Take To The Water To Improve How You Look And Feel
Who has the best physique of all athletes? You won’t get much argument if you answer “swimmers”, thanks to their water-sculpted V-shaped torsos comprising strong shoulders, wide back and narrow waist. Not to mention the flat-as-a-pancake stomach and rock-hard six-pack. But regularly taking to the water won’t just build you a better body, it can also boost your mood – really. Indeed, research from Ipsos Mori found that 74% of people found swimming one of the best ways to reduce stress and tension, and 70% said it helped them feel more mentally refreshed. Here’s how you can become a better swimmer to reap the physical and mental benefits faster.
Observe lane etiquette
If you’re training in a pool, knowing the rules will help keep you and your fellow swimmers safe. “Check if the lane is running clockwise or anti-clockwise, be aware of those around you and always stop to let faster swimmers pass at the end of the lane,” says Sam Williams, a Total Immersion swimming coach at Swim Studio London.
Most endurance sports such as cycling and running are all about exertion, but if you’re doing it properly, swimming should be the opposite. “If you’re too tense in the water, you’ll end up thrashing around, wasting energy and tiring yourself out,” says Williams. “Instead, focus on staying balanced in the water and maintaining a relaxed stroke.”
Focus your training
Mindlessly drifting up and down the pool for hours isn’t the most productive use of your time. “Aim to do two short, 20- to 30-minute technique sessions during the week where you focus on improving a specific aspect of your stroke, such as your breathing or kicking,” says Williams. “Then do one longer session at the weekend, adding extra lengths or time every week to monitor your progress.”
Take to a lake
More lakes are now being opened up for swimmers and not only are lakes ideal to swim in, but they also serve as a perfect development stage between the pool and the ocean. “Lakes are great for longer-distance training sessions where you can work on better breathing techniques and stroke improvement work, and they also double as fantastic practice for open-water races,” says Swim For Tri coach Dan Bullock.
Try sea swimming
Swimming in the sea is an adventure in itself and can break the monotony of the pool where you’re constantly turning. “Sea swimming is really challenging compared with the pool and safety comes first,” says Bullock. “The cold, the wind, rough, choppy waters – they’re all factors, so establish some landmarks as ‘sighters’ so you always know where you are. Stay parallel to the shore, tell people you’re going in, and if a red flag is flying don’t go in the water even if you’re a strong swimmer. It’s simply not worth it.”
Warm down and stretch off
“It’s worth allocating an extra five to ten minutes at the end of your session to warm down properly with a few gentle, easy laps,” says personal trainer Aaron Deere. “This will help flush the lactic acid from your muscles to initiate recovery.” Once you’re out of the water, take the time to work on tight muscle groups with dynamic, movement-based stretches. “Lunging forward with one foot while raising both your arms directly above your head will target your chest, hip flexors and shoulders, all of which tend to get tight during swimming,” says Deere.
“Once you’ve finished your swim, replenish your glycogen stores with plenty of quality slow-release carbohydrates like wholegrain rice,” says endurance and nutrition coach Steve Whittle. “You should also have a decent serving of protein such as salmon to help your muscles recover.”
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