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Swimming To Get Fit: A Personal Training Tip From Equinox Fitness in Downtown San Francisco

Posted Jan 22 2010 12:00am

Hanna Wantabe of Equinox Fitness 

by fitness trainer

Yu Hannah Watanabe


Many gym members peek into the pool and shyly walk away. Some don’t engage in swimming due to physical insecurities. Others have technical issues with their stroke, making swimming an inefficient exercise at best, and risking injury at worst. Regardless of a person’s reasons for not swimming, it still consistently remains underappreciated for the totality of the physical benefits it provides. In this article I will explore the advantage of swimming compared to other impact sports, the most common inefficient mistakes made in a swimming form, and lastly the best way to get a cardiovascular workout no matter what your fitness level is.


Swimming is unique from other workouts in that it is non-impact, leaving a large door open for therapists and doctors to rehabilitate, strengthen, and help maintain a healthy lifestyle for their patients. Running is an equivalent calorie burning exercise to swimming, however every running step creates a stress of six times the body weight! Repetitive stress is placed on the joints, tendons, and muscles in the lower body, ultimately creating imbalances and injuries to the lower limbs. Alternatively, impact cautious individuals may choose a safer route of water, where bodies become afloat with support of millions of water molecules. While providing a safe haven for those with back, knee, hip, or weight issues, the loss of impact also allows for increased body awareness, strength, and proprioception, creating a fit individual without damaging joints.


An average person will jump in the pool and do all they can to propel themselves forward while being completely inefficient with their swimming stroke. Inevitably, their bodies will be flat, butt will be dropped, and arms will be flailing in survival mode. A true stroke should have an anchor-like catch in the beginning (biceps), propulsion of the body past the hand anchor (deltoids), and a full extension of your hands at the end (triceps), as well as having the back engaged the entire time.  The core is the epicenter for swimming as it is in daily life, helping to keep back pain away and supporting good posture. It is a region that gym rats love to spend hours working on, though it is more time efficient to do full body movements incorporating the core instead of isolating it. Swimming works the cardiovascular system and tests core strength while challenging both the legs and arms- consequently, it is a true full body workout. Though swimming is of the highest caloric expending activities, most individuals use only half of the muscles that swimming targets do to inefficiency.


Regardless of knowledge and ability, anyone can have an effective workout in the pool.  A simple kicking workout will have anyone out of breath in minutes. It is highly cardiovascular, can be made into an anaerobic set, and is easy to master. Commonly, kicking is improperly done from the knees, firing only the quads, and the body moves forward abruptly with every kick.  The correct kick should feel like a steady glide, with the power coming from the abs and working nearly every muscle, from the butt to the hamstrings. Kicking should be thought of as machinery with two opposing movements rather than two separate movements. This means kicking up should be focused just as much as kicking down. By focusing on only letting the heels coming out of the water and listening for a continuous thunderous noise, you will ensure a tight kick. Holding onto the kickboard, go a full lap at full force. If you’re doing it right, you should be breathless. 


In conclusion, swimming provides a non impact exercise that is both challenging to master as well as effectively training the body either aerobically or anaerobically regardless of a person’s fitness level. 


Hannah went to UCDavis where she received her B.S. in Exercise Biology.  She swam free, fly, and IM events as a Div. 1 swimmer, placing 3rd at Big West conference. She is an elite personal trainer at Equinox Fitness San Francisco.

All Executive Express Chiropractic patients who would like to try Equinox Fitness Center for one week FREE and get one Fitness Guided workout with a personal trainer such as Hannah, please call Carly at: (415) 593-4000. Or ask one of our doctors for an official pass.

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