Swimming as Exercise: Cross-training and Rehabilitation

Swimming as exercise is a great option. Even though cross-training isn’t something all athletes like to talk about — they should. “I’m a runner,” they say, “I don’t want to swim!” “I lift weights, that’s my thing — who has time to swim?” If you care about your body, however, you might want to think twice about tossing swimming to the side.

I get it: It can be difficult to find a pool that works for you. Then, there’s changing into a swimsuit, finding a lane to use, and stocking up Goggles, a swim cap, and maybe a paddle board or two. There’s a reason some of the nation’s top athletes use swimming as part of their cross-training plan.

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Olympic runner Emily Infield added a dose of swimming to her workouts when an injury sidelined her for several weeks in 2016. Others use it more regularly, making it part of their weekly routine. Another Olympian, Nick Symmonds, incorporates swimming for cross-training purposes. He says:

“I realized swimming had really good rejuvenating properties. A lot of runners do their secondaries [workouts] in the afternoons…after a really hard session of intervals, the last thing I want to do is run. My coach would say, ‘Go for a swim.’ After I get out of the water, I feel 10 times better than before I went in.”

It’s not just feeling good that matters, but the actual results on the body. Swimming is effective for several reasons, including:

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness. Ever tried to sprint a few pool laps? It’s no joke!
  • More effective recovery. It gives your muscles a chance to recover a bit from more strenuous workouts.
  • Preventing injury. The buoyancy of water makes swimming nearly weightless, so you aren’t putting pressure on the spine or other joints.
  • Rehabilitation efforts. When recovering from any kind of bodily injury, regular workouts are often unavailable. Whether it’s spine surgery or a hurt shoulder, water provides the perfect environment to rehabilitate and get stronger again.

Even as summer winds down, finding a way to fit swimming into your regular exercise routine is a good idea. Many YMCA’s and gyms have indoor pools as part of their membership. The good news is, most people don’t use swimming as part of their routine, so you can usually find a lane to use.

Want more information about swimming as exercise and how water can help you? Check out our post with more tips here.