Benefits of swimming
Benefits of swimming
Swimming tones your entire body while providing an excellent cardiovascular workout; it strengthens your heart muscle and improves delivery of oxygen to muscles. It's also a uniquely gentle, relaxing activity that almost anyone can do, including people for whom jarring, weight-bearing activities are out of the question (those who are obese or have chronic back or joint problems, for example). Pregnant women in particular benefit since swimming builds up abdominal and shoulder muscles, areas that are especially taxed by carrying a baby. Water exercise can also reduce the joint stiffness, high blood pressure, and discomfort associated with pregnancy.
You will need a swimsuit that fits you comfortably and that won't need adjusting during exercise. For women, a one-piece is the best bet; for men, racing-style suits make the most sense. Get a pair of goggles if most of your swimming will be in a chlorinated pool. A bathing cap is a necessity for those with long hair. And if you will be swimming outdoors, don't forget to slather on a good waterproof sunscreen.
You may find some equipment helpful, including a kickboard, a light foam board that supports your upper body when doing kicking exercises, and a pull-buoy, which holds your legs still while you focus on upper-body exercises. Check with the pool you plan to use, since many provide these.
If you haven't had lessons within the last ten years or so, enroll in a class or enlist the help of a trainer.An efficient stroke and proper breathing technique will help minimize floundering and frustration.
Start out by alternately swimming and resting; swim for, say, 30 seconds, and then rest for 30. Over a month or so, gradually increase the amount of time you spend moving until you can comfortably swim for 20 to 30 minutes without rest. At that point, you can decide how much time you want to devote to your workout, although 30 minutes three times a week is enough to keep you healthy, especially if you do other exercise. (Since swimming lacks the weight-bearing impact to build bone, resistance training, walking, or jogging can be a good complement.)
Once you are fit, your workout could go something like this: easy stroking for five to ten minutes to increase your heart rate, followed by 20 to 40 minutes of continuous swimming. The strokes you use will depend on your level of expertise and personal preference; the four main styles are backstroke, sidestroke, crawl or freestyle, and breaststroke. A good routine should include more than one, so you can work different muscle groups.
After the main workout, do about five minutes of relaxed, easy swimming to give your heart rate a chance to slow down; follow that by stretching your arms and legs. By the way, you do sweat during an aquatic workout, so drink water before and after swimming. You might consider bringing a water bottle to the pool, too, and drinking whenever you rest.
It is always a good idea to check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program. That's doubly important if you happen to be pregnant or have chronic back, joint, heart, or inner-ear problems.