8 Ways To Get Fit While Playing in the Water: Steve Wallen Swim School in El Dorado Hills and Roseville, CA
Many of us look for new and exciting ways to improve our fitness, and water is a beautiful medium in which to work out. There are numerous ways to get fit while enjoying the water, with a range of benefits.
First things first, learn to swim.
Knowing how to swim and practicing necessary water safety skills are critical to enjoying aquatic-based fitness and sports activities. What follows is an overview of the many opportunities for getting fit while playing in the water. At their foundation, though, is the need to know how to swim. Swimming lessons are a fantastic option to keep anyone active while learning a valuable skill. Swimming can continue as an outstanding stand-alone sport, recreationally or competitively.
In fact, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention states that:
Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States and a good way to get regular aerobic physical activity 1. Just two and a half hours per week of aerobic physical activity, such as swimming, bicycling, or running, can decrease the risk of chronic illnesses 2, 3. This can also lead to improved health for people with diabetes and heart disease 2. Swimmers have about half the risk of death compared with inactive people 3. People report enjoying water-based exercise more than exercising on land 4. They can also exercise longer in water than on land without increased effort or joint or muscle pain 5, 6.
Once you know how to swim, many aquatic-based activities are also great workouts. Each of the following activities offers a range of benefits, such as improving:
- Cardiovascular Endurance
- Overall Body Strength
And, also consider the many other benefits: time spent with your favorite people, being active, challenging yourself to learn a new skill, and engaging with your community.
Keeping Both Your Mind and Body “Energized and Alive”
I have tried all of the following activities and I know from experience that I felt great physically and mentally. During each of these activities, I was fully present, my mind and body working together to do my best. I also laughed…..a lot. There were some hilarious failures and epic wipeouts, and despite these (or perhaps because of them), I felt energized and alive. Not only did I provide my body and mind a positive experience, but I also created some favorite memories as well.
#1. Lap Swimming
Lap swimming is a favorite workout for many, as it is free of potentially joint damaging impacts. It can be done as a motivating group workout or in blissful solitude. Lap swimming is easy to keep up with while traveling as your bathing suit is easy to pack, and pools are readily available in most communities. If you are stuck in an exercise rut, challenge yourself by trying one of the many online prescribed swim workouts, such as sprint sets or distance swim practices. If your lap swim is not giving you the results you want, it may be time to change it up. Try joining a lesson, a master swim club, or signing up for some competitions. Incorporate different strokes into your workout, as well as drills to give your body a needed challenge. Drills will also serve to improve your stroke mechanics and overall performance. Swimming is one of the best total body workouts, drawing on both muscular and cardiovascular endurance and strength.
#2. Competitive Swimming
There is a noticeable increase in motivation once you sign up for a race; while you may be able to talk yourself out of hitting the pool, knowing that a race date is not too far off on your calendar will get you diving into the water. US Masters Swimming offers a range of events, challenges, and competitions. If you are a seasoned competitor, keep at it. This is an opportunity to continue in the sport you love, serve your community as a mentor and leader, and build the sport. If you are new to competition, view it as a challenge, be kind to yourself by setting realistic goals, and have fun with it. During any swim competitions, I was amazed at how encouraging everyone was and how I felt a part of something extraordinary. The surge of adrenaline pre-race, the excitement in the air, and the sense of belonging were massive benefits to me, physically and mentally.
#3. Deep Water Running
Just as its name suggests, this is running in water, without touching the bottom. Wearing a buoyancy belt is recommended as it allows you to focus entirely on mimicking a run’s mechanics. Water running is an excellent option for building cardiovascular endurance as you are running against the water’s resistance. Deepwater running is a popular choice for those rehabilitating from a lower-body injury or treatment, such as knee replacement or ankle injury. Just be sure to discuss any exercise plans with your health care team before beginning any workout. I find this a great challenge for my entire body, as you need to work at maintaining your head above water and staying vertical! It’s easy to change the workout up by swimming sprints or changing your arms’ movement pattern. Deepwater running works across the wellness spectrum, so it’s an excellent option for health conditions like arthritis and seasoned competitive athletes.
#4. Water Polo
Water polo is a niche sport, and not as easily accessed as the other activities described here. Check out your area for teams and leagues; many colleges and universities also have teams. Water polo is one of the most intense and physically challenging sports I have ever engaged in. This sport is reserved for strong swimmers and those with a high baseline of fitness; water polo is an aggressive team sport. Known as one of the most challenging games to play, water polo involves treading water, explosive and powerful movements, coordination, and tactical play skills. Visit USA Waterpolo for more information and how to find a club near you. The lift needed to propel your body up and out of the water during water polo is an excellent workout for your gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. Strong arms are needed for scoring. This intense sport also requires strong cardiovascular endurance.
Full disclosure, I am not a fan of heights. I have forced myself to take some leaps from a 10-meter tower, but that’s my limit. Diving is an incredible sport, though, combining athleticism and grace into impossible movement through the air followed by that final impressive splash-free water entry. Diving requires total body conditioning, explosive power, and mental toughness. While a single dive takes place in seconds, a well-executed dive results from years of hard work and diligent training. Contact USA Diving for more information on how you can get involved. Diving is a great way to challenge your core and lower body muscles.
Paddleboarding, or stand up paddleboarding, continues to gain popularity. It is one of those sports that you can do leisurely, taking the time to pause and appreciate your surroundings, and one that can also be done at a high-intensity level. From the moment I first stood on a paddleboard, I fell in love with the activity. My core muscles were instantly working hard, and I found myself exploring areas that a prop-driven boat just can’t go. The views are fantastic, and the ability to cruise along the surface with fish and birds swimming below you is sublime. The paddling is an excellent upper body workout and works your core and upper back muscles. Paddleboards are available in an inflatable version, making them reasonably easy to transport, and as they are human-powered, the sport is more eco friendly than gas-powered boats. Paddleboarding is an excellent upper body and core workout.
#7. Paddleboard Yoga
Paddleboard yoga is next level, and not for the faint of heart. If you already are well-practiced in yoga, this is a great option to take your skills out on the water, with the added challenge of staying on the board. Many communities offer classes, and some provide paddleboards as well. Combining the many benefits of yoga, with the bonus of being outdoors and on the water, is a winning combination. I have my warrior poses down, but I am a very long way from headstands! Paddleboard yoga works your core, entire back, shoulders, arms, and legs! By doing a wide range of moves, it’s a total body workout.
Wakeboarding does require an expensive investment in equipment, including a boat, but if you are given the opportunity, give it a try! You will need a strong core and considerable upper body strength. Wakeboarding is so much fun, cutting back and forth across the wake, and it can be enjoyed without attempting the impressive flips and tricks you see done by the advanced boarders. Like other high-speed water sports, wakeboarding has a higher risk of injury, so use caution, find a lesson, and always wear a life jacket. Wakeboarding works your core, grip strength, thighs, and entire back.
Get Started with Swim Fitness at Steve Wallen Swim School in El Dorado Hills and Roseville!
This is just a shortlist of water sports that are great for incorporating into an active lifestyle. Other favorites include kayaking, canoeing, surfing, rowing, and wake surfing. As previously mentioned, knowing how to swim and knowing basic water safety principles are a must before engaging in any water sports.