Press-Republican

September 17, 2013

Swimming offers excellent exercise

By KARA BORDEAU, Contributing Writer
Press-Republican

---- — Swimming is unlike any other exercise, primarily because it’s done in water rather than on land. 

The buoyancy of water can be accommodating to those with varying levels of fitness. Swimming is a good fitness choice for just about everyone, especially those who have physical limitations or who find other forms of exercise painful. 

It is a good, whole-body exercise that has low impact for people with arthritis, musculoskeletal or weight limitations.

Not only is swimming easy on the body, it’s a great way to get fit. 

Athletes can use water to rehabilitate after injury or to cross-train. People with arthritis or other disabilities can use water to improve fitness, range of motion and to relieve pain and stiffness. 

Swimming recruits all the major muscle groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips and glutes. 

Moving through water provides more resistance than moving through air, therefore swimming also helps to build strength. It is both cardiovascular and strengthening at the same time.

GETTING STARTED

Maybe you were once a competitive swimmer and want to get back into swimming laps or you are a novice swimmer with a goal of swimming the length of a pool. 

Regardless of your swimming ability, there are ways to get started based on your specific desire. 

Endurance from other methods of exercise does not necessarily carry over to swimming. It may seem discouraging if you are able to run or walk fast comfortably for 10 minutes straight but have difficulty swimming continuously for even one minute. 

If lap swimming is new to you, try not to get frustrated. Humans are land-based, so the water may feel very foreign. 

TECHNIQUE CRUCIAL

There is more than one way to tackle swimming. 

Beginners can start with vertical exercises in the pool, such as walking or jogging a length of the pool in waist-deep water or doing some strengthening using water weights. 

A comfortable swimsuit and a pair of goggles (if you are putting your face in the water) are all you need to start.  

If swimming seems like the right choice for you, and you want to get better, it could be beneficial to work with a swim coach to improve your technique or join a Masters Swimming group in your area. 

Don’t be intimidated by the name; “masters” just means swimmers older than 18. 

U.S. Masters Swimming accommodates all levels, from beginners to advanced, including fitness swimmers, triathletes, open-water swimmers and competitive swimmers.

You do not have to have a competitive swimming background to join or even the desire to want to compete. This type of group supports recreational swimming for fitness and is a great way to learn technique, which is crucial to success. 

START SLOWLY

Getting the rhythm of the strokes and the breathing can be overwhelming at first. 

Coaches break it down and take you there slowly, practicing one part at a time through using drills. 

If you’re a beginner, start slowly. Try to swim for 10 minutes. Build up to a 30-minute workout, three to five times a week. Include a warm-up and a cool-down. 

Vary your swimming workouts to challenge yourself to help with increasing your endurance, stroke efficiency or speed. 

Once you get the hang of swimming, you can continue with it throughout your life. 

There are very few sports or exercises that can be lifelong, so embracing swimming can be a great choice.

Kara Bordeau, writing Fit Bits this week for columnist John Vasile, is a fitness specialist and swim coach at the Wellness Center at PARC. She has a Bachelor of Science in exercise science and is a NSCA-certified personal trainer, American Swimming Coaches Association Level 2 swim coach and USA swim coach. A competitive swimmer since childhood, she is the head coach of the Lake Champlain Waves youth team and Champlain Valley Champs U.S. Masters swim program that is run out of the Wellness Center at PARC.