If it’s an all over body workout you are after, then you probably don’t need to go any further than putting on a pair of speedo’s and hitting the pool for a few laps. Think about it, there are few workouts that you can do that will give you an all over body tone and burn fat at the same time. Swimming really is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package. Here’s a list of benefits that should get you motivated.
- Muscle Toning – Water is close to 800 times denser than air, making it a far more effective way of toning your muscles than any other form of cardiovascular exercise that you can do on dry land. Compare swimming to other activities which offer benefits to only certain parts of the body or areas of fitness. For example, running increases your cardiovascular fitness but only tones your lower body, lifting weights tones only those muscles that you target. When you’re a swimmer there’s no need to focus on your upper or lower body, cardiovascular endurance, core strength or overall flexibility – it’s all there in the pool. Because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. It’s like working out with weights or machines without the need for expensive equipment.
- Low-Impact Exercise – You’re only bearing about 10% of your body weight when you swim due to the buoyancy of the water. Because of this there is far less stress on bones, joints and muscles. Swimming is also one of the four sports that doesn’t cause stress to the skeletal system that many other forms of exercise do.
- Improved Flexibility – When you’re at the gym you’ll tend to use isolation machines that work specific areas of the body. Swimming works most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. As you reach forward with each stroke, you’re lengthening the body, which not only makes it more efficient in the water, it also helps give you a good stretch from head to toe.
- A Healthier Heart – Swimming is an aerobic exercise and like any aerobic exercise it will strengthen your heart. The heart becomes more efficient in pumping – which leads to better blood flow throughout your body. Research also shows that aerobic exercise can combat the body’s inflammatory response as well – a key link in the chain that can lead to heart disease.
- Weight Control – Swimming will burn a significant number of calories. The exact number of calories you burn, of course, depends on your own physiology and the intensity with which you exercise. The secret to an effective swim routine is to split your workout into shorter segments. You need to use intervals in which you work hard for short bursts and then recover. A simple example of this would be to do a set of four 50 metre swims. The first 25 metres of each swim is harder than the last 25 metres of the swim. To do this properly you need to push yourself for the first 25 and recover on the back end. After each 50 metre swim, take a 10-second rest before you begin your next 50 metre swim. Don’t worry that you’re taking rest breaks. Swimming isn’t like walking, during which your heart rate drops quickly. It stays raised for at least 30 seconds after a few laps. You have probably seen people swim lap after lap for long periods without taking a rest which is fine in itself. However, the real key in getting the most out of your swims is to split it into shorter segments, mixing in a variety of work and rest intervals and using different strokes, drills and intensities.
Here is a fairly basic workout you can try. The only thing you will need besides goggles and swimmers is a kickboard. The workout is a 1 kilometre swim and includes a warm-up, a main set, a kick set and a cool down.
- 1 x 200 metres freestyle
- This is a warm-up swim and should be done slowly to prepare you for the main set. When you have finished the warm-up, rest for 30 seconds
- 4 x 50 metres freestyle The first 25 metres of each 50 is fast, the second 25 is easy, with 10 seconds of rest between each swim. Rest for 1 minute when you have done the 4 x 50 metre swim before you repeat.
- Repeat the above 4 x 50 metres freestyle
- 8 x 25 metres with the kickboard.
- Take 10 seconds rest after each 25 metres
1 x 200 metres free style
This is a nice and easy swim designed to bring your heart-rate down.
As I said, this is a fairly basic workout and is designed to be done in a 25 metre pool. As a 1 kilometre swim it is probably better suited to someone who has already got some experience of doing laps. If you haven’t tried swimming as a form of exercise you will need to try some gentle laps first. Perhaps start with 10 minutes of swimming with a rest after each lap and then increase that to 15 minutes when you feel you are ready. The idea is to try to increase your time in the pool with each session. If you are unsure about swimming as a form of exercise because of injury or a medical condition, speak to your doctor first.