Are you looking to lose some pounds this New Year? Swimming may be your next best friend. Swimming is light on the joints, provides a killer cardio workout, and is a fun way to exercise. Still not hooked? Read on to get an idea of the benefits of swimming and how you can get started.
Swimming, a resistance exercise, is a great way to get a cardio workout in without the impact stress associated with a lot of other workouts. Instead of your joints being under the repetitive strain of running on the pavement, the water takes a lot of stress off your body by supporting you. This support makes swimming perfect for those with arthritis, people recovering from an injury, or seasoned runners on a cross-training day.
Swimming also helps develop muscle mass– as a resistance exercise, pulling and pushing against the water to move across the pool is incredibly demanding on your muscles. The more critical muscles that you develop through routine swimming are your back, shoulder muscles, traps, legs, and abs. This all-around workout is almost unrivaled in the number of muscle groups it works out. The horizontal nature of the sport, combined with the “cool down” portion of many workouts means that recovery time is significantly decreased, allowing you to build up muscle much more quickly.
Swimming also alleviates stress. The methodical motion of the different swimming strokes allows your mind to wander while you exercise, letting you relax in a way unique to the sport.
Where to Swim
There are many places to swim– oceans, lakes, pools, and some rivers, to name a few. However, make sure the water is safe before you swim. Pools are the most reliable bet– the chemical composition of pool water eliminates most of the bacteria. Be sure to shower after swimming to clean the residues of chlorine out of your skin and hair. Oceans are close to pools in the way water safety, but not without their hazards. From sharks to riptides, be sure only to follow all posted signs, and always obey the directions of all lifeguards. As far as lakes and rivers go, be sure to just swim in areas designated for swimming and heed all warnings of water quality, especially in the summer. The combination of heat and water can lead to algae development and conditions ideal for parasites.
How to Get Started
If you’re hooked on the idea of swimming, then consider buying a pair of goggles and a swimsuit. A pair of goggles starts at around five or ten dollars online, and many pools have a vendor for goggles on site if you need some last-minute. A swimsuit will run you a little higher– a women’s ”practice” one-piece suit goes starts at around $25 when men’s “jammer” (a tight, knee-length swimsuit) will run you anywhere from $15-$20. If you have longer or chlorine-sensitive hair, a swim cap is ideal for a comfortable swim workout. Latex caps will only run you from one to three dollars, while a silicone cap (which is perfect for those with latex allergies) will run you anywhere from two dollars and change to almost $20. Once you get more involved in swimming, you can buy additional tools to supplement your workouts. Some examples are kickboards, which isolate your lower body, pull buoys, which allow you to focus on your upper body, and fins, which help you fix any issues in your kick while also allowing you to increase your overall speed.
Now that you have all the equipment you need: find your location to swim in. Pools are the most common place to swim, but if you are exercising in an ocean, a lake, or a river, more power to you. If you don’t know how to swim, many pools offer swim lessons for adults and children, many of which are relatively inexpensive.
When you enter the water during your workout, be careful not to dive headfirst into anything less than eight feet deep as you run the risk of a head injury. Many people structure their workouts with a warm-up, a “main set,” and a cool-down. The warm-up and cool-down exercises are a few laps of the pool at a leisurely pace. People make the primary focus of the workout, commonly called the main set, either a longer, slower swim or a shorter, faster swim. Once you’ve finished your workout, be sure to shower to clean your body of any chlorine residue, and eat something that contains protein within 30 minutes of your exercise to get ideal muscle growth. Be sure to rinse off your swimsuit as well to keep the chlorine from rotting it away.
Are you considering swimming this New Year? Do you have any swimsuits or sets that are your favorite? Let us know below!