9 Reasons to Choose Swimming This Summer
My Olympic coach once told me, "The water is your friend, you don't have to fight it. Just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move." This remains one of my favourite teachings for the element of a sport that has been the centre of most of my life. From my very first, terrified steps into the pool, at the age of seven, my journey as a competitive swimmer has taught me great life lessons and has helped me stay ultimately fit for two decades.
Even if you are not competing, swimming as a sport is a fantastic way to stay healthy. Besides being a fun way to cool down once the mercury starts rising, it really is immensely beneficial to your health. While you’re splashing about, you’re doing wonders for your body and mind.
Here are 9 reasons why:
One of the most important benefits of swimming comes from the aerobic nature of this workout. You can improve your cardiopulmonary capacity by swimming for 20 minutes straight with constant rhythm and speed. Your heart beats at a higher heart rate than it would on a jog or exercise bike, as a result of moving not only your body mass forward, but also battling resistance.
Build lung capacity:
As your breath is somewhat limited in volume and frequency during the workout by the very nature of the sport, swimming helps develop greater lung capacity. The consistent intake of oxygen, offering both aerobic and anaerobic gains in the same workout. Remember as with anything you do, practice makes perfect. The more you practice your breathing while swimming, the more you will improve your lung capacity.
Flexibility and suppleness:
When strokes are performed correctly, your muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility, which in turn prevents injury. As we get older, our body’s natural ability to stay flexible decreases, and therefore, joints are less mobile. Getting into the pool to do a few laps, not only keeps your joints mobile, and flexible.
The effort needed to overcome water resistance tones muscles. Swimming is the ultimate, full body workout and you end up working muscles through the session that you didn’t even know you had! It strengthens muscles all the way from his neck and upper back right down to his calves and ankles. While a few laps of the local pool every week is unlikely to result in equivalent changes to your torso, swimming will quickly make muscles all over your body bigger and stronger.
Metabolism and burns fat:
An hour of swimming burns 500 calories. But to be able to swim at an elevated heart rate to burn excess calories, proper nutrition is a must. Carbohydrate loading before a swim session and protein intake post training are important requisites for being able to work harder, for longer. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.
Healing and rehabilitation:
Prevention is great, but curing an injured ligament is another reason dive in! From injured world class athletes to rehabilitating patients who have had some form of body trauma, the water and your movement in it, will do wonders for recovery. Swimming improves posture, making it an excellent exercise for people with back issues.
Relatively Injury Free:
Swimming offers a fabulous workout putting stress on your joints as the water supports your bodyweight, so it’s completely non weight-bearing making injuries in the pool, really quite rare or low grade.
Swimming offers elite or amateur athletes, a low impact workout that builds fitness and strength and also aids recovery, which can do your performance in another sport like running or cycling a whole lot of good. Speedo’s AquaFit Program is a great way for people who don’t enjoy doing laps but do enjoy the water to benefit. The programme makes the pool your new gym, including stretching to lifting weights to get you to your fitness goals quickly, without the risk of injury
Swimming is also a great way to clear your head and unwind after a taxing day on the job. The rhythmic repetition of swimming is very relaxing. Also a longer workout will release pain-killing, euphoria-producing endorphins that promote a keen sense of well-being. Regular swim workouts help on an emotional level, too. I’m often invited to talk to corporates about my lessons for life from a lifetime in sport. Most of these learnings for me are from what the sport does for you mentally. It teaches you the importance of passion, discipline, sacrifice, prioritization and other key skills to navigate through the complexities of life. The discipline it takes to commit to swimming and to push yourself through tough workouts improves self-esteem, instils confidence that other hurdles can be overcome, and inspires dedication to taking care of yourself in all facets of life. All of this leads to feeling really good about yourself, inside and out.
As you swim your way to good health, for best results, here are my top 3 Do’s and Don’t’s for you:
- Do stretch well before a swim.
- Do work with a certified swim instructor to learn the correct stroke and breathing techniques and formulate an effective workout
- Do cool down at a low heart-rate for the last five minutes of your session.
- Don’t try and match the number of laps your training partner does. Pace yourself and build on your own fitness.
- Never stay underwater for longer than you feel your lungs can take.
- Don’t leave home without a mid-workout snack and an electrolyte drink to stay hydrated.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Rehan Poncha is an iconic Indian athlete, an Olympian swimmer and Arjuna Awardee.