As per my previous post here, the Sport Relief Swimathon March 2014 is just around the corner and I’m burning off my early dose of mince pies in the pool – whilst raising cash for an awesome cause! ‘HOW ARE YOU GETTING ON WITH THAT, FAYA?’ I hear you ask? Well, one minor setback is that I can’t swim… the front crawl (which is the mandatory stroke)! Thankfully, Charlie to the rescue! She’s a fantastic and painfully-tough swimming coach who also happens to be a sports therapist working with Watford Football Club, & will be coaching me all the way into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic pool.
This post contains a ‘Progress Report’ from week 1, as well as the BENEFITS OF SWIMMING, as I see it. As the months go on, I’ll be blogging about my aquatic experiences & fitness tips/tricks along the way, as well as running through the stretching routines, land training, injury-prevention exercises, nutrition, etc.
1) WHY SHOULD YOU SWIM ???
i) IT STRETCHES YOU – It’s the perfect remedy to stretch any stiff muscles, perhaps from a previous heavy workout, and to help speed up recovery. The large range of motion helps the joints and ligaments to loosen up and become more flexible. Having said that it’s a good idea to do some additional stretches afterwards (I will be posting them on here).
ii) A FULL BODY WORKOUT – When performed correctly (I’m working on it!) swimming delivers an intense full body workout including back, chest, abs, legs – everywhere! And you don’t get the discomfort of sweating (well, not until after you get out of the pool!).
iii) ZERO IMPACT – Swimming allows you to exercise aerobically but without the high impact to the skeletal system. Since around 90% of your body weight is supported by the water, it’s a great form of exercise for anyone with injuries or impact-related joint pain.
iv) FABULOUS STRENGTH TRAINING – You’re super-light in the pool as most of the weight is carried by the water which is about 800 times denser than air. That gives a constant level of resistance to work against, so that every kick or stroke is weighted. It’s a fantastic way to develop muscular and bone strength .
v) STRENGTHEN THE HEART: Being an aerobic exercise it helps make the heart muscle become more efficient at pumping improving blood flow.
vi) CALORIE SLAYER – Swimming can toast fat (depending on how much effort you put in – as with anything). A 30 min front crawl swim session could burn between 4-500 calories – which is more than jogging.
vii) RELAXATION – recreational swimmers settle into a leisurely rhythm and while away the lengths on autopilot-mode, during which time their minds are often wandering; because of its repetitive character, swimming is thought to be fairly meditative! The submerged state can have a focussing effect on the body (rather than the mind), produce endorphins, and encourage muscle relaxation.
2) THE SWIM LESSON
– Warm up: of 4 lengths of breaststroke
– Main: 20 minutes of kicking, holding a float and breathing to alternate sides.
– Charlie’s Instructions: Breath on every 6th kick. Keep your hips up, little splashes with your feet, head down and roll to the side to breath having one ear in the water and one out.
– Cool down: 4 lengths of breaststroke.
– Stretches: lats, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quads and hamstrings.
Training 4 x week (2 swim 2 land), building up to 5 days (3 swim 2 land)
3) PROGRESS REPORT: WEEK 1
This week I had my first swimming lesson – given that I’m pretty competent with the breaststroke, I foolishly thought I’d dominate the basics after a single session – badly perhaps, but nonetheless, I should at least be able to kick my legs & arms whilst floating! No, no, no – I couldn’t have been more wrong! I had a massive wake up call. I’d like to think I’m fairly fit & healthy, I’m always on my feet, on my bike, running around in the park, or at the gym but this was such an alien fitness activity that it left me totally exhausted!
The greatest challenge was breathing! Charlie noted that learning to swim as an adult is often more challenging; we tend to panic in the water fearing that we won’t get enough oxygen – that was me! My chest was burning (aching in fact by the end of the session) and I was splashing, kicking, spitting, coughing, swearing – it felt like drowning – hardly the elegant and dainty swim I’d imagined in my head! All along Charlie was shouting instructions by my side, not allowing me to put my feet on the floor, & I definitely caught her giggling at me at some point – I don’t blame her!
So week 1 was a catastrophe, I’ve had to rethink a little, I feel a bit overwhelmed about 1 hour of continuous crawl, and it’s certainly been a while since I was LITERALLY thrown in the deep end like this – but I’m embracing the challenge! I will learn to swim! It’s such a great full-body sport and such a great cause!
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