmer. Needless to say a beginner will swim slower, will get tired frequent, will maybe lack a better breathing technique and will not master too many swimming styles. All this is not that big of a deal, unless you’re targeting some real competition. Take your time while working out, take pauses, everything will improve a lot with time, don’t exaggerate with your expectations.
As a general fitness rule you’d need to be working out as joint-friendly as possible, search ways to protect your joints. It might not sound that easy when, for example, you’re running on hard surfaces. Swimming doesn’t stress you joints, ankles or bones like many types of cardio workouts, on the contrary it is quite gentle and relaxing, it is considered to be a no-impact type of exercise. You can swim-kick that watter as hard as you want, water will much soften the stress on joints, bones and ankles. Even when injured swimming is being prescribed for recovery. On the long run this joint-stress-free activity will help you keep going longer and more efficient. You can keep swimming anytime, at any hour, for as long as you can, as long as you want, and at almost any age.
In terms of muscles activation and recruitment, swimming is perfect for every possible group, working all together at the same time, a true full-body exercise. Water is denser than air, this makes your effort much different from what is going on when working out outdoors. For one you need to maintain a stricter breathing style, you can’t take in air any time you want. Swimming boosts and improves your cardio system, decreases blood pressure, lowers hearth rate, improves lung efficiency with heart contractility and is shown to control blood sugar levels. When swimming you also encounter much of the needed resistance for your arms, heaps and shoulders. Be sure not to over-train though, as gentle as swimming might be on joints and muscles, swimming is intense and demanding on your heart and lungs. You need to split and mix a swimming workout into segments, styles, rests, intensities.
For people having a heart condition or that have suffered a stroke, vigorous swimming is contraindicated.
The amount of calories you burn will depend on your fitness level and the swimming speed you have, but in general swimming is known to be a high-calorie-burn exercise and you will surely benefit of it in your quest for better health and fitness.
You can swim freestyle, it will burn a lot of calories and chances are you already know how to do it. If you feel you can improve on: strokes, kicks, breathing, body position, take a look at this series, Speedo Fit Videos:Improve your Swimming Technique, an awesome resource for swimming techniques.
Beware of cramps when swimming, this is quite common and happen usually due to fatigue, medications, dehydration, age, or for some – genetic predispositions. If it happens, the best thing to do is get to land, massage and stretch with ease the affected zone, hold your leg or arm stretched, apply heat or ice, the cramps will eventually resolve. Obviously do not forget to rehydrate.
Hopefully you now have your new motivation to start swimming for your health, or continue improving if this is what you already do. Make sure you take good care of your heath.