There are many ways to get a good workout, and some of us may find ourselves dedicated to the same gym routine with cardio and weight machines — sometimes to our detriment.
It’s important to mix things up from time to time, and swimming is an activity that can actually boost your abilities in the gym while giving your body a break from weight-bearing and impact activities.
If you’ve recently been injured or just need to shake things up, the pool is a great place to go. Here are three ways that swimming can improve your gym routine and overall fitness without putting additional too much stress on your muscles and joints.
1. Pump up your strength.
Swimming is a surprisingly difficult activity. While it is classified as a cardio activity, it also uses a large number of muscles throughout the body — legs, arms, core.
Since many people don’t have a regular swimming routine, adding the occasional swim can help strengthen these muscles without the impact. In contrast to weight lifting, swimming can also help lengthen muscles while adding flexibility.
Swimming is a great addition to an established strength routine, but it’s also a good way to build strength if conventional weight training isn’t an option due to injury or a reduced level of fitness.
All in all, swimming is a great supplement to a weight routine at the gym. Don’t discount it.
2. Build cardio fitness.
Although swimming isn’t as cardio-intense as sports such as running, a relaxed swimming routine can be pumped up to get more of a “burn.” Improving your swimming form and trying for a faster speed will burn more calories.
The main benefit cardio-wise, however, is that it gets the heart pumping without putting stress on the body in the form of impact. People who have previous or current injuries will usually find that swimming is one activity that can be completed in a relatively pain-free manner.
For runners who spend lots of time on the treadmill, swimming can offer a break from the constant pounding, and this rest can be beneficial for both injured and healthy runners alike.
When you get back to the gym, your body will appreciate the impact-free interlude.
3. Enhance your mental endurance.
Swimming is an activity that must be done in relative silence in solitude (unless your local pool provides a boom box, or you have a waterproof mp3 player). There’s not much to distract you from the task at hand, and for some of us, this can be a hurdle.
However, honing your mental game is a major benefit of swimming. Without the distraction of televisions and music, the focus turns to the body itself.
Learning to tune in to the body is a valuable skill that translates directly back to the gym—the more you’re aware of your body’s signals, the less likely you are to push too hard and become injured.
Swimming is a sport easily overlooked by those who are fully committed to a gym routine, but it can be participated in with minimal investment — a bathing suit, swim cap, and pair of goggles are all you need.
The physical and mental benefits of adding a weekly swim of thirty minutes or so far outweigh the cost of this initial investment, and many fitness enthusiasts might find that this break from impact and weight-bearing exercises recharges them for subsequent gym visits.
If your gym has a pool, it’s a no-brainer — and if it doesn’t, check out your local community center or high school to see if pool facilities are available. It’s more than worth the effort.
Jenny Willis is a professional blogger who enjoys providing consumers with health and fitness advice. She writes for SwimEX, a leading manufacturer of the best swim spas and swim in place pools.
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