Are you a water babe? Or do you like your feet solidly planted on the ground?
A cool summer dip in the pool rarely fails to appeal, especially on a hot summer’s day. But swimming laps as part of an exercise routine? Not top of the list for many.
Yet there are water babes out there. Swimmers who effortlessly do lap after lap. But why are they so rare compared to the army of joggers that we see every day.
For many, swimming is a life skill, a bit like riding a bike. Enforced swimming lessons as a child do not do much for cultivating a joy for the sport. Just a box to tick once water safe! A lot of people are put off by the production of swimming (getting to a decent pool, changing, drying etc…). Not to mention the impact chlorine has on skin and hair. Others don’t like being wet and cold. It is not a very social sport and can be quite boring, particularly if you need music to motivate you. And some people just don’t think they are any good at it. When was the last time any of us had a swimming lesson?
But despite this list of negatives, there is no escaping the fact that swimming is an excellent form of exercise. It is the go-to exercise recommended by most medical and fitness professionals, particularly if you are injured, pregnant or wanting to change your routine.
Here are five reasons to invest in a bikini/ leg wax, a good moisturizer and hair conditioner, and to take the plunge.
1. COMBINES STRENGTH AND CARDIO TRAINING
Swimming forces cardio training because you need to keep moving. Simply put, if you don’t move, you sink. Depending on the stroke and intensity, you can burn between 60 and 150 calories for every 10 minutes of swimming.
Swimming tones and strengthens your entire body. Arms, shoulders, legs and glutes are obvious areas. But swimming also tones and strengthens the core (abs) and lower back because a lot of swimming is about staying balanced and level in the water. It also helps target other muscles that normally get neglected – traps, deltoids and lats. Water is about 784 times more dense than air. Every stroke and kick in the pool works against this resistance, working and toning muscles more efficiently.
2. MAKES YOU YOUNGER & LIVE LONGER!
No need for anti-aging creams, just swim!
Researchers in Indiana found that fairly intensive swimming (approximately 4 kilometres, 2-3 times a week) delays the aging of the body. This is measured against age markers, which typically decline after the age of 35: blood pressure, cholesterol, muscle mass and pulmonary function.
The impact though is not just a few years, it can slow the decline by decades!
3. LOW IMPACT
One of the main reasons why swimming is recommended by health professionals is because it is low impact. Water supports most of your body as you swim, which reduces the stress on joints and your body in general. This makes it possible to achieve fitness goals even without risking injury (or further injury). The swimming action keeps most of your body engaged, forcing it to improve mobility and flexibility – unlike gym machines which isolate specific areas of the body. This is particularly important if you get easily stiff or are dealing with chronic injury.
4. STRONGER HEART
Swimming is perfect for aerobic fitness, because it forces the body to develop and learn new breathing patterns. Swimming requires you to breath more deeply, rhythmically and in greater volumes. This in turn forces your heart and lungs to process oxygen more efficiently: making your heart stronger and bigger!
5. ANYONE CAN DO IT AT ANY LEVEL
Swimming is an ideal sport for almost anyone: young, old, pregnant, injured or athlete. The only requirement is to know how to swim! And even if you cannot swim, there are many places you can learn.
It provides support and freedom for those who need it and it provides greater resistance for those who need to build fitness and endurance. You control the intensity and pace of your training: if you are in anyway good at it, you can take it out of the pool and into open water or more competitive environments.
SIMPLE TIPS TO GET SWIMMING:
Go in with a plan! Have a training schedule in your head: lengths, strokes, speeds, intervals etc… This will help create a feeling of achievement at the end of the swim, and helps break down the session into ‘bite-sized-chunks’. It also gives you a baseline to measure progress in subsequent sessions.
Include it as part of a mixed training routine. Incorporate it alongside running, gym, kick boxing, pilates … whatever else you are doing. This is not about replacing your old routine with something new.
Get waterproof earphones. If you need music to get you going, you can now buy waterproof headphones or MP3 players that fit neatly under your swim hat.
Get some lessons. If you want to improve your strokes or refresh your technique, invest in a few lessons (group or private). Many gyms with pools offer stroke improvement classes.
Get a training buddy. If you need a social element to your workouts, get a like-minded friend to train with you OR join a club. This will keep you motivated and help push you further each session.