When I was younger I was a very passionate swimmer. I loved it. I loved being in the water and I hated being out of it. Winter? Great, give me an indoor pool. Summer? Brilliant, give me the sea. Swimming was my thing and I really didn’t care for any other type of sport. As the years went on, I found myself competitively swimming up until senior school when I decided to quit.
I don’t really know why I stopped but sadly I did and I took up dancing instead – something I pretty much loathed but I felt the high school pressure to be ‘in’ with the other girls. Now though, 10 years later (perhaps a little bit more) I’m slowly finding myself back in the pool at my local David Lloyd gym and working on my technique again in the 15m pool – inside and out. But boy, have I got a lot to catch up on.
The idea of cross-training might seem a little too much to some – especially those focusing on one type of training/sport – but believe me when I say that incorporating different activities into your training can actually be immensely beneficial for your overall fitness performance.
Swimming can be pretty much anything you make of it. It can be a low intensity activity, a medium intensity activity or a high intensity activity. Personally when it comes to my swimming, I like to train in the medium-high intensity range to increase my fitness levels. We all know that swimming is amazing for using practically every muscle in the body and what happens when we use more muscles? We burn more energy and calories. When we swim (no matter the intensity) we engage the muscular and cardiovascular systems without adding pressure on the joints. Whilst swimming helps to improve our overall fitness levels through endurance, swimming technique and the building of muscle tone, it’s also great for active recovery (for all you who fear rest days), reducing lactate build up, decreasing muscle soreness, improving flexibility and improving heart health.
CrossFit, weight training and swimming?! How i’m squeezing it all in!
If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll see that my training is pretty full right now. I’m currently 3 weeks into CrossFit and whilst I’m learning something new almost every single day, completing some spicy WOD’s (workout of the day), and working on my own strength training programme, I’m still incorporating a 25 minute swim into my week. For those interested in a time scale of my workouts – that’s 1 hour of CrossFit, 30 minutes of strength training and then I’ll swim on a Friday when I don’t have a CrossFit class (instead I’ll head to my gym and complete a leg day workout finished with my swim). All in all, I workout 6 days a week and rest 1 day of the week. My rest day pretty much consists of a lazy day at home, blogging and baking. Fun stuff, eh?
Weight training and CrossFit might make you a better swimmer than you think
Swimming requires balance, symmetry, good technique and of course, strength. If you’ve already nailed that through weight training and CrossFit (particularly from a lot of single arm/leg exercises) then you might be surprised at your speed and efffiecency in the water. Despite swimming at a younger age, I found that as soon as I got back in the water, my endurance was much better than I expected it to be. I’ll thank the cardio and CrossFit WOD’s for that.
Swimming and weight training/CrossFit
We already know that swimming requires both muscular and endurance strength, but it’s the strength that is needed to allow your body to not only swim through the water, but continue to swim after repeated strokes that are most often performed at our maximum ability.
Now, you may not be a huge fan of cardio but let’s face it… it’s amazing for our cardiovascular health, and if you’re pretty interested in keeping your body fit and healthy (rather than just doing it for the looks) then you need to start incorporating some element of cardio into you training routine.
Personally, I think swimming has a huge benefit when it comes to weight training/CrossFit training and since starting CrossFit I’ve come to realise the importance of combining both strength and conditioning work together. So can swimming really improve your training? Yes and here’s a few reasons why:
You’re still working on your strength in the water
Like I said earlier, swimming requires strength in order to pull yourself through the water. It also requires the use of many muscles – particularly the use of your shoulders, arms and glutes and therefore, you end up doing a mini resistance workout. If you’re a regular swimmer you’ll find that over time you’ll slowly start to increase the strength of the muscles used in the water as you’re constantly working on them – not just from swimming, but in the gym too.
You’ll improve your endurance + health
Like I keep saying, endurance is a key element when it comes to swimming and it’s one of the main reasons why people love swimming – because it increases their endurance and fitness levels massively. Swimming is tiring. There’s no doubt about that, and when you put the effort in and push yourself, you’ll find your endurance improving over time. According to Speedo, they found one study that suggested “12 weeks of swimming can improve the efficiency of blood being pumped through your body by 18% and because water is around 800 times denser than air, it’s great for toning up without putting stress on your joints. It can even slow down the ageing process – scientists have shown that swimming three to five times a week dramatically reduces the risk of an early death.”
Swimming can help prevent injuries
Swimming has a lower risk of injury than many other forms of exercise because the force of the water helps to take the stress off your joints. For those suffering with injury, you may also find that swimming can help ease your injury when in the water and in fact, act as a natural painkiller as it can help to reduce inflammation.
Improves your mentality
Swimming not only physically makes you stronger, but it can help improve your mentally too. It’s a good switch up from your daily training plan and as well as that, it keeps the body guessing and your motivation to train high. If you’re constantly switching things up then your body won’t become too used to it’s routine and in turn, you’ll keep progressing. Swimming is also known to help reduce stress, anxiety and provide your body with endorphins. Personally, I find swimming to be more relaxing (despite going full mode in the pool) than lifting weights/CrossFit training and for me, it’s a well needed break for my body and mind. You really don’t have to go full power 24/7 for a good exercise to happen.
Can improve your sleep
Sleep = recovery, and the better recovery you have, the better your body will progress with it’s training. We all know that cardio is a great way to help us sleep at night and with swimming, because of it’s high impact and high endurance levels, you can expect a much better sleep (or at least an improved night of sleep).
Great for recovery
For those who fear rest days (please don’t – they’re so important!) then this one’s for you. I came across this interesting article from Muscle and Recovery…
“a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that athletes who hit the pool for a moderate workout on a recovery day were able to subsequently work out longer than those who took it easy. “Getting into the pool can help start that active recovery process,” explains Hannah Caldas, a coach with CrossFit Anywhere in Folsom, CA, and a former member of the Portuguese national swim team. “You’re flushing out some of the lactic acid while helping your muscle fibers recover.” Water is low impact and provides active stretching in every direction. And the faster you move, the harder you’ll work. Hydrostatic pressure also circulates blood flow back to the heart, keeping your heart rate 10 to 15 beats lower per minute than on land.”
Whilst I don’t (personally) advocate the above (having no rest days), I do however think it’s a great way to train when your body is full of DOM’s (delayed onset muscle soreness) and feeling a little bit iffy. Basically 6 days of the week then! Hah.
Key equipment for swimming
I think it’s pretty important to have the right gear the it comes to swimming. Especially after my rookie error a couple of months back when I wore the wrong bikini and everything felt the need to flap open with every stroke. Opps. Boobies were well and truly out!
Below I’ve provided you with the very few items I use for swimming, all of which are from Simply Swim. What have we got? Swimmers bikini (very comfortable) and googles (always key) – that’s it! Swimming doesn’t have to be fancy, nor does it have to be expensive.
My favourite workout for swimming
Here’s a pretty fun (but damn knackering) EMOM workout that I’ve been trying out recently:
EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute) – 4 rounds
1 min – Swim 15m
2 min – Swim 30m
3 min – Swim 45m
4 min – Swim 60m
Rest 1 min.
The aim is to complete the suggested metre before the minutes up, however as the minutes go on you’ll find yourself hitting the next minute with no rest time – that’s fine… just move onto the next minute! It’s a juicy one.
With all that said, since I’ve started incorporating swimming back into my weekly routine (currently once a week) I’ve seen some real improvements in terms of recovery, endurance and performance. My cardio has improved (hell of a lot actually) and I really do feel the benefit on my sore muscles after a week of CrossFit and tough leg strength sessions. Some days I keep it light and some days I go full out – dependant on how my body feels. Either way, why not try swimming for a month. If you see benefits, then great. If you don’t? Then at least you tried something new!
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