Is the weather getting you down and making it difficult for you to exercise outdoors? Consider heading indoors to your nearest swimming pool. There are many indoor community pools and aquatic centers throughout North America that offer great swimming facilities and have reasonable entry fees.
Exercising in water can provide an excellent workout, whether swimming laps, water jogging, or doing water aerobics, and the impact on your muscles and joints will be greatly reduced. “When the human body is submerged in water, it automatically becomes lighter. When immersed to the waist, your body bears just 50 percent of its weight; dunk yourself to the chest and that number reduces to around 25 to 35 percent; with water all the way to the neck, you only have to bear 10 percent of your own weight. The other 90 percent is handled by the pool.” (http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/retirement/10-health-benefits-of-swimming1.htm) For this reason, exercising in water is often recommended for rehabilitation from injury or if overweight. People with arthritis may also benefit from exercising in water.
If you’ve ever tried to walk or run in a pool, you’ve surely experienced resistance from the water. To get anywhere, you need to jump forward on your tip toes or drag your legs and feet forward with great effort. We wonder if this is what it’s like to walk on the moon! This water resistance helps build strength as you have to apply more effort. And, when challenging yourself, for instance by moving faster, you can also work on your cardiovascular effort.
In particular, swimming engages all the major muscle groups such as in hands, arms, shoulders, abdominals, legs, and feet. The different strokes emphasize different muscles, but overall you will get a good strength workout from any type of swimming.
If your goal is to lose weight, push your swimming by doing intervals that require faster, more intense swimming for a few minutes (or laps) followed by easier swimming for a few minutes or laps.
Getting Started: Advice from the Amateur
Lia started to swim regularly about a year ago. Although she learned to swim as a child, she never really mastered the ‘head in the water’ swim technique. Getting her hair wet was not something she relished as a young adult, and having had her head pushed and held in the water repeatedly by her brother when she was a child didn’t help with her fear either!
After a persistent foot injury over the last two years, Lia decided that swimming had to be part of her rehab. When she showed up for her first swim lesson with Joylin Nodwell, a good friend and swim coach, she realized she was ill equipped for the lesson. If you’re just getting started, here’s Lia’s wise advice:
- Wear a one-piece bathing suit rather than a bikini.
- Get goggles that fit your face well.
- Wear a swim cap, especially if you have long hair.
When trying to learn to swim properly, there is nothing worst than fussing with your bathing suit, not being able to see underwater because water is leaking into your goggles, and having your hair sticking to your face!
The first lesson was a sobering reminder of how frustrating learning something new can be. Be patient and practice the basics separately. For instance, Lia had to first practice putting her head under water and blowing out air through her nose and mouth. When she tried to integrate this breathing into her arm movements and kicking, everything fell apart! So, learning to kick came next and then proper arm movements. Getting rhythm for all of these movements performed together happened with practice, practice, and more practice.
Lia is still learning as a swimmer and is continually challenged. Never a dull moment when developing a new skill.
See the references at the end of this blog post for real basic information on swimming.
Professional Advice from Swim Coach, Joylin Nodwell
Now, for the real advice from Joylin Nodwell, our trusted and talented swim coach! Joylin stresses that kicking and body position are the key base skills in swimming. She shares with us 10 swimming drills that she incorporates in her lessons for improving swim strokes.
Try these drills in the order listed on the Swim Drills – Joylin Nodwell as they are shown in order from least to most difficult to perform. The drills include:
- Streamlined kicking with a flutter board
- Streamlined kicking, no board
- Lateral kicking
- Body roll drill
- Catch up Freestyle
- Streamlined kicking on back without board
- Fist swimming
- One arm freestyle
- Hesitation drill
- Finger tip drag
Two of Joylin’s Great Swim Workouts
NOTE: The numbers shown are in meters. One length is 25m, so when she says 100 Free, this means 4 lengths of Frontcrawl (Free means Frontcrawl).
Here is a video link that demonstrates how to properly do the Frontcrawl. http://www.100swimmingworkouts.com/crawlstroke.php#video. Wikipedia also has some animated graphics showing various strokes and kicks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swimming_stroke
100m Free+100m kick+100m non-Free (i.e. Backstroke or Breaststroke)
8x25m of Drill+Swim – alternate 25m of choice Drill/25m Freestyle
4×50 Flutter Kick (Focus on floppy, relaxed feet, no bent knees), if desired, try flutter kick on your back!
4×50 Freestyle swim (focus on smooth strokes and proper kicking)
100m easy cool down (choice stroke)
200m Free+100m choice kick (ie. flutter kick, whip kick or dolphin kick, on your front or back)+100m non Free (i.e. Breaststroke or Backstroke)
10x50m Drill+Freestyle – 25m of choice drill+25m of Free, 5-10 seconds rest between 50’s. Try the one arm drill!
200 pull (arms only with pullbuoy), breathe every 3rd stroke
6×100 of Freestyle, focus on good technique, loooong glide off the wall! 10-15 seconds rest between 100’s.
4x75m of kick (25m easy+25m steady+25m fast!) 10-15 seconds rest between 75’s
100 easy choice swim
Jump in with both feet!
Okay, now you have no excuses to avoid the pool! Armed with Joylin’s drills and workouts, you will look like a professional in the pool or at least someone who’s willing to give swimming a serious try.