by Erika Tabur, Certified Personal Trainer and Water Safety Instructor
1. Beginner Friendly. A swim workout can be a leisurely breaststroke or a workout worthy of the infamous 10,000 calorie diet of Michael Phelps.
2. Core Strength. Swimming is a total-body workout which means your core needs to be engaged to provide adequate force. With water being an unstable surface, your core needs to work harder to keep your body balanced.
3. Fat Loss. The pool is a great place for steady-state cardio or high-intensity sprint workouts to rev up your metabolism. Start with sprints of one length of the pool and build to two.
4. Pain Relief. Water can be very therapeutic. Just entering the water can provide relief by taking weight off of an injured back or knee. The hydrostatic pressure has been shown to decrease pain and edema and increase circulation. Think of it as a gentle yet effective massage as the water moves past you.
5. Low-impact. When in the water, buoyancy helps to limit gravity’s effect on your body. The low-impact nature of swimming can be beneficial to anyone with an injury that is irritated by pounding or weight-bearing exercise. If you have an unstable knee, back pain, stress fracture or other injury, swimming can be a great way to stay in shape while allowing your body to heal. If you have arthritis, it can be a great alternative to the pounding nature of walking or jogging.
6. Cross-training. The point of cross-training is to condition the body in a different form to lower the risk of overuse injuries. Swimming offers the benefit of being different from most forms of exercise while still providing great cardiovascular conditioning for any goal.
7. Intensity. The butterfly stroke appeals to the most masochistic of exercisers. If you want a killer workout that scorches your core and upper body, this is it. Swimming sometimes has a reputation for being “easy,” but it’s all in how you push yourself. Challenge yourself with some butterfly sprints.
8. Competition. If you like the community and competition of a race, but have no interest in running a 5K, open water swimming might be for you! Open water swimming events are held in oceans, rivers and lakes. Some are for charity and distances range from the .25 mile leg of a sprint triathlon to the ultra-distance event of 10 miles.
9. Upper Body Strength. The majority of your propulsion through the water comes from your upper body. Some estimate that your upper body is doing anywhere from 70-85% of the work. This is a great way to balance out your training if you normally stick to lower-body workouts such as running and cycling.
10. Cap and Goggle Tan Lines. Maybe I’m alone in my weird love of my goggle tan lines, but swimming is a great excuse to get outside. On a beautiful, hot day, it can be hard to dig up the motivation for a sweaty indoor workout. Cool off and get a workout in by swimming laps in an outdoor pool or going for an open water swim.