A few weeks ago I injured my knee. Not in a terrible, life altering way; but in a sort of way that got me thinking about other forms of exercise. I couldn’t run, rowing is a bit difficult for everyday and I couldn’t just do cycling (’cause that shit hurts my bum!) so I decided to give swimming a go. It was something I loved to do as a kid. I was called a water baby from the age of 2. I just loved being in it. A pool, the sea, a puddle, the bath… you name it and I tried to swim in it.
But I had never really swam for fitness purposes. It’s always been about splashing, dunking, diving, bombing and lying at the bottom of the pool/ocean. So when it came to knowing what to do I was a little stumped. But 1 month in here’s what I’ve learned…
1: Like all other sports, proper gear is essential
Being a former leisurely swimmer, you know whilst on my holibobs and such, all my swim gear was frilly bikinis and fifties style skirted swimsuits! Gorgeous for a day of tanning oneself with a few minor dips in the pool to cool down but completely useless for actual rigorous work. I naively thought that I would not need Speedos. I was wrong. Having to fix myself every 5 mins was time consuming aaaaand having my boobs pushed up created ridiculous drag, those puppies needed to be pinned down! I also owned no goggles and after an hour of swimming you REALLY wished you owned some. Chlorine is a bitch and you sorta need to see where you’re going, especially with small kiddos not looking around. Tis best to dodge them!
2: Breathe as often as you want/can
Honestly, this one feels like it should be a no-brainer but so many people (myself included) do this! Holding your breath while swimming. Taking one maybe two gasps per length. WHY?!?!? You wouldn’t hold your breath doing any other sport! Imagine trying to run laps over and over again like that. BREATHE! (I’m looking at you Coriel). Swimming is an all body workout, constantly moving, pushing through water, heart rate raising. It’s proper cardio. You need that air. So take it! I always thought that I hadn’t mastered the special breathing needed for swimming, like there is some trick that I was missing. I would do a few laps and my chest would be tired. When I finally gave in and breathed every time my head was out of the water it all changed. I could swim for longer and I wasn’t getting worn out as quickly. There is no special secret, there is no trick.
3: Swimming is deceptively tiring
I think this surprised me the most. I am a sweaty person, particularly when I’m training. Perspiring all of the God damn place! And I used to associate sweating and red hot cheeks with how hard my workout was. Obviously, it’s really hard to perspire in water. So when I started swimming for training purposes I was concerned I wasn’t going to get a proper workout from it. I was constantly adding with something. Running and a swim, cycling and a swim, weights and a swim. Then one day I decided to swim the equivalent of 2k in the pool, (112 lengths). I was like this should be graaaaaaaaaand. I was so wrong. Ver wrong. By the end I was so tired I could even bring myself to sit in the sauna. Or to sit in the jacuzzi. I just wanted to lie down. I felt like I had ran for days but I was not sweaty and I was not hot; I was just tired and so weak. Swimming is no joke, no picnic.
4: It’s really fucking good for you
Coincidentally, TIME magazine had a whole thing about exercise in one of their latest issues (the one with Leo Varadkar on the cover I think). Aerobic exercises (such as swimming and running) seem to be best for our brain’s health. All due to having to pump more blood to the brain, our biggest user of oxygen (again peeps, breathe!) It helps increase “brain-derived neurotrophic factor,” this protects AND repairs brain cells. Aerobic exercises also can help to lower the chances of memory loss and Alzheimer’s, even if the person has a parent with Alzheimer’s or if a person is carrying the gene for it. Such a good reason to get the budgie smugglers on!
5: Swimming is making me a more confident swimmer
Ok this one sounds stupid, but go with it. When I was a kid, our school organised swimming lessons for PE for like 3 years. We learned everything. And from starting to swim regularly again I’ve realised that these classes have massively benefited me. Until now I just assumed everyone could swim with ease. Not so… I’m watching women and men in their fifties learning how to swim. And I’m impressed, it must be so scary after all that time. It’s something that comes naturally to me, easily to me. It’s a skill everyone should have. And I think it’s easier to learn that shit when you’re young. So peeps with kids, get them in the pool and teach them to swim. And if you’re all grown up and can’t swim, learn, now. It’s so lovely and worth learning. You never know when it’ll come in handy
Oh and speedos are not flattering.