Swim, swim, swimming!
I’m telling you, the best option is swimming.
This is a great answer for so many questions: What is a great fitness option regardless of my fitness level? What can I do that will allow me to get some exercise AND play with my kids at the same time? I’m tired of sweating too much; any suggestions for a good exercise option? I desperately need some quiet in my life and am so stressed; any suggestions? I didn’t do laundry again; what sport can I do if I have nothing to wear?
Okay, maybe not that last one, but swimming is a fantastic option for exercise, for spending time with your kids, for mental breaks, and maybe even for that laundry situation! (I’m not sure I want the details of that one, though, if you’re planning nekid swimming.)
Here’s the thing about fitness: if you want to get stronger, you can’t keep doing the same type of exercise day in and day out. As counter intuitive as it may sound, if you keep doing the same thing, instead of getting stronger, your body will start to adapt and figure out the easiest way to accomplish your given task using the least amount of energy possible. So, in fact, you will slowly burn less calories and use less muscle energy during your workout which is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to do, right? Instead, it is important to change your stressors – how you are challenging your body. One day, sure, go running, and the next do some weightlifting, and the next, try some HIIT or ride a bike. I would argue that incorporating swimming into the mix is the perfect addition for multiple reasons.
A joint-friendly option.
First, swimming is a non-impact cardio option, meaning you don’t negatively impact your bones and joints each time you land because technically, you don’t ever ‘land’. Instead, you are working against the water which is much denser than air so has greater resistance (read: you need more effort), and also incorporating things like, drag, buoyancy and propulsion … I mean, it is a verifiable physics lesson, let alone a great physical activity! You have the bonus of needing to use extra effort with swimming, training your muscles in different ways without adding extra stress on your muscles or joints.
Swimming helps boost your cardiovascular output.
When swimming, generally your body is horizontal which offers a boost for your heart and cardiovascular system because no longer is gravity a consideration when it comes to blood flow. Your heart can circulate your blood much more freely, creating a higher level of oxygenation in your working muscles. This is a great way to get those muscles to work harder and faster.
Great option for those on the injured-list.
Swimming and watersports also offer a great option for training after an injury. If you have a pulled muscle or an injured limb, it is very important to check with your doctor to get the go-ahead, but once you can, getting into the water to get some cardio might be an option well before you can return to exercise on land because it is such a joint-friendly exercise option. Especially with lower body injuries, often the recommendation will be to not put any weight on the injured joint or muscle. When you are swimming, you are essentially weightless, so you are moving without bearing any weight. Time spent in the pool with serve you with cardio boost, plus keeping your muscles and joints limber and mobile. Swimming may also contribute to a reducing swelling and improved circulation to the injured areas with the compression offered by the density of the water that surrounds you while swimming.
Variety is a good thing!
Swimming is also a great way to get past a feeling of burnout, because, let’s be honest, splashing in a pool is a lot more fun than sweating it out on a treadmill! Time spent in the water can be used for laps, sure, but you can also incorporate intervals, change up the style you use for each length or lap, or even do some water jogging or water aerobics. And, if you’ve ever played a game of Marco Polo in the pool with your kids, you know that everyone will be panting and laughing by the end; that is definitely a cardio workout!
And, if you need encouragement when you don’t feel like an especially gifted swimmer, you actually get a better workout when you are not very good at it. Splashing and thrashing around takes a lot of effort; more advanced swimmers will have more economic strokes and be able to glide and rotate in a more efficient manner.
Quality time with kids.
Show me a pool, and add in a child, and I am certain they are having a good time. Okay, provided they have had a few lessons and are able to stay afloat, and get from point A to point B in the pool, that is going to be one happy kid.
Swimming with your kids not only provides all of you with exercise, and quality time together, but it also teaches your kids swimming safety skills, social skills, and helps their stress reduction. The more time your kids spend in the pool, the more their skills develop, boosting their confidence levels.
Swimming benefits all of their muscles, but especially contributes to their balance, core strength and endurance. Swimming will also help them to maintain a healthy weight, and gets them away from their screens. Finally, swimming contributes to your kids getting quality sleep because it takes a lot of energy to splash around in the pool, and they will fall asleep faster and have better quality sleep, which will, in turn, leave them better rested for the next day.
I get it, the world is loud. Sometimes, the best gift I can give myself is 80 lengths in the pool because when your head is underwater, life is blissfully quiet. Especially as a parent, these moments of silent utopia are few and far between. I relish the time I spend with my kids, sure, but sometimes, the time I spend swimming laps offers me that magic elixir of exercise, rhythm, and quiet that really can’t be found elsewhere. With or without earbuds in, I can zone out and just be for a lap or three, and reconnect with my thoughts. Swimming, for me, is very centering.
The benefits swimming offers as a cross-training option, or should you find yourself on an injured list also can’t be ignored. After an injury, it can be really hard to gain back strength and cardio volume. Because swimming is such a joint-friendly option, you can still push yourself without missing a beat, even if you can’t do the same type of exercise that you might have been doing on dry land. And swimming allows for cross-training benefits without having negative impact on bones and ligaments; you can opt out of an extra run, for example, but spend some time in the pool, and reap the benefits without pushing yourself past the point of injury.
Swimming has also shown to be effective for lowering anxiety and depression as well as improving sleep patterns. That cardio boost and greater ability for blood circulation mentioned previous benefit your brain with a great amount of blood flow, increasing the supply of oxygen, glucose and nutrients to your happy brain. Your brain, in turn, releases serotonin and endorphins as a result of the exercise, creating a feeling of happiness, positivity and well-being.
While swimming, especially if swimming laps, you can’t help but regulate your breathing. This regulation cycles with your stroke, helping to slow and deepen the breath, expanding your lung capacity and also providing a sense of calm that comes from slow deep breathing.
Ironically, the lovely color we appreciate of our pools – usually a blue color – is also a boost. Being surrounded by the color blue offers a boost to our mental well-being because blue is a soothing color, and are said to calm the mind and aid with concentration.
Into the pool with you! Hopefully, you feel inspired to get in, get some splash time, and enjoy an amazing time in the water, be it for laps, for time with your kids, or some time for you to just enjoy the peace and quiet.
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