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Swimming

What is it?
What comes to mind when you think of swimming? Maybe you picture someone doing endless laps in an Olympic-sized pool. But lap swimming is only one form of water exercise. Whether you are a beginning swimmer or an experienced one, working out in water can be the ideal way to condition your body.

Advantages
A carefully designed water exercise regimen can be a comprehensive program that targets these major areas of fitness: endurance, strength and flexibility. Water’s buoyancy makes it the ideal environment for injury-free exercise, while providing resistance to build and tone muscles, especially those of the upper body.

It’s especially beneficial for overweight, pregnant or disabled individuals for whom weight-bearing exercise is difficult. Because water places less stress on the joints and ligaments, hydrotherapy or rehabilitation in water has proven to be an effective form of physical therapy. Furthermore, swimming offers a variety of workouts, thus reducing boredom and encouraging continued participation.

Disadvantages
Convenient access to a pool or other water is necessary for swimming. Adverse weather requires an indoor pool, which can be expensive or difficult to find. Unless it’s done as part of a group activity, swimming can be solitary, especially if you are doing laps. The potential for eye and ear ailments exists when swimming. Some people may be self-conscious wearing a bathing suit in public. The chemicals in pools can be harsh and irritate dry skin and hair. Open water, such as lakes and oceans, expose swimmers to the damaging rays of the sun, water debris, infections and stings from various organisms.

Where to Participate
If you live near a community pool or a health club with a swimming pool, you should consider joining. Swimming in a lake, reservoir or calm ocean is also possible if you are familiar and comfortable with it. For safety reasons, avoid swimming alone and know what the water’s depth is before entering.

Recommended Equipment, Attire

Well-maintained swimming pool — A pool is sufficiently clean if you can see the drain at the deep end. Try to find a pool that slopes gradually, allowing you to stand in water up to your waist at one point, and your shoulders at another. Avoid pools shorter than 20 meters for lap swimming since they require frequent turns.

Well-fitting bathing suit

Bathing cap — A cap keeps hair out of your eyes, minimizes water resistance, insulates your head in cool water and protects your hair from chlorinated water.

Goggles — Protect your eyes from chlorine and improve your underwater vision.

Kick boards and hand paddles

Flotation vests

Sunscreen – To prevent sunburn, choose one that is water-resistant.

Exercise Guidelines
Begin a lap program by swimming 100 meters — four laps in a 25-meter pool-with a one-minute rest period between each lap. Gradually increase the number of laps you can do continuously. Aim to swim for at least 20 minutes without stopping.

Water walking or running is ideal for both aerobic benefit and resistance training. Because water provides substantially more resistance than air, an exercise performed in the water requires more effort than the same exercise done on land — with 90 percent fewer stress injuries. Stand in waist-deep water to walk or run forwards and backwards.

Treading water in a neck-deep depth for a sustained period is a good aerobic exercise. Pump your legs continuously as if you were on a bicycle. Repeatedly extend your arms, and then bend your elbows to cross them in front of your chest.

A variety of stretches and strengthening exercises can be performed in waist-deep and chest-deep water. For an aquatic version of a sit-up, for example, place your back against a corner of the pool, using your outstretched arms for support. Tuck your knees into your chest, then forcefully push your legs straight out so that they are parallel to the pool bottom.

Aquatic equipment can intensify your workout. Flotation vests provide support for water running and walking; they also allow you to work out more easily in deep water. Kick boards and hand paddles isolate muscle groups for specific conditioning – the former targets legs, the latter targets arms.

Be sure to drink fluids before and after exercising. Swimmers perspire even though they do not realize it.

Glossary of Terms

Lap — Swimming the entire length of a pool and back.

Stroke — A swimming movement. The front crawl or “freestyle” is the most efficient and familiar swimming stroke. Others include breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke and butterfly.

Flutter kick — A type of leg kick that is controlled by the hips with minimal wave action. It is used in the front crawl and backstroke.

Scissors kick — A type of leg kick where your legs are moved in a wide V shape, typically while holding the side of the pool or a floating device.

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