January 22, 2016
As I mentioned in my last post, I have now started swimming. I’m now two weeks into my swimming training and I wanted to write briefly about the experience having not swam properly since I was in primary school.
First and foremost swimming is a fantastic physical exercise. In my opinion it’s much harder than cycling and running. Swimming requires the constant use of many different muscles such as arms, legs, core, shoulders and neck. Although in good shape, my first few swims left me aching from head to toe, I was using muscles that I never realised existed.
Like any sport, the harder you go the more you blow, this is especially the case with swimming. With so many muscles involved it is incredibly tough when you pick up pace. Generally speaking if you’re tired at running or cycling it’s just your legs or your lungs. With swimming so many different muscles are getting hammered. If you can blast out the lengths at swimming you are a fit person.
Strokes and technique are massively important in swimming. I started off with breaststroke, but tended to keep my head out of the water constantly. Apparently proper technique says that your head is supposed to submerge under the water and you take a breath each time you come up. Whilst this looks quite easy it’s much more difficult in practice.
Last week I moved onto the fastest and most common stroke, front crawl. If I thought breaststroke was hard this is even harder. The whole “breathing after four strokes” routine while performing a tough activity is much easier said than done. I am seeing improvements but initially I struggled to do one length without feeling totally deprived of oxygen. Of course on the bike I can breath as much as I like, exercise in the water is a whole new experience. It’s important to make sure that you exhale fully, just like you would out of the pool. I wasn’t doing this and I noticed that the further I swam front crawl the more I was gasping for air. It’s increasing constantly, but I’m now managing around 4 lengths of front crawl before I switch to a different stroke to catch my breath.
On a more practical note swimming is not as accessible as running or cycling. Pools generally only open to the public at specific times, some of which can be tricky to fit around your daily schedule. I hate getting up early, but I now swim at 6-45am three times a week, something that leaves me asleep on my work desk around 4pm. Swimming doesn’t require much equipment other than goggles and a towel, but it is a bit awkward getting yourself dry and feeling fresh if you’re going to work after.
On a personal note swimming with no aids renders me deaf and I have to swim in silence. Having exercised without sound for a number of years that’s not really an issue for me. However it didn’t help when I was lay on a piece of foam and the lifeguard was whistling at me as they needed to be removed out of the pool! The changing room is also bit awkward as people do often try to make conversation and I have to explain that I’m deaf.
I think that swimming is going to increase my core strength and help overcome the back pain I’m experiencing on my bike. It’s certainly going to improve my fitness levels, I swam over 80 lengths this morning and I felt shattered after.
It may be a novelty, but I could honestly see me swimming for many years in the future, I’m actually quite excited about going each day. I’m praying that my new training schedule is going to strengthen my back so that I can jump back on my bike and ride 120 miles with no pain!
If you’re looking for a whole body workout that is tough then I can’t recommend swimming enough!