Swimming - an excellent addition to your exercise regime

As you may be aware, I am swimming across Galway Bay on 22nd July as part of a two-person relay team. I am quickly learning that it is not a race about distance but a mental challenge about dealing with the open water elements – the cold, the choppy water, the brown jellyfish – and trying to get your training in while coping with all of that.

Aside from all of that, swimming, whether in the open water or the pool is an amazing and invigorating sport. If it is not already part of your exercise regime, then it is worth considering. If you can’t swim, look up your local pool for classes. My recommendation would be www.swimbuddies.ie – Sarah and Caitríona will look after you very well for both pool and open water swimming lessons.

Here are some of the main reasons to get into swimming:

1. Swimming is a great workout:

  • It provides an all-over body workout, as nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming as it moves against the resistance of the water.
  • It keeps your heart rate up but takes some of the impact stress off your body
  • It builds endurance, muscle strength (in particular your upper body which in a lot of people can be weak) and cardiovascular fitness
  • It helps maintain a healthy weight, healthy heart and lungs

2. Swimming can be a relaxed and peaceful form of exercise, especially when done in the open water. People often comment on the serenity of swimming in the sea on a calm day, with the hustle and bustle of daily life being left on the shore.

3. As with other forms of exercise, it can help to relieve stress by producing endorphins. This can help improve your mood, improve the quality of your sleep and help you to manage stress and anxiety.

4. Swimming is a great low-impact cardio exercise which can be so beneficial if you have an injury or want to avoid impact sports. But don’t be fooled – just because it’s low impact, doesn’t mean it won’t give you a workout.

5. You can use swimming intervals to improve your cardio fitness. This can be done most easily in the pool. For example, you can do 8-10 lengths of the pool to warm up. Then you can do 2 lengths at a fast past, and 4 lengths at a recovery pace. Repeat for the desired number of intervals and see your cardio fitness improve.

6. When done correctly, swimming can really help to improve your flexibility. You need a broad range of motion in the shoulder area to get full benefit from your stroke so the more mobility you have (and increase) in this area, the more efficient you will be.

7. It is also a great workout for the core. You need to keep your body in good alignment in the water, and one thing that can help this is core strength. You will work your abdominals and obliques as you hold your body straight in the water, and stroke correctly with your arms.

8.  You can take it on holidays with you! Many of us (at least in Ireland) like to spend some time in a sunny country during the summer if we can. And most warm countries provide somewhere to swim – whether it is the sea, lakes or outdoor swimming pools. And packing your swimsuit won’t take up an extra space in your luggage!

The Galway Bay swim is a charity swim for Cancer Care West. If you would like to sponsor me and donate to a very worthy charity please follow this link: