Swimming is a fantastic way to get a cardio workout, while also building strength and flexibility – but even if you’re already in shape, you may have noticed that swimming feels more difficult than you’d expect. Marathon runners, power lifters, gymnasts, and black belts might all be pretty winded after a single lap, leading many beginning swimmers to go back to the drawing board.
Here is our best information to help you understand the basics of swimming as a workout, and how to get the most out of it.
You Should Learn to Swim First
Maybe you rolled your eyes when you read this, but give it a second thought. How did you learn to swim? By splashing around in a neighborhood pool? Summer vacations at the beach? Only a small minority will be able to say that they learned proper technique from a certified instructor. So, in other words, there is a big difference between keeping your head above water and proper swimming.
Swimming calls for a coordinated combination of breathing, movement, speed, and even balance. Preliminary techniques can be learned from an instructor in relatively short order, and advanced techniques can be added on once you’re comfortable. It’s worth investing the time in your form and skill level before jumping into the water, and taking off.
You Should Swim in the Right Place
For most swimmers, the best place to work out will be a pool, either indoors or outdoors. Swimming in natural bodies of water can make for a great challenge and a unique experience, but it is not recommended for beginners. Currents can become too strong, especially as you exhaust yourself, and water depth is variable. Because you don’t quite know your personal limits yet, it is always best to swim in water where you can put your feet down and safely take a break.
You Can Swim for Therapy
One of the most amazing aspects of swimming as a workout is that it’s zero impact. Physical therapy in the water (sometimes called “aqua therapy,” or “hydro aerobics”) is used to help treat all manner of sports injuries. A dancer who can’t put weight on her ankle can still swim, and help build up muscle strength without risking further injury. Pregnant women can remain active by swimming, as a safer alternative to higher impact activities.
If you have experienced issues or injuries with other types of exercise, swimming might be just the thing for you.
Even a Little Swimming is Helpful
Can’t swim non-stop for 30 minutes? Not a problem! Even if you swim a single lap, you are working towards self-improvement. Your endurance and strength will begin to grow, and gradually you will be able to add more time, speed and power onto your swimming workouts. You’re not going to do a 400-meter swim the first day, but if you stick with it, you will eventually.
No matter what, showing up frequently at the pool means that you are getting into the habit of setting aside time for workouts. That’s a great thing! Swimming can also become a great family workout as well. People of all ages can benefit from swimming, and families who get fit together often see better, and more long-term results. So go hit the pools this summer, and watch your skills improve.