I used to think that swimming was something that people only did during the dog days of summer. And my experience with that was to see adults lounging at the edge of the pool, often with a drink in one hand while they kept their head above water with the other.
This was a great way to stay cool, and certainly made for fun socialization. But as far as exercise, they seemed to be missing the point.
One day I met a man, Greg, who swam for exercise. He was the husband of a friend of mine. He came in around dinner time and his hair was wet. It wasn’t summer, but it wasn’t raining. “Why is your hair wet?”
“I went swimming.”
And just like that I realized that people actually did swim for exercise. I should have known Greg was a swimmer because he was a very lean man with strong shoulders.
That changed my opinion of swimming as a social event and I began to see it as a very heart-healthy activity. Swimming is considered to be unrivaled in terms of cardiovascular conditioning. Just swimming a single lap my first time in the pool, I discovered that I was out of shape, and I was a regular runner. When I added swimming to my cross-training routine, I began to notice subtle changes in my body and my results. Swimming definitely helped me develop my lung capacity that helped when I ran in races.
I also noticed that when I was just running, my upper body was underdeveloped. I wasn’t terribly interested in weight lifting. But once I started to swim, my shoulders, back, and chest muscles began to develop and didn’t look so lax. It was a wonderful complement to my running routine.
As a cross-training routine, swimming was perfect because there was very little risk of injury. In fact, it helped when my joints complained of too many miles on the pavement. Any time I noticed too much pain in my hips, knees, or ankles, I increased my swimming sessions until my joint pain improved. In that way I learned to really listen to my body and still stay in shape.
The best benefit to adding swimming to my exercise routine is I burned more calories than I did while running. This helped me to maintain my weight even while I was in college eating the dormitory food.