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Love It or Hate It, Swimming is Good Exercise

posted January 16, 2007 @ 10:23 PM  |  Health and Nutrition category

~By Martin Smith

I hate swimming. And I love swimming.

I hate it because my legs don't float, my stroke mechanics would make a physicist cry, and for all the energy expended, my body goes absolutely nowhere. I love it when, after swimming nearly 500 yards and I'm no longer afraid of drowning, I get a moment of clarity. I love the feeling of the water swishing past my ears. I love the warmth of the water's embrace, and the solitude that the quiet provides. The water is a magical place and when I'm not struggling to stay atop it, I enjoy it. Swimming is great aerobic exercise because it works the large muscle groups of the back and the legs, as well as using the arms.

Swimming is easy on your joints and all of the tendons (connecting muscle to bone) and ligaments (connecting bone to bone) in your body. This makes it ideal for people with bone or joint injuries.

And because water covers over two thirds of the world, it is an important skill to know. Everybody should learn to swim.

Ideally people should learn to swim as children. Children learn motor skills faster than adults, and people tend to solidify their fear of the water as they get older.

It being summer, I thought I'd mention that there are many places for children to learn to swim in town, and there are many wonderful swim teachers. Some of them will teach adults too.

Swim teachers are good for everybody because swimming is technical. Learning good stroke mechanics is very important; a good swimmer only gets to put between five and nine percent of their expended energy into forward horizontal movement. The rest of the energy goes into keeping your core body temperature a cozy 98.6 degrees, staying afloat, and overcoming the drag dynamics of water.

Physics is a huge presence in swimming and Mother Nature rewards good technique with fluidity of motion. Watching my flipper-like friends swim is fun, they're beautiful as they glide through the water. A swimmer like me is pulled to the bottom of the sea where all the other rock fish hang out. If you don't swim well, don't give up hope. I feel about as natural as plastic in the water, and even my stroke mechanics are improving.

Swimming in the ocean is different from swimming in a pool. And there are some important things you should know. Pools are usually a toasty 82 - 85 degrees. Our ocean is 50 degrees. This is important because your body has to make specific adaptations when regularly exposed to water temperatures below 77 degrees.

People who often swim in water this cold may retain some subcutaneous body fat to protect themselves, and their blood vessels may retard heat transfer to the skin. Our bodies are so neat.

So swim. If you don't know how, or don't do it well, contact a teacher in town. Swimming is great exercise. You can do it forever. It is kind to the body and comforting to the soul. Enjoy the water, but respect it. Always swim with a buddy.

Martin Smith is a Certified Personal Trainer from El Granada, California. You can learn more about Marty at Marty's Mobile Personal Training Service.

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