I have a confession to make: I’ve been swimming lately and NOT writing about it. I know, I’m so sorry. It’s not that I was deliberately NOT writing about it, it was more like I was super busy and not exactly sure what to write. Me and swimming have an interesting relationship.
I guess I should start by saying how much I absolutely LOVE water. I love being near it, in it, around large bodies of it. Recently (read: the past three years) I’ve learned that I need more than just a river to make me happy. I need a real, open body of water to feel settled, and all of the things that come with it: salty air, great seafood, wind. Walks on the beach. The color blue.
I grew up with a pool (correction, Steph and I grew up with a pool), and I didn’t appreciate having it nearly enough. I was kind of a diva growing up, and I wouldn’t get into the pool unless the water was something ridiculous like 80 degrees or warmer. I didn’t use it often. And if I was ever trying to get into it and then Steph decided to do something like splash me as I was easing in, I’d turn around and march right back inside out of spite. I totally hated that!!! What a baby, right?
When I got my first gym membership back in 2004/2005-ish, I chose the only place that had a pool, even though it was a serious drive from my home and pretty out of the way. Because it had an indoor pool. Because I love to swim.
And you know what? I failed swimming lessons as a child, because I wouldn’t jump off of the high dive into the deep end of our local pool. I was like 6, and had visions of bones and creepy creatures at the bottom, even though I could see it. No way I was going in there!!! So I pretty much suck at swimming and have terrible form. I learned to swim (i.e., try to use good form) by going to my gym’s pool with a friend who was on our school’s swim team, and swimming behind him, trying to do what he did. I’m not even joking. This is how I learned to do a proper breast stroke.
But we can’t really deny that swimming is an awesome workout, and YOU GET TO BE IN THE WATER, which is really the best part of it for me. The downside to this is, of course, chlorine, messy hair, and either showering at the gym or going home to shower, but still. Swimming is SO fun. Even when you suck at it. And when you suck at it, it kind of takes less time to ‘get a good workout in’ than it would if you were a pro swimmer, right? yeah. Swimming is an excellent, full-body workout.
Did I mention, as well, that swimming is one of the few ‘sports’ that is recommended for people with MS, or as recovery therapy? The main reason for this is that in water, we’re all weightless, so gravity won’t stop MS patients or people in recovery from actually getting a workout. It also provides resistance going in all directions, so we get back to the ‘full-body’ idea.
Swimming exercises all the major muscle groups of the body as well as the heart and lungs, making it a great activity for overall fitness. It builds lung capacity, endurance and strength.
Swimming is a non-impact activity so it’s a good alternative to high-impact exercise like running and aerobics. It’s kinder to the joints so a good choice for those with achy knees and ankles. It’s also good exercise in pregnancy.
So I’ve gone swimming lately because a friend goes, and I’ve been tagging along. Granted, this breaks my ‘free’ rule, as it costs me 3-Euros per hour to swim. But when you’re us and not so great at swimming, that means you only need an hour (or 30 minutes) until you’re worn out, if you’ve been pushing yourself. You really only need like 5, if you’re new to the forward crawl… dear lord, workout!!
As it’s still my first few weeks back, there are some things that I had to re-learn/remember about going swimming for fitness (as opposed to going swimming outside somewhere for fun). I thought I’d share them. They’re not really in-depth, but will be helpful to anyone who might be interested in swimming, but is not sure where to start:)
1. Don’t wear a bikini.
I’m not suggesting that you can’t, but if you want to get into some serious lap-swimming, your bikini is going to get annoying. I know you don’t like them, but invest in a one-piece (you can get a good, cheap one from DICK’s for about $15) to save yourself the hassle of constant readjustment.
2. DO invest in goggles and a swim cap.
The goggles are important for your eyes, since swimming with your eyes closed won’t fly, and swimming with them OPEN in a chlorinated pool will sting! The swim cap is to make your life easier, also, if you have hair that is longer than a pixie cut. I can’t STAND having my hair all over the place in the water when I’m trying to exercise. They seem silly and retro, but just imagine yourself as a pin-up artist, rather than the nerd at the pool wearing goggles and a cap. This is the only way I can live with myself while wearing all of the above. It is NOT my sexiest look.
3. KNOW when to go to the pool.
I really can’t decide which is worse: the children’s groups who are loud and take up the whole pool, or the retired folks who take up the full length so they can walk while holding a noodle. I understand that everyone loves the pool and everyone needs fitness, but if you’re going for a workout, it’s best to go between these two groups, when you’ll have the space to yourself.
If you’re a member of a gym, they’ll most likely have a schedule posted to show when the group classes or free swims are happening. Take heed. Our pool’s sweet spot is near 11am, when the old people are leaving. The kids come in around 12 as we’re leaving. On Tuesday. WIN.
Also, remember: the weekends are kryptonite. Everyone will be there. It’s best to save your swims for weekdays/nights if you can, to be sure to have more space.
4. Share the lane if it’s overcrowded.
As long as you’re not swimming too fast or walking, most people won’t be concerned if you jump into their lane when the pool is crowded. Two to a lane is best. Just be considerate, give them a half-length to full-length before you start after them, and always move to the right when you’re going to pass each other!
5. DO shower before getting in.
Because seriously, that water is always too cold if you try to jump in without it, and it’s usually required. For sanitary reasons, or something like that.
6. Things to bring with you:
If you’re going to the gym to swim, the best thing you can do is go prepared. I often go with too much and hate it, but I’d always prefer to be over-prepared than under! Bring the following:
A towel ~ a lock, or coins for the lockers ~ a plastic bag to carry your wet bathing suit and towel home in (so they don’t mess up the gym bag) ~ a comb for your hair (this is the minimum) ~ clean underwear and socks
If you’re planning to shower and go at the gym, here are the things that might be necessary for you. As a note, many gyms often supply soap and hair dryers in the locker room. Find this out before going!
Shampoo/conditioner ~ body wash ~ flip flops for the showers ~ your makeup bag ~ maybe a hair dryer ~ your work clothes?
If you’re like me and don’t want to cart all of that shit with you/don’t want to have travel versions of everything, and have the time to spare, then just pack the leave-in spray conditioner, wear comfy clothes, and book it the hell home afterwards to take a ‘real shower’!!!
7. Don’t be too concerned about your form. Yet.
Yes, you’ll get a better workout once you’ve gotten the form down, but if you’re new to swimming for exercise, don’t worry too much about being perfect. Just get in there and get comfortable first! The form will come.
8. Stretch before and after!
This is really, really important. Make sure you stretch! Thankfully, in a pool you can also stretch once you’re in the water:)
9. Don’t rush!
Go slow ar first and just get used to it. Don’t race. You’re not racing anyone, so take your time, get comfortable in the water, and then allow yourself to speed up as you get more into the rhythm of it.
10. Remember: swimming isn’t the only exercise you can do in a pool!
There are a lot of other things that can be done in the water that are good for you. There are water weights, ‘running’, and also different forms of paddle and stroke that can be done while holding on to a wall. If swimming freely is too much at first, try other water exercises. There are TONS.
I hope you’ve found this helpful:) I love swimming. I hope you enjoy it, too!