If you’re anything like me, you had just bought yet another double vodka and coke from the bar as the clock struck midnight on January 1st. As you slammed down the sugary-sharp concoction and began tunefully slurring the words to ‘Auld Lang Syne’, you were proudly thinking it:
‘This is the year I’m finally going to get fit.’
If this sounds familiar, then also think back to that first week of the year where you did a ten-minute workout of crunches and 5kg curls before work, ate quinoa salad every day for lunch and went for a twenty-minute jog on three evenings. Now think back to the week after that where you’d given up on the workout schedule, instead preferring to return to your 2018 ritual of crashing on the couch, ordering takeout and watching Netflix.
If this is you, then please know you are not alone. Please also know that there’s nothing to feel bad about; it’s hard to keep that enthusiasm going, especially if you feel like you’re burning yourself out by doing too much, or even not enjoying what you’re trying to achieve. The key to fitness goals is finding something you really want to do, rather doing things because you think you should. The ultimate goal should be to find a workout that you look forward to, rather than dread.
This is where I come in…
I recently went swimming for the first time in about 5 years. By swimming, I don’t mean splashing around in the sea off the coast of Croatia, but rather finding a pool close to home and swimming lengths. I’d had a hard football session (or soccer to all you US readers) the night before and was in need of a workout session that would stretch me out but wouldn’t be too hard on my muscles, all-the-while giving my lung a good kicking, so I drove to a local pool for a swimming session.
I’ve always been a terrible swimmer, but that hour I spent poolside was one of the most rewarding workouts I’ve ever had. I was an ecstatic shattered afterwards, lungs puffing, arms floppy and abdominals sore to the core, but feeling truly exhilarated. I didn’t even feel embarrassed about the exertion it took for me to do so little, or even a tiny bit worried about how my body looked in my swimming outfit; it was fantastic.
So what is it about swimming that makes it such a great workout?
Admittedly, my football session took a lot out of me and I was still feeling the effects the day after, but swimming will work out your lungs like you wouldn’t believe. I only managed a measly 10 lengths (330 metres total) but I was absolutely gasping for air every time I took a break and it felt fantastic. The fact that the pool has defined edges also makes it easy to decide when you’re going to take breaks, unlike running where it can feel like cheating to suddenly stop, so if you need to grab a breather then there’s no shame in grabbing hold of a side and taking a moment to recover. Having a good cardio workout is a great way to burn body fat and will also increase your results in your other workouts as you get fitter.
Arms and shoulders
It’s probably fairly obvious that swimming requires and builds good arm muscles, but the impact is immediate and noticeable. The natural resistance of the water means every movement is a workout of its own, so a concentrated set of lengths will make the most of that force. Any extra workout for your arms is useful for getting better results whilst lifting weights, but it can also improve your high-intensity workouts as bigger arm muscles can improve power whilst sprinting.
Swimming is a savage abdominal workout, too. In swimming, half the battle is in the form of your body and your core plays such a key role in that. Strengthening your core will have boundless positives for your other sessions too, improving your all round muscular endurance. A workout that combines abdominal work with fat-burning cardio is a great way to shred your torso into that movie star physique, too.
What have you got to lose?
I can’t guarantee swimming will be for you, but there’s no harm in trying a workout that gives you a good chance of improving your cardio output and strengthens two muscle groups that are pretty much vital in every other workout you’ll try. Buy yourself some speedos, grab a towel and throw yourself into the water. Happy swimming y’all.