Swimming is something that I love. I love everything about it. I always have. As a kid I was a total water baby. I excelled at swimming lessons, I was briefly on a swim team at the local pool. I even did synchronized swimming.
Or swimming in the North Santiam River every summer at my aunt’s house. The trek from her farmhouse down the several mile trail through the woods to get to the river…being hot and sweaty and ready to jump in feet first; the feel of the river rocks under my feet…Most of my happy memories are around water, come to think of it.
Swimming is something I recommend to everyone who asks me how to lose weight. I understand it’s not for everyone. Some people are just not natural swimmers, and some people simply do not like the water. I understand that. But if there’s any part of you that ever enjoyed swimming I really suggest trying it for fitness. It’s something FUN that doesn’t necessarily feel like a workout.
Swimming is full of good things and maybe some not so great things. A few things you should be prepared for.
Be prepared! Once you start swimming and get good at it, you’ll love it. There is something relaxing and meditative about swimming laps. For me it’s time to get in a workout at the same time as I relax and think about things that are going on. Once you get to a point when swimming isn’t a struggle, you can lose yourself in the silence of the water, lose yourself in the repetition of the down and back pattern.
It’s Great Fitness
Swimming works your whole body. It increases your stamina, breath, builds muscle, burns fat, improves the way your heart and cardiovascular system works and relaxes you at the same time. It’s a great exercise for people with joint pain, back problems, injuries, and people who are too obese to do other activities. At 250 pounds the idea of starting a running program never crossed my mind–swimming, on the other hand, was the first thing I thought of. Not only is it healthy and fun, I’m weightless in the water! I’ve also read that it’s a great activity for pregnant women but that’s not something I know much about.
Swimming is the perfect form of exercise. Period.
Weight Loss Will Happen
The weight started melting off my body as I started my swimming program. It was only 2-3 days a week for less than 45 minutes at a time and I was losing about 6-10 pounds a month because of it.
If I had to break it down, I’d say that I lost 60 pounds solely from swimming. It wasn’t until I lost that weight that I started doing other things: the elliptical, the treadmill, etc.
Body Changes Will Happen
I wasn’t prepared for the changes that my body would go through when I started swimming to lose weight. Sure I started to see progress, 10 pounds gone, then 20 pounds…and so on. It wasn’t until I got closer to my goal weight that my body truly transformed. What I noticed the most were my shoulders. Who knew I even had such broad shoulders? I never did before. But swimming laps transformed my body into a V shape. It’s very common for swimmers to develop this shape: the broad shoulders, the really narrow waist.
The reason behind this is because when it comes to swimming the part of your body that does the most work is your shoulders, arms and back. Yes I kick my feet as I swim but it’s not much. The act of your shoulders and arms pulling your body through the water will develop muscles you never knew you had.
And Now the Not Great Stuff to Consider:
The one drawback to swimming is the chlorine. I always smell like chlorine. 🙂 In fact if I run the day after I swim I sweat chlorine. Chlorine is a necessary evil. Sure it smells bad to some people (I love the smell) but it really is a good thing. I’d much rather have the pool chlorinated and killing icky germs than not. If you can find a salt water pool I recommend that. It’s a different experience in salt water–not only is it less drying on the skin and hair, plus it’s easier to swim in salt water! Salt water is denser and more buoyant so less of your energy is expended keeping afloat and more is used to propel you along. The good thing about swimming in a chlorine pool though is that you get a better workout as a result of having to work harder.
Chlorine is very drying. My skin is pretty itchy as a result of it. There are lots of tricks to get over this.
I live by Vitamin E Oil.
First, I shower immediately after swimming and I use a body wash that will alleviate itchy, dry skin. Oatmeal and Shea Butter are good options, Vitamin E Body Wash, and Aveeno are excellent. After I dry off I slather myself with Vitamin E oil and often use additional dry skin lotions or body butters.
Drinking a lot of water also helps replenish my body. At the end of the day I also use lotion again. As you can see I obviously buy my moisturizer at Costco.
Chlorinated pools can dry out your hair too. I have a few tricks up my sleeve for that. First, I often work in Vitamin E oil or Conditioner into my hair, or at the very least the ends of my hair, before I put on my swimming cap. This helps a lot. You can also get your hair wet before putting on the swim cap. The hair follicles soak up the water and expand and they don’t soak up as much chlorine. Noticing a theme? Swimming Caps! My hair always gets wet even if I wear a cap but it helps a lot.
Another tip is to use special swimmer’s shampoo and conditioner. I used Ultra Swimmer. It runs about $5 a bottle at Fred Meyer. I don’t use it anymore because I switched to a salt water pool and didn’t have the same issues with my hair drying out. The gym changed from salt water back to chlorine but it’s not as strong as the community pool I used before.
Avoid blow drying your hair. I’ve never been much for blow-drying. I prefer to let my hair dry naturally. Not only is my hair curly and it tends to frizz if I do, it’s just healthier than blow-drying.
Now for the links!
QUESTION: Have any of my posts inspired anyone to try swimming? What are your favorite childhood memories?