Swimming is a wonderful exercise suitable for all ages and abilities. The water supports our body as we exercise, so much less stress is placed through our joints. Regular swimming will help improve our general health, and reduce our risk of developing some chronic illnesses. It will also help us stay mobile and strong.
Its never too late to learn! As well as the health benefits, it may save your life. Swimming lessons are readily available in local sports centres and gyms. For complete novices, or those wishing to improve. Classes are often tailored to gender, age and ability. So there is likely to be a class to suit you. If you haven’t exercised for some time, check with your GP to see if swimming is appropriate for you.
Although swimming is a great exercise, supportive of our bodies. You could obviously still injure yourself. So try and take care around your swimming session with warming-up and cooling-down. This should help reduce your chance of injury, and improve your athleticism, and athletic performance.
First consider warming up. The purpose of this is to gradually increase your heart rate and body temperature. Swim some lengths/laps of the pool, slowly increasing your speed.
Then think about doing some stretches. There is mixed results from research and some controversy into the effectiveness of warming-up and cooling-down. I personally find it useful, and I recommend my patients to try and do this.
When you have finished your initial warm-up, your body can cool-down quite quickly. So keep jumping up and down/running on the spot to stay warm between stretches. The legs and arms are particularly important in swimming. Think about performing windmills (so circling the arms) in opposite directions. Clap your hands in from of your body and behind at chest height. Bring your elbows into your side and hold them at a 90 degree angle. Rotate your forearms outwards and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Follow this link to the British Gas Swimfit website. It gives good direction to different stretches that can be performed in the pool.
With any stretching you should expect to feel a pull, but no pain should be felt.
After your workout, cool-down. Here are some cooling down ideas:
- Try swimming 5 laps/lengths gradually reducing your speed. Make the last one at a very leisurely pace. Try using a mix of strokes to stretch out different areas of your body.
- Grab a float and do some laps/lengths using different kicking styles – dolphin legs, breastroke legs, alternate kicking legs. It could be on your front, back, or both.
- At the pool edge, hold on to the edge and face the wall. Walk your legs up the wall until your knees are against your chest. Then lower your head forward to between your shoulders to stretch the whole spine. Relax and repeat.
- Stand in the shallow end and raise up onto your toes. Then relax to a neutral standing foot position. This will work/stretch your feet and calf muscles.
- Have a warm shower. For your muscles, and to wash the chlorine off!
If you decide to take up or continue swimming try and follow the above advice to remain injury free. If you feel you struggle with your swimming stroke, or want to perform more than one stroke. Think about having some lessons. Other options to work out in the water are aquafit/aqua aerobic classes. Hopefully these classes will guide you through a set of warm-up and cool-down routines.