Swans-a-Swimming: How Great is Swimming?

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Jumping in has great benefits!

I admit that I am a cardio girl. I love running and cycling and I plan to do a triathlon in 2011. My plan for now is a sprint tri, which is much shorter the Ironman most people think of when they think about triathlons. I’ve done marathon and a century, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do them both in a single day, let alone swim a couple of miles too.

So, why haven’t I done a triathlon before now? Swimming. Swimming is great, and I know how to swim, but I can’t stand being cold. I know, I know: once you start swimming, you warm up. But I’m the one who was shivering half-way through deep water aerobics, and I work hard. (Evidenced by how sore I was the next day.) When I was younger, I loved swimming. But I think most kids are immune to cold.

Swimming’s Many Benefits

  • Great cardio/aerobic exercise: your heart loves you.
  • Low impact: no knee complains from swimmers
  • Builds muscle mass: have you ever seen a swimmer’s shoulders/upper body?
  • Therapeutic: it allows you to still exercise if you have, or are recovering from, a bone, muscle or joint injury
  • Safer: It is a bit safer than running or cycling, especially if you are like me and try to put people in their place out on the road… No one yells at you or threatens to run you over. However, the lanes in the pool can get crowded.
  • Almost everyone can do it: I’ve seen children and older adults, obese and overweight people and even people who cannot swim, in the pool. Get a kickboard or a float-belt and you are in. They even have people sitting in high-chairs watching to make sure you don’t drown. No one does that for me when I run or bike.

Eating and Swimming

  • Despite what mom or the cranky neighbor told you, you won’t drown if you go swimming right after eating. The rationale with eating and swimming is that your body is trying to digest food; the blood flow is going to the digestive system and not the muscles keeping you afloat. If you plan to swim for exercise/activity, then eat about an hour before you exercise or earlier, so your body can digest the food and give you energy to fuel the swim.
  • Swimmers often feel hungry, even famished, following their bout in the pool. The theory is that we are not only exercising and burning calories, but we are also trying to keep up our core body temperature. With most exercise, I suggest people eat within 45 minutes of their bout of activity. However with swimming, I suggest they eat within the 30 minute window, even going so far as to have a snack on the deck or in their locker.

Give swimming a try if you aren’t already a swimmer! And then check out a sprint triathlon in your area. A sprint tri is a 750 m swim (~ ½ mile), 20K bike (12.4 miles), and 5K run (3.1 miles).

Not sure what to do? Swimplan.com provides free swim workouts for all levels of swimmers. They also recommend time-trials throughout your training so you can see how you are improving.

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4 thoughts on “Swans-a-Swimming: How Great is Swimming?

  1. Janel says:

    You’ll be GREAT training for your tri! Good luck! I found swimming to be the hardest to train for, but when it was race day, I swam my fastest time ever. I think I just wanted to get out of that water ASAP and didn’t care what stroke got me there!

    • Shelley Rael, MS RD LD says:

      Thanks Janel! Good point. I have no excuse, since I have a pool in the same building in which I work right there on campus!

    • Shelley Rael, MS RD LD says:

      Hi Kristen – sThanks for the vote of confidence. Something I read in Runners World suggested that runners tend to have the hardest time with swimming. So, we are not alone.

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