Swimming is a fantastic all-round way to boost fitness levels. It provides an effective cardiovascular workout, can help to tone the body, and can help to build impressive body strength, while all the time being relatively gentle on your body as being buoyant in the water protects you from impacts that can cause injuries.
Just don’t go too mad straightaway! It takes time to build up to the kind of routine where you’re burning up Units at an impressive rate. Start by warming up and take it easy for a couple of lengths before you try to build up speed. If you plough straight into your first few lengths, you’ll barely last 10 minutes and run the risk of collapsing in the shower with exhaustion, which is never a good look! It’s a good idea to take a few swimming lessons to get you started, especially if you have never been a strong swimmer. Most local leisure centres and gyms will offer these so check out what’s available in your area.
Once you’re ready to go, aim for a routine of about five minutes warming up, followed by a more intense period of continuous lengths, finishing off with another gentle swim lasting five minutes. Complete that routine three times a week and you’ll be putting yourself through a strenuous aerobic workout while producing long, lean muscles.
Vary your strokes
Front crawl is most effective at burning up Units. Changing to the backstroke will help tone your upper body, while the breaststroke is an excellent way to work the inner thighs. You’ll see results pretty quickly as swimming against the water works your body 12 times harder than if you were in the gym. Calories are burnt off at a faster pace. Put it this way, an hour in the pool can use up the same number of calories as a five mile run!
Out to sea
Swimming in the sea offers a much more intense, and also more pleasurable, workout. It’s harder work to stay afloat in the sea and there’s not as much ‘clean’ water to grab as you haul yourself through the water. Safety, however, is vital. If possible, check the beach at low tide to see where any potential holes are so you don’t get accidentally caught out of your depth. To check which way the water is drifting, wade out to waist height and then float facing the beach and staring at a fixed point. See which way you drift and that’s the way the tide is running.
Don’t swim out further than waist height and keep an eye on how long you’ve been swimming against the tide. Don’t wait until you’re out of steam – you’ll need plenty of energy to make it back to shore. To find out your closest Blue Flag beach, which offer the cleanest water and beach, check the An Taisce website .
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