The Ultimate Sport: 5 Key Swimming Exercises
Swimming is regarded as the ultimate sport. And there is a solid reason why.
Modern Man Advice is a strong advocate for health and fitness. We live an active lifestyle that will not only get you out and about enjoying this amazing world but that can contribute to your overall health. Swimming is that sport.
In case, you are not aware, our evolution started in the water. Sorry, hyper-religious people, humans were not created out of a rib and thin air.
Are You New To Swimming?
Fear and incapacity are usually the first emotions we encounter when you are new to swimming. And if you are, please know that it is a perfectly normal reaction. And that you should embrace instead of running away from it. Make it your reason to start rather than your excuse not to.
We are all different and are motivated by different things. Whether you have been exposed to bodies of water, be it a pool, lake, or the ocean, know that water is a second home to us. When you start spending more and more time in the water, you often find that it is such a peaceful and calming place. On the same note as our evolution, we develop as babies in our mother’s womb. And guess what you are surrounded by for the first 9 months of your life? It is called amniotic fluid and you are completely “swimming” in it.
Bodies of water should come quite naturally to us. But this doesn’t mean diving into the ocean or even the pool if you can’t safely interact with that body of water. This is the goal of this article, arm you with content and tips on how to make swimming the perfect sport for you.
But as with anything in life, start with baby steps. Get familiar with the basic and likewise start with the safest and simplest form of swimming. Tailor this to your experience, confidence and skill level.
The Difference Between Pool and Open Water Swimming
The difference between the two bodies of water is pretty evident but if it is not we can break it down for you. The pool is a controlled environment. Open water, on the other hand, it is not. Especially when talking about the ocean where currents, waves, and other conditions make it so unpredictable but the more exciting.
For most Triathletes, drills happen in the pool and long-distance practices that simulate the competition happen in the open water. For regular swimmers, this can quite but they spend the majority of the time in the controlled environment.
In a controlled environment, you can fully focus on specific drills and time your pace more consistently. You utilize the length and floor lanes of the pool as our measuring tape. Also, you can expect water to be as smooth as possible with minimum resistance compared to open water.
Open water is a little more unpredictable which makes it more exciting to some. Factors like current, waves, wind, visibility and vastness of the body of water making it ideal for outdoor junkies and more experienced swimmers.
In our opinion, it also makes it more entertaining as, if the water conditions allow it, you get to enjoy swimming along with its natural habitat. And if you are swimming for 1.2 or 2.4 miles this is a BIG plus as you get to enjoy sightseeing as much as the exercise itself.
5 Tips to Ease Into Swimming
If you have decided to make swimming part of your fitness routine, then there are ways you can ease into it. Try to avoid jumping into the ocean without prior experience expecting it to be enjoyable. Without proper training and previous exposure, this can mean not only an intimidating experience but a dangerous and risky activity at best.
- Get your feet wet: As simple as this sounds, it makes perfect sense to start with getting used to being in or around water.
- Proper physical preparation: Swimming is a pretty physical demanding sport. It kicks your butt and if you are new to it, we would be highly impressed if you can swim an entire Junior Olympic pool length without stopping for breath. It requires a high level of cardio, proper technique, and solid muscle strength and stamina. Especially in the core section.
- Practice the technique and motions outside the pool first: Surprisingly, professional swimmers spend quite a bit of time perfecting their techniques outside the pool. This means either focusing on body motions and adding resistance to those moves with resistance bands before getting in the water.
- Start in the pool: As mentioned below, unless you are already an experienced swimmer, the ideal environment is controlled. One you can easily stop and recover at any given time. The last place to run into a cramp, loss of breath, etc is one where you can’t touch the ground and there are not places to hold on to close by.
- Master treading on water and floating on your back: Treading water and having the ability to turn on your back and float can potentially be the difference between life and death. Literally. Being able to catch your breath, recover, etc requires control and relaxation.
5 Key Swimming Exercises
These are our 5 key exercises every swimmer needs to master:
- Stretches: Every professional and intermediate athlete understands the importance of a proper body warm-up and stretch. It is a key factor in optimal performance and avoiding injuries that can bring your sport into a complete halt. For stretching exercises, we recommend this video.
- Core exercises: Core is, well, at the core of swimming. We recommend planks and its variations, crunches, sit-ups, side sit-ups, facing down freestyle, etc. You can watch these two awesome instructional videos here and here. Having the proper core strength means proper and better technique which equals less effort and more fluidity. Fluidity is your friend when swimming.
- The Freestyle catch: This is the main body motion that will propel you forward. We typically recommend practicing this motion outside the pool and slowly introducing it in the water. Perhaps 1 or 2 strokes at a time then stopping, fully focusing on the motion, angle, technique, etc. Watch this video for a more in-depth explanation.
- Breathing exercises: Proper breathing in swimming is key in effective swimming. Being able to swim on both sides while maintaining correct body posture and minimizing drag is key. This will translate into fluidity and therefore less effort both physically and mentally. Watch this fantastic video on this.
- Strength: We believe this aspect of swimming comes with swimming more and more. However, as mentioned before dryland training is as crucial as swimming drills. These are swimming exercises done outside the pool. Strength along with core and stretching is mainly covered in dryland training. Watch this video for strength exercises for swimming.
The Ultimate Sport: Benefits of Swimming
We will wrap this article by discussing the key take away of swimming, and that is its major benefits. Swimming is the ultimate sport, discipline, and practice embraced by all walks of life. We can tell you from experience how much positive impact swimming has had in my life. It is a 100% solid and well-rounded sport that provides the uttermost health and mental benefits of all the sports.
Here are some several major benefits of swimming:
- Minimal impact to joints and skeleton structure: By far the biggest benefit is to have a full-body workout with a focus on cardio while having the least impact of our bones, joints, and soft tissues.
- Utilization of 95% of the body: Swimming requires almost the entirety of your body (with the proper technique) to propel you forward when referring to freestyle (front crawl) swimming.
- Mental stimulation: This is more for open water swimming as you’ll be exposed to nature and share the environment with its natural habitat.
- Psychological benefits: Being in the water is extremely natural for us. We evolved from it. As well as developed during our first few months of life emerged in fluid, right in the comfort and safety of our mother’s womb. Ever wondered why babies can naturally float and swim? Yep.
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