I resumed lap swimming a few weeks ago, and may I share with you……just how bad I am?? I have no idea what I’m doing with form and breathing and coordination, etc. I need to take some lessons from a pro. Even though I don’t exactly know how to go about this, I still try and learn and continue until I do understand it. Since starting back and continually staying with it for the past few weeks, I feel better about it now than when I started. During this time I have been thinking about the benefits of swimming and why I like it so much. Swimming has become one of the most important forms of cardio that I should do. I jump right into the pool, put my goggles on, purposefully submerge the rest of my dry self into the cold water and scream under the water as the cold goes away, and swim laps for around 25 minutes…..pretty soon it will be for 30 minutes. If you would indulge me for a few minutes, I’d like to share with you some reasons why I think swimming is one of the best forms of cardio that you can do, especially if you have CF. For the past few weeks, I have come up with 9 benefits of swimming. They’re not very science-y in their wording, but I think they make sense and can be backed up with science. Please enjoy:
9 BENEFITS OF SWIMMING
- LOW IMPACT – When you run outside or on a treadmill for cardio, you are pounding your feet onto the ground. The shock is absorbed by your feet, knees and hips. Over time, this can take a toll on your joints. Not only this, but weight training can take its toll on your joints. It’s good for you to give them a break every now and then. Swimming is great for a low impact exercise. You’re floating and gliding in water with virtually no impact on your joints. Your body will love you for this. If you have a strength training day or a high impact training day, you can follow up the next day with a low impact swim that can treat your joints well.
- FLEXIBILITY– Stretching is a must when you are weight training or running. It promotes good flexibility which leads to good range of motion when you work out. This is important because good range of motion is more likely to prevent injury with your joints and muscles. Swimming is a great way to get a workout and a stretch at the same time, since your body is extended in the water. Your upper body is getting a good stretch as you are extending your arms to do the free-style stroke, or even the butterfly stroke.
- GREAT LISS CARDIO – LISS stands for “Low Impact Steady State” cardio, and lap swimming is a great example. You’re not going crazy, but just keeping a slow and steady pace in the water. This steady state is working your cardiovascular system by decreasing your blood pressure, lowering your heart rate, and improving lung efficiency. I can tell that it works my lungs, not only when i’m done but also during the swim. I can feel a little bit of pressure on my chest when I’m under the water. When I stand up in the shallow end I can breathe easily, but when I squat down into the water I can feel the difference. It’s a little more difficult to breathe…..a little more resistance to work against. Try it sometime in the shallow end. Stand up and squat down and see if you can feel the difference with your breathing. Learning how to breathe was a challenge. I feel like I have it down now, but the way you have to breathe while you are swimming really helps to work the lungs.
- CLEARS MY SINUSES – Every time I swim, my sinuses feel great. I can breathe through my nose a whole lot more better. <—-yes, i grammatically butchered that sentence on purpose….just to make the grammar police cringe. If you have trouble with your sinuses, swimming can really help you with that.
- ENERGIZING – The feeling after a good swim is great. I always feel energized and refreshed. If you need a good “awakening,” try swimming.
- RELAXING – That energized feeling after a swim will last for about 3 hours or so, and then I start to feel really relaxed. By the time bedtime rolls around, I am more than ready to go to sleep. My muscles are very relaxed and I can barely keep my eyes open. If you are someone that has trouble sleeping at night, try swimming. It can relax you so that going to sleep will not be a problem.
- COORDINATION – There’s a technique to lap swimming, and I have nowhere near mastered it. Oh man, I’m gonna say it. I didn’t think I would, but I am……”but I just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” I feel weird now. To get the technique down, you need to learn coordination with your body. Your arms, torso, and legs are doing things at the same time. For me it’s been a bit of a challenge, but I think I’m getting better at the from and technique. I need to watch some videos from pros and maybe even take some lessons from someone that knows how to properly lap swim. If swimming is intimidating for you, I would encourage you to either watch videos or take lessons as well…..or do both.
- BURNS CALORIES – Swimming is a great way to burn calories. Your entire body is working as you are coordinating it to get across that pool lane. Just because it’s low impact doesn’t mean it’s not effective in weight loss. I haven’t had the chance to actually wear a waterproof heart rate monitor to track my calories that I burn while swimming, but I ran my numbers through a calculator. For me (186 lbs), lap swimming for 30 minutes will burn between 300 and 400 calories. This is just an estimate, but when I get a monitor (hopefully soon) I will update this part and plug in the actual number.
- CHLORINE – Too much chlorine in the pool can be bad. The right amount of chlorine in the pool can be good. When it’s a good amount of chlorine, it can kill the bacteria on your skin, thus keeping you sanitized.
These are 9 reasons that I thought about and why I keep swimming in my workout plans. I don’t swim all year round, but I do rotate it in my planning. This is one of the best, if not THE best cardio exercises you can do. If you’re on the fence about it, or haven’t thought about it until now, I hope this can encourage you to give swimming a go and over time reap the benefits. Also, if you know of more benefits that I have not listed, feel free to share them in the comments.
If you want to read about someone that is reaping the benefits of swimming, check out my previous bloooooog about a boy with CF named Emlen. His numbers are off the charts, and swimming is a major reason for that. You can read about him HERE
I’ll be continuing a Q&A session for my next bloooog in a couple of weeks, so if you have any questions you’d like me to attempt to answer about CF and exercise, feel free to ask in the comments or find me on social media under my “contacts” page.
Until next time,