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A Brief Guide to Swimming

Posted Sep 09 2010 11:10pm

Michael Phelps
marcopako 

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Swimming is such a simple yet effective form of exercise. It can be done with little equipment and year round, it also gives a full body workout. Thanks to its low impact cardiovascular benefits and ability to trigger muscle growth it seems like a no brainer for anyone into their health and fitness.

Recently I have taken up much more swimming, This was triggered by the summer holidays where I had the sea at my disposal but more recently it has been in a local indoor swimming pool. The first thing I noticed about swimming is the refreshing feeling it gives which is unlike any other sport or activity. Secondly is how sore it would make me feel the next day, all this after only 15-20 minutes in the pool.

Ever notice how swimmers have elongated physiques with broad shoulders and slender hips, this is simply an illusion thanks to the way that swimming builds the body. The shoulder get pulled back and the lats grow a huge amount to allow efficient movement in the water. This all gives a tapered down look to the body. On top of this there is a great feeling when in the water, it sort of “takes you away from it all” giving a refreshing feeling.

So How to get Started? Firstly find a local pool, either in a gym or at a dedicated facility. The next thing is obviously knowing how to swim properly, many of us will but for those who don’t it is well worth hiring a swimming coach or getting a friend who is a competent swimmer to show you some of the main methods like Front Crawl and Breast Stroke.

Go For Laps. When I first started to swim again I would try and swim for time, say 15 minutes or 25 minutes. The problem is that this becomes extremely boring. Having no real goal to aim for makes the 20 minutes seem like a long time. Instead I was told by a friend of mine (who swims loads) to go for laps, basically to split up your swim. This makes it pretty easy to implement some kind of intervals into your swimming, for instance you could do:

  • 10 Lengths of Breast Stroke
  • 1 Minute break
  • 10 Lengths of Front Crawl
  • 2 Minute Break
  • 10 Lengths of Breast Stroke
  • Stretch

This workout should take around 20-25 minutes all in,this is using a conventionally sized pool that you see in gyms, not an olympic pool (which you would half the lengths). The same goes for outdoor swimming in the sea, set yourself a virtual length and use it a measure for your lengths/laps.

Keep the pace at something you feel comfortable at, the great thing about swimming is that is automatically adjusts to different fitness levels.

Always Use Good Form. putting in maximum effort and form is essential to get the most out of swimming, by taking large, powerful strokes you will make the most of the resistance you can get from the water. This not only propels you faster and more efficiently but gives a superior muscular workout.

Keep it Regular. Swimming is best done on a regular basis, not only because you will get better but also due to the adaptation that will take place in your body. When swimming regularly you will notice your body will slowly start to elongate and become more streamlined. I have a few friends who grew up doing a load of swimming and therefore do it regularly now, they all have impressive physiques from simply doing 30 minutes of swimming twice a week along with some bodyweight exercises like Pushups, Dips, Pullups and Squats.

Stretching and Swimming. Go hand in hand, this is because swimming almost encourages stretching in the water as each stroke pushes and stretches the muscles involved. Competitive swimmer also have a pretty intense routine of stretching that is part of their program. If your fitness program only includes one thing apart from some swimming or weight lifting then let it be stretching …….

I know this has been mentioned many times before on Zen to Fitness but the more I look into it and do it myself, the more importance I find in a good stretch. Stretching will improve your body through its enhancements in nutrient utilisation and effectiveness in injury prevention.

I just came across another great post on Swimming from Adam @ Stretch Eat Exercise. Full of great ideas for pool based workouts! Check it out here……….

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