Swimming is a fantastic exercise you can do all year round, it's fun, inexpensive and all you need is your trunks or swimsuit.
Good reasons to go for a dip include:
• Aids heart and lung function
• Tones and strenthens muscles
• Easy on the joints
• Ideal for rehabilitation of injury
• Improved breathing and pulse rate
• Excellent calorie burning potential
Taking the Plunge
As land mammals, we are not ideally suited to long periods immersed in water. The trick is to relax! Spend time getting used to the new environment and work on the following key aspects.
If you're just learing to swim, or taking to the water for the first time in a few years, you may find regulating your breathing one of the first challenges to overcome. But don't worry, this will get easier. Start off using a stroke you're comfortable with and just take it gently. The key word is – relax! Practise over short distances and take rests when you need to.
Run your fingers through a container of water. Feel the resistance? Now turn your hand side-on and feel the difference. Water is a thousand times denser than air. To prevent drag, keep your body horizontal to the surface and avoid your legs dangling beneath you.
Contrary to some theories, water cannot be overcome by sheer force alone. Try to swim one length flat out and see how quickly you become exhausted. The best way to improve is to look for small ways to refine your technique. A qualified instructor will correct any faults you might have developed and help you become a better all-round swimmer.
Swimming for Weight Loss
Swimming is great way to burn excess calories and lose fat. However, it is very common to feel hungry when you get out of the pool and it can be easy to the mistake of eating as many calories as you used up during your session! So consider the following:
• 30 minutes of swimming burns roughly 250 calories
• 1 quarter-pound beef burger contains around 400 calories (that’s without the chips and the mayonnaise!)
That's not to say you shouldn't eat after a good session in the pool, you should. But just make sure it's a healthy balanced meal and don't be tempted to "reward" yourself with junk foods or sugary treats.
The relationship between diet and exercise is fraught with misunderstanding. Just
because you workout regularly doesn’t mean you can eat what you like, when you like. There are basic ground rules. If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll put on weight, regardless how many laps of the pool you clock up between mealtimes.
Aim for a balanced diet, consisting of the three main components – carbohydrates, protein and fat. Avoid diets that advise you to eliminate or drastically reduce one or more of the three. If in any doubt, consult your GP or a qualified nutritionist.
By Adam Dickson
Adam is a writer and lifetime fitness enthusiast. In 2004, he was hospitalised after brain seizures that left him permanently disabled. Since then, he has run the London Marathon, competed in many triathlons, including Ironman UK, and continues to keep fit. He has recently co-authored a book Triathlon – Serious About Your Sport for New Holland Publishers, due out in April 2012.