We are back with a new sport as part of our our workout series to help you figure out the right fitness regime for your body and mind. We previously covered rowing and running, with a guide to picking the right shoe and a three week campaign to get you out on the road. Now we bring you the lowdown on another outdoor activity to enjoy – swimming.
Swimming is magical. No I’m serious. How you ask? Well, I’ll tell you exactly how. First when you immerse yourself in the water you are cut off from all outside stimuli, no sounds or sights that might distract you. The constant lapping of the water at your ears almost works as a system of involuntary meditation and your thoughts turn inwards. Second, the water bears the weight of your body, ensuring that even the heaviest of people or those with injuries can comfortably workout or just enjoy the water. Third, the natural resistance created by the water increases the quality of your workout without any extra equipment. All this, and more, with absolutely no conscious effort on your part! Now, tell me, that isn’t magic?
Now that I’ve convinced you about why you should swim, let’s move on to the how. For beginners, or those who have not confident about their technique, the safest way is to be trained by a certified professional in a controlled environment. Take no risks since the dangers of swimming are life-threatening and way more serious when compared to other sports. (This is the only real downside of this sport, in my limited opinion.) On the same lines, never swim if a qualified life-guard is not present and always respect the signals sent by your body, such as a sudden cramping sensation.
Coming back to the mechanics of swimming, the most important aspect is lung capacity and your breathing technique. Once you have mastered the right style of breathing and strengthened your lungs there is nothing stopping you from an Olympic medal except practice. Setting aside our visions of grandeur for now, we can start with the most common strokes:
Free Style: This is the simplest of strokes and the one most suited to beginners. There are variations of this basic stroke as well, but the most common one is where the arms alternate underwater and overhead and the legs flutter (kick) up and down without bending the knees. This is also known as the survival stroke, as one can keep it up for hours if breathing correctly.
Back stroke: This is a relaxing stroke as you can choose to float more and just use your arms and legs for direction and occasional propulsion. Obviously, if you are actually swimming using the backstroke, the arms move in a backward windmill action and the legs do a flutter kick or deeper synchronized kicks.
Breast stroke: This stroke can be done with your head completely out of water or bobbing in and out for breathe. The calorie burn in this stroke is higher than both the back stroke and freestyle. The arms move in a synchronized in-out motion underwater, while the legs do a powerful frog kick.
There are numerous types of swim styles such as the butterfly stroke (which I have yet to master), which turn swimming into a performance art, however, to start with the three strokes discussed above are the simplest.
The next obvious question would be, ‘who can swim?’. Based on discussions with doctors specialising in sports injuries, athletes who have been swimming for years and my personal experiences over thirty years, it seems like anyone (and I mean that literally) can swim. You can be eighty, have a physical disability, be overweight and still comfortably swim everyday. Swimming is extremely easy on the joints, while building endurance, muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness.
The best part of swimming for a workout is that it brings a sense of freedom and fun into the experience. After all splashing about in water is most children’s favourite activity and who doesn’t want to relive their carefree childhood days? So go rediscover the simple joys of life, while getting fit and maybe spending some time with your family or visiting your zen place.
See you in the deep blue.
About the Author:
Niranjani is an entrepreneur and blogger who believes that good quality, affordable healthcare should be available to all. She occasional puffs and pants her way through a 10k race to feel fit, despite her chaotic life.
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