How to get the most out of swimming for fitness (and why most people don’t)

Each summer scores of Sydney-siders return to their infantile roots by grabbing their board shorts and bikinis, and heading to the water for some fun. It doesn’t hurt that swimming can be amazing for your health either.

Unlike babies, 1 more unfortunate adults find themselves sidelined on the beach or pool with fatigue and bodily aches after a short time in the sun. Injuries can derail even the most committed swimmer, leaving them wading through the shallow end while watching their kids jump, dive, somersault and roll, torn between enjoying their freedom or regretting the lack of their own.

For all its benefits, the skill required to gracefully navigate the waters means that many recreational swimmers fatigue their muscles or injure themselves long before getting the challenge their heart and lungs deserve. A lack of swimming technique and basic flexibility can leave one with a grocery list of injuries like swimmer’s shoulder or breaststroker’s knee.2

As the peak of summer draws to a close, there’s still ample ways to tap into the benefits of swimming whether it’s for health or keeping that New Year’s resolution just a little bit longer. If pain is preventing you from swimming, a sports physiotherapist can help to assess the affected areas and develop strategies to ensure that you get both the recovery and fitness you need.

If your muscles feel exhausted after just a few laps, then it’s likely your swimming could benefit from improving its efficiency. A local swimming coach can help. If you’re like me and enjoy figuring things out yourself, then have a look at the abundant resources available online for the right program, tips, and cues to implement immediately. I particularly enjoyed Tim Ferris’ blog post,“How I learned to swim effortlessly in 10 days and you can too” including a review of the total immersion method. The post features a great demonstration of how one can performing the freestyle stroke with barely a splash. People might never look like a fish but they sure can impersonate one.

  1. Pedroso, FS 2012. The Diving Reflex in Health Infants in the 1st Year of Life. Journal of Child Neurology. 27 (2): 168-71.
  2. Wanivenhaus et al. 2012. Epidemiology of Injuries & Prevention Strategies in Competitive Swimmers 4 (3) : 246-251

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