If you’ve got any clue on water sports, then you may know that swimming is one no-impact cardio form that can allow the body a rest from all the pounding that you get from running, and without risking the loss of your fitness levels.
While many may think of pool time as a summer fun activity or recreational session, there are actually various pros of pool exercise!
Read on to find out about four swimming benefits there are for runners.
1. Swimming Improves Cardio Without Impact
Swimming is a unique exercise as it requires the use of various muscle groups, including the hips and glutes in kicking, the core muscles for rotation, and flip-turn at the ends, as well as the arms and shoulders for pulling.
Swimming actually works the heart with more intensity than other forms of exercise, because exercising horizontally means that you will have greater blood return, as the blood will not need to compete against the fall of gravity to flow throughout the body.
This leads to your heart having to pump harder so as to keep the blood flow moving through to your muscles.
This is why many athletes can reach a higher maximum oxygen intake in the waters as compared to on land.
This benefit can be reaped for all swimmers, regardless of whether you’re a newbie or a competitive swimmer.
In fact, those who aren’t good at swimming may actually get a more efficient workout ultimately, as newbies have a greater tendency to thrash around more which require much more effort, such as in getting to the pool walls, while the experienced swimmers would know how to conserve their energy by rotating and gliding efficiently with less effort.
Still, such experienced swimmers can still reap an amazing workout just by raising the length and speed of their swim efforts.
A way to boost cardio volume in the waters is to bring in the use of intervals with high intensity, where an example would be fast-paced 100-meter repetitions with a 10-second interval in between each set.
This is an incredible way to boost up your engine while placing minimal stress on the ligaments and muscles.
A challenge when swimming is the difficulty in measuring the heart rate accurately, as not everyone is equipped with a Fitbit or the latest Apple Watch.
Even with the Apple Watch it’s not perfect and I don’t really rely upon it.
I use it more to record how many lengths I’ve done, as I got bored swimming quite easily and my mind wanders.
Without these gadgets, you can still check your heart rate the traditional way by using two of your fingers to count the pulse at your neck for about 10 seconds, then multiplying that digit by six.
This absence of data calculation can actually come as a blessing for runners who are always so caught up with numbers!
2. Swimming Builds Stronger Muscles
A strong core is a key to supporting your spine when it comes to distance running because it helps in maintaining the body posture and in stabilizing the hips.
This is especially crucial for marathons where it’s easy to get tired out and where runners begin to falter in running form, as the core can help to keep runners up and moving forward.
Swimming is one incredible exercise for core strengthening, where freestyle swimming, for instance, engages the obliques, abs, and lower back muscles to maintain the streamline position, as well as to rotate the body from side-to-side, while your shoulders work with the upper back muscles to pull through waters. Strengthening the core muscles can boost thoracic mobility — essential for maintaining a good posture and preventing lower back injuries.
Swimming exercises also engage the lower body parts like your legs and hip flexors, where kicking in the waters can really help to strengthen your hamstrings, quads, and glutes.
3. Swimming Helps You Bust Out of an Exercise Rut
Swimming can also be seen as a recovery exercise, and as a non-impact sport that runners can engage in during transition periods or training lulls during the winter.
As it is non-impact, this sport can help runners in recovering and keeping refreshed, while also allowing runners to tap into other gears that they might not be able to attain when running due to burnout or injuries.
For injured runners, in particular, swimming as an outlet to remain competitive is essential not just to keep fit, but for the wellbeing of their mental health; They can find solace in exercising in the waters while healing.
The best thing is that the strengthening of exercising in the waters carries over to the land!
4. Swimming Helps to Prevent Injuries
Out of all the low-impact cross-training exercises there are such as rowing, cycling, and elliptical, swimming is the one that gives the body the most minimal biomechanical stress.
This is why it is a top favorite for runners when they want to prevent or rehab from an injury.
Injury-prone runners can often attain injuries when trying to push for higher mileage, and here’s where swimming comes in as an alternative to get that additional cardio volume but without aggravating any injuries.
With that said, it must be noted that swimming is not a cure for injuries.
To recover as best as possible, injured runners should focus on their injury’s root cause, and then do targeted strength exercises so as to help in correcting and healing that area.
For injured runners craving exercise that takes after running apart from swimming, they can wear a weighted belt and jog in the waters.
This is also known as aqua jogging, where this exercise mimics the act of running but in the pool, and this is a great alternative for those not familiar with swimming and who don’t want to spend the time to learn all the swim strokes.
In conclusion, swimming is an incredible option for a cross-training exercise, as it gets the heart pumped up, strengthens muscles that runners may not usually use, builds up aerobic endurance, as well as acts as an outlet for competitiveness apart from running.
While runners tend to be fixated on data, swimming can come as a nice counterbalance, where the break from numbers can be refreshing both physically and mentally!
Just be sure to take breaks from time to time and don’t overexert your muscles.
As lockdown eases and my local swimming pool reopens I will be swimming a lot more often, maybe 5 times a week.