Since I was five years old, I have been swimming competitively. Now, as the 30th Olympiad is set to begin, I am more than excited to see my favorite athletes take center stage. Swimming is one of the most grueling sports in the world; you cannot swim without working every inch of your body. Some of these Olympians have trained for years to swim one lap, less than 25 seconds. Others work just as hard to drop just one second from their personal best time. For a lot of people, this seems ridiculous and inane, but for a swimmer, it makes complete sense. Swimming is a sport that demands the best from you, day in and day out. Even out of the pool, swimmers must dedicate themselves to their goals if they hope to achieve them. It’s a lot harder to strike a second from your time than it sounds. It really does take months to do it.
Unlike a lot of sports, swimming does not take a lot of strength. Bulky muscle actually hinders racers, with the exception of the pure sprinter (a swimmer who races only the 50 and 100 meter freestyle). Watch the Olympics, and you will see chiseled abs and sculpted muscle, but nothing overt, nothing large because muscle sinks. Long and lean muscles are what make up a swimmer’s body.
Swimming is all about technique: a tight streamline off each wall, the perfect start and turn, dolphin kicks off each wall. Instead of fighting the water, swimmers move it. Olympians know how to move through the water with the best technique. The fastest swimmer is also the one who has the best technique. Michael Phelps wins his races by having the most perfect turns I’ve ever seen.
For those serious about the sport, these are crucial points to work on. For the less serious swimmer, the one who wants a great workout, swimming is the best thing for a person to do. Unlike running, which causes a lot of impact on the knees and hips that lead to joint problems, swimming allows you to workout in a low impact environment. The water holds you up so there is no gravity to pull you to the ground.
For those who are overweight, swimming is a great exercise as well. Many people who are overweight have problems walking because their weight causes stress on their bones and joints. Swimming relieves this stress; the water holds their weight, allowing them to move freely. Swimming just a few laps engages your core, strengthens your arms, and works your legs and back. It’s a complete body workout without the stress or impact you would have doing a workout on a treadmill.
Personally, I can’t get a real workout without swimming anymore. The water is where I know how to push myself and get the most out of my body. Swimming is an underrated sport, one that others a lot of benefits that outweigh any risk. Whether you are an elite athlete like Phelps or just someone who just wants to get back in shape, there’s a lane for you at your local pool. Just remember, never swim alone.