Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Wisdom Wednesday: Swimming
Swimming is kind of like riding a bike, once you learn you never forget. However, for many of us we never got beyond the basics of swimming. It can be a little daunting and maybe embarrassing to try to learn how to swim well as an adult.
The benefits of swimming are well worth the effort. It is one of the few non-weight bearing sports so it’s easy on the joints as we age. Anyone with a decent swimming stroke can continue swimming through their entire life.
It is also excellent cardiovascular exercise. The rhythm of the arm stokes and breathing create a pattern that naturally puts you in your aerobic zone. With a little bit of training, you can sustain that pattern indefinitely.
There are two basic approaches to swimming distance. First, there is the long distance swim. I see many people just get in the pool and swim a mile or more without stopping. While the cardiovascular benefit is great, form and efficiency usually suffer. Most of these swimmers display very poor arm motion as their muscles fatigue and appear sloppy and slow in the water.
The second approach, the one I prefer, is interval training. Intervals create short periods of rest that allow your arm muscles to recover, removing some of the excess lactic acid. This allows for much better form and in turn, more effective stroke production and speed.
Let me give you one of my workouts as an example:
I generally begin by swimming 500 yards as a warm up. After the first 200 yards I am typically fatigued and have shot past my aerobic zone. So I throw in 100 yards of “CLRK” (catchup, left arm, right arm, and kick). This slows me down, gives me some rest, and allows me to recover as I alternate each drill for 25 yards. I then finish the 500 with another 200 yards of swimming.
Now I rest for a full minute and begin my interval training. That may be 10 – 100 yard swims beginning every 2 minutes. I swim the first four fairly easy, then try to make each one faster. Although I’m working harder with each repeat, I get a little more rest as well. Combined with the warmup I’ve covered a mile.
If I want more distance, I will swim a pyramid – 2 – 50’s, 2 -100’s, 2 – 200’s, 2 – 500’s, 2 – 200’s, 2 -100’s, and finally, 2 – 50’s. That’s 2000 yards, combined with the warmup, that’s about 1.6 miles. I use the same time increment to determine my rest – 1 minute for the 50’s, 2 minutes for the 100’s, 4 minutes for the 200’s, and 10 minutes for the 500’s.
Before getting out of the pool, I’ll swim a little more CLRK to cool down and work out some of the lactic acid.
You can follow this pattern, keeping the distances shorter when you begin and extending them to additional sets of interval training if you want more distance. You can also add sets of repeat kicking with a kick board, or pulling (using only the arms) with a buoy to float the legs. Just like CLRK, this allows various parts of the body to rest and recover during the workout.
If you technique is poor, invest in some swimming lessons. There are master swim programs in most communities where qualified instructors will make a swimmer out of you in just a couple of weeks.
Masters programs also provide competition for adult swimmers of all age groups. However, most of the serious swimmers are training for triathlons. I’ll write about triathlon training in next week’s Wisdom Wednesday blog.
The Bottom Line:
Give swimming a try. It’s a great workout and an important part of cross training.