Improve cardiovascular fitness without impact
Swimming is a unique activity because several muscle groups are involved : the glutes and hips to hit the water, the abs to twist and turn against the wall, the shoulders and arms to do the helix movement. Plus, our hearts get a lot more of a workout than any other exercise, says Jay Dithery, physical therapist and author of the book Running Rewired .
“When you exercise in a horizontal position, the blood return is greater because the blood does not have to deal with gravity when it comes to moving through the body,” he says. “So the heart pumps harder to keep blood flowing through the muscles. I have seen how many athletes managed to increase their VO2 max in the pool and not on land”.
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“Every time you rest on the wall, you get instant feedback on the intensity of the workout on your body.” Walton says. Not having data when calculating the applied effort can end up being a real gift. “ Runners are often obsessed with data, so going for a swim can be a good counterbalance,” he tells us. “Swimming is more about how our body feels in the water.” Taking a break from strictly counting numbers can be both a mental and physical relief for anyone.
Build stronger muscles
Having a strong core , the complex muscle group on which your back sits, is key if you want to run long distances , because it helps you maintain your posture and stabilizes your hips. It takes on special relevance in long races in which it is normal to get tired. When our fitness starts to flag, around mile 30 of a marathon, you can pull your core to keep going.
Swimming is a fantastic exercise to strengthen it , says Walton. When you swim freestyle, for example, your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles help you maintain a streamlined position and twist from side to side while your upper back muscles work with your shoulders to move through the stroke. water, he explains.
Dithery also stresses that there are many athletes who focus on their upper body when exercising, but that the legs and hip flexors are just as important when it comes to taking a stroke. “A lot of people think that it’s enough to do the strokes and ignore the legs,” he says. “But if you use them, your power in the water will be much greater. In addition, you will be strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes since you will be activating them”.
It will help you break your exercise routine
Walton says that runners use swimming in transition periods, when they’re taking a break from training, a break after a marathon , trying to get through the winter, or transitioning from marathon season to triathlon. “Being a non-impact sport, swimming helps you recover and reset yourself ,” he says. “It also allows you to move up a gear when you can’t in other sports like athletics if you’re injured or overloaded.”
In the case of injured runners , specifically, having an escape route to remain competitive is important for physical fitness and, also, for mental health , you have to know how to mentally deal with an injury . The first time I injured my foot, I could only push myself off the wall of the pool with one foot, but I still forced myself to go further and faster each swim session. Even though I couldn’t turn around, I found comfort in the fact that my heart, body, and mind were healing and getting stronger every day in the pool.
It will help you avoid injuries
Of all the low-impact cross-training sports (including cycling, elliptical, and rowing), swimming causes the least biomechanical stress (i.e., high impact) on the body , which makes it the go-to for many runners when it comes to avoiding or rehabbing injury , Dithery says.
“In the case of injury-prone runners , many times these occur when they are trying to reach a new mileage record, so swimming instead of running all the time is a great option to improve the cardiovascular level that we need without injure us,” he says. And, although swimming helps runners maintain their physical condition while giving bones and ligaments a rest, it does not cure injuries. The best thing an injured runner can do to recover is to find the root cause of their injury and do specific strengthening exercises to correct it and heal it , Dithery says.
Learn more about swimming: lifeguard Swimming has physical, mental, and social benefits