In 1926, Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the 21 miles across the treacherous waters of the English Channel

Swimming is often recommended to runners as a great cross training cardio workout. As a triathlete, novice or pro, swimming is not a cross training option but a part of your training. Did you know that there are many great benefits to this aqueous pastime?

Fun Fact: Breaststroke is both the oldest and slowest stroke at the Olympics

High Water, Low Impact

Swimming is a full body exercise that works all of your muscles. Even more, it’s a workout that is no-impact and won’t beat up and tear down your body in the process! Oftentimes when training, we beat up a lot of our lower extremities such as our knees due to the harsh impact during our run and bike trials. According to swim coach Steven Tarpinian, “swimming allows the body to stretch out and elongate, whereas in other sports, we’re shortening the muscles and collapsing the skeletal system.” This makes sense due to our swimming posture and the stretch-grasp-pull technique of our strokes. Our legs should also mimic this motion and you should feel your legs elongate in a gentle yet firm kick as you glide your legs in and out of the water.

He also explains that when it comes to the recovery process for athletes, swimming is a key factor that should be worked into the routine. While swimming, the water pressure in the body of water forces the blood deeper into the muscles, which then in turn allows them to begin recovering. Swimming, being an aerobic exercise, relies heavily on lung and breathing control. This influx of air filters into your muscles which makes stretching after a swim an important facet.

Fun Fact: Kangaroos are excellent swimmers

Technique is Major Key

When it comes to swimming, however, it is important for athletes to practice in the correct way in order to get the most out of their workout. Remember that speed, while important, is no match to precision. Swimmers with clunky strokes that pummel instead of cutting the water are exerting more energy and minimizing their speed. The same goes for swimmers who do not keep a parallel angel to the water and allow their kicks to remain submerged. Dedicate a couple of swim days to perfecting your technique and you will see the difference it can make.

Fun Fact: In the 1300’s the first swimming goggles were made from tortoise shells

4 Tips for Swimming

  • Practice good technique- make sure you have a technique that will be beneficial to your cardio goals as well as your recovery needs.
  • Reduce drag- elongate your stroke and keep your body aligned while you are in the water
  • Breathe better- make sure you are completely exhaling in the water before you come up to the surface for another breath
  • Work with a coach- perfect for improving your technique and overall swim performance—they could see something you aren’t noticing!
Fun Fact: Benjamin Franklin invented swimming fins

Michael Phelps-ing It

Aside from being a great workout that builds upon the strength of your muscles in a low-impact way, swimming is also a great way to build up your endurance. Interval training while swimming will help you decrease your lap times. It allows people to keep their heart rates up without the added impact of stress on the muscles and on the body. Stroke technique will come into play here as you level out your endurance. Learn to breathe on both sides in order to truly capsize your stroke counts which will come into play as your train your body to push and hold longer with each training session. Swimming can also help to improve your flexibility due to your body stretching out and elongating during your swim.

Fun Fact: The first cruise ship with a swimming pool was the Titanic

Mental Woosah

Lastly, whether it’s floating down a river or chilling in your beach floaty, there is no denying the serenity that comes from being in the water. Swimming alleviates and reduces stress levels, allows you to exercise in a peaceful and relaxing way, and is a therapeutic way for your injuries to heal in a low-impact environment.

Whether you are a recreational or competitive swimmer, swimming has both physical and mental benefits that will be sure to improve your overall well-being.

CK & AT

Kelchner, Heidi. Experience Life. “The Benefits of Cross-Training in the Pool.”  https://experiencelife.com/article/cross-training-in-the-pool/
Better Health Channel. “Swimming- health benefits.” https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/swimming-health-benefits
Photo Credit: History Channel