Swimming is a great alternative to running for the summer, given that everybody is craving a break from the heat. But it’s also an attractive holistic workout in the winter. And what’s more, it is one of the healthiest sports out there! Here are a just a few of the benefits of swimming:
- It offers moderate strain of the cardiovascular system.
- Hydrostatic pressure increases venous blood flow. (This means the water exerts a gentle, even pressure on the body, similar to compression clothes. This low pressure supports the reflux of the blood from the extremities. In this way the heart is relieved in its work. In addition, the “spent” oxygen-poor blood is transported away more easily from the muscles.)
- Due to weightlessness in water, it provides relief for joints and spine.
- All muscle groups are used.
- Cost-efficient because very little equipment is needed.
The First Strokes
When first getting into swimming as a workout, there are a few things you should keep in mind. In the beginning it’s important to focus on good form (as it is with running). Distances will not be part of your first workouts. If you want to improve your form, joining a swim club is a great way to get professional support. At first, you should focus on optimizing crawl stroke and backstroke. Once your form is good, you can design your workouts as desired. Feel free to make use of little helpers, e.g., belts that help you float and thus improve the position of your body in the water, or swim boards that can be used to practice partial strokes.
Of course swimming cannot fully replace a run workout. Rather, it should be seen as a great supplement. With smart planning, you can take advantage of all the positive effects of swimming. Especially after a strenuous speed workout or after a race, just 40 minutes of easy swimming will substantially benefit regeneration due to moderate and consistent strain. Crawl stroke and backstroke are perfect because they put very little strain on knees and hips. Swimming at a moderate pace will loosen your muscles. Moreover, the horizontal position of your body in the water will relieve your cardiovascular system, further supported by the hydrostatic pressure.
Swimming to Improve Your Endurance
Longer swim workouts (e.g., 60 to 90 minutes at an easy or moderate pace) help increase your general endurance. You can also plan your workout in a more detailed fashion. After 400m of warm-up and two quick sprints, you can, for instance, complete 500m six times in different styles to diversify your workout.
You may have heard of the Running ABCs, a compilation of short drills that focus on different running styles and provide an opportunity to work on form during a warm-up. A similar version exists for swimming. There are almost endless possibilities to combine different movements. The easiest way is to merge different swim styles. For instance, you can combine backstroke with the leg movement used in breaststroke. Moreover, you can also just use partial movements, e.g., keeping one arm extended while swimming only with the other, or keeping your legs still during breaststroke. The Swimming ABCs has many advantages. You’ll work on your coordination and on your core stability. In addition, you can use it to work on your form, because you can systematically vary the position of your body in the water. It’s always a good idea to add a few Swimming ABC drills into your workout routine.
Swimming is an excellent way to work out and should be part of every runner’s training routine. Its holistic nature relieves the strain on joints and legs and helps to improve core stability, an area that many runners struggle with. Swimming can benefit your athletic performance in general, as can be seen in triathletes for whom swimming is an essential part of their success.
You can easily keep track of your swimming workouts in Runkeeper, too. While you shouldn’t be bringing your phone into the water, you can add the after the fact so you know just how you’re mixing those swimming workouts into your overall training.