Tag: exercise

Cross-training: Top 5 Activities for Swimmers

Cross-training is an important part of any training plan, especially for swimmers. Spending too much time in the water can actually do more harm than good.
One of the major benefits of exercise is increased bone density from impact and gravity. This leads to healthier bones for your whole life. When you swim, there’s no impact and less gravity, so your bones don’t get this benefit and may actually decrease in density (much like an astronaut’s).
So what can you do outside the pool to improve your swimming? Here are the top 5 sports that will improve your swimming performance the most.

5. Running

Distance, interval, or hill training is a great way to train for mental and aerobic stamina.
Runners tend to have lean, muscular bodies with a low body-fat percentage.  This is ideal for swimming as well, since both sports require efficiency over bulky muscle mass.

runner running silhouette

Running also fosters mental stamina, since it is physically grueling and repetitive, much like swimming.
Building mental strength and choosing to keep going after exhaustion will generate discipline in the pool.
Caution: Running can also decrease ankle flexibility, which is essential to kicking well in the water.  If you feel like your ankles are getting less flexible due to running (or cycling), it may be time to explore other options since this will mess up your swimming!

4. Soccer

Soccer provides a great full-body workout, focusing especially on lower body strength. Lower body strength is the key to a powerful kick in the water.

soccer football

It also helps develop quick reflexes, since you are constantly shifting and adjusting position to follow the ball. Quick reaction time is important in swimming for the start of a race, as well as performing efficient flip turns. A slow reaction time off the diving board can cost you the race!
One huge benefit of using soccer to cross-train is that it puts no strain on your shoulders. Swimming strains the shoulders because of the constant arm rotation, so giving your arms a break while you train is an added bonus of soccer.

3. Yoga

While I personally don’t enjoy yoga, athletes from any sport will benefit from trying it!
There are yoga poses and exercises designated specifically for swimmers (to increase flexibility in ankles, shoulders, etc.).  But more broadly, practicing yoga a few times a week consistently will increase overall flexibility, bone density, and body alignment.

yoga wateside

Bone density and body alignment can become disrupted if you spend too much time in the pool.
There’s no gravity impacting your bones (which lets them get weak), and you use your pectoral muscles way more than your back (and legs), so your body is thrown off balance.
Backstroke helps even it out a little bit, but yoga can be the key to developing overall body symmetry and restoring that natural balance that you’ve been missing.  Skeptical?
What about breathing?  A huge part of yoga is learning to breath rhythmically.  Sound familiar?  It’s important in swimming too!  Like swimming, yoga teaches you to breathe deeply and regularly even when your body is contorted or moving in unnatural positions.
Sound useful now?

2. Water Polo

An obvious addition to swimming, water polo is one of the few sports played in a pool.

water polo
Neon Tommy Photo via Flickr

Aside from treading water and having to swim from position to position, water polo has hidden benefits to swimmers that may not be as obviously related to swimming.
One benefit is just spending time in the pool. Swimming, unlike any other form of exercise, is performed under altered atmospheric conditions.
In the water we feel lighter, less dense, but also completely enveloped in another substance which slows our movements.
Getting used to the feel of the water and how our bodies react differently in it takes time, and can come as a shock if you’ve been out of a pool for the entire off-season.
Maintaining contact with a pool without having to swim laps can be a huge benefit and can also help you associate the pool with fun activities, not just monotony.

1. Gymnastics

Believe it or not, gymnastics is the #1 sport/activity that benefits swimmers.  Like distance runners and dancers, gymnasts tend to have a low body-fat percentage and have lean, muscular frames.

gymnast gymnastics

Gymnasts have amazing core strength from twisting and flipping, which is essential for rotation through the water.  Not to mention amazing ankle and shoulder flexibility, both very important for stroke power.
Core strength also helps with flip turns, which can slow you down more than any part of the lap but also give you a speed boost if done well.
The most important skill that gymnastics (or dance) can teach, however, is body awareness.  The tiniest change in body position can make all the difference in a jump or vault.
Wouldn’t it be great if your coach said, “Raise your hips and rotate them 20 degrees more with each stroke”, and you could just tell your body to DO it?
Try gymnastics or dance to get a better feel for where each part of your body really is, versus where you think it is. Your coach will thank you!

From: UnderwaterAudio.com

5 Fun Facts About Swimmers and Sleep

Getting more sleep is the easiest way to swim faster this season. Here are some fun factoids about sleep and swimmers.

Competitive swimmers understand how important it is to work hard in practice, crush it in the gym, and to eat well.

You spend an endless amount of time drilling your technique, working your core strength, and developing the conditioning and strength to become a faster swimmer.

And yet, for way too many of us, we pass on one of the easiest ways to supercharge our performance in and out of the water. Getting lots of sleep is the easiest and dare I say it—most enjoyable—thing you can do to become a faster swimmer.

Quality time between the sheets is the ultimate performance booster: it helps you to recover faster, improves your mood profile (we all get a little cranky when short-rested), and yes, will help you swim faster over the long run.

Here are some fun facts about swimmers and sleep:

1. We don’t get enough of it (duh).

Swimmers have a gong-show schedule. During high school it looked like I was going on holidays each morning as I shuffled out the door for morning practice. With an overflowing bag for my swim gear, a bag for school books, and a bag full of food for the day, it looked like I was getting ready to conquer Everest.

By the time I got home I was generally exhausted, but still had to push through and get homework done before doing it all over again the following day. The days were never long enough for everything I needed to do.

As a result, when I needed more time to catch up with friends, finish homework, or whatever, it meant that sleep was the first thing to go.

While sleep deprivation isn’t particularly unique to competitive swimmers, we are particularly bad at getting anywhere near 7-8 hours a night.

When researchers followed a group of elite Australian swimmers during preparation for the Beijing Olympics, they found that the athletes averaged only 7.1 hours of sleep on rest days, and a paltry 5.4 hours when there was a morning workout the next day.

2. The harder you train, the more sleep you need.

The amount of sleep our body requires scales with how hard you are exerting yourself while you are awake. The harder the training, the more sleep you need to recover and bounce back.

Some nights your body will need ten hours, others you will feel great after seven. Shooting for an exact number of hours of sleep per night isn’t realistic as your sleep demands will be different depending on how training is going. The amount of sleep your body requires after a 1,500m loosen up swim is going to be different than the recovery needed after doing 20x400s best average.

Knowing this, plan naps and earlier bed times during particularly aggressive phases of training (Hell Week, or your holiday training camp, for instance).

Olympic champion Nathan Adrian focuses on getting 10-12 hours of sleep when training at altitude at the Olympic Training Center. It’s 8-10 hours at night, with a solid nap between workouts to help recover from the daily thrashings in the water.

3. The more intense your workouts, the harder it will be to sleep.

The inability to get good sleep after a high-intensity thrashing at the pool is one of the odd experiences of being a high-performance swimmer.

It doesn’t make sense on the surface of it: You go to the pool, sprint your brains out for a couple hours to the point that you are crumpled up on the pool deck, and then when you get home you have a hard time falling asleep.

Those super intense workouts stress the body in a big way. As you limp out of the aquatic center there is a lot going on inside of you: cortisol (the stress hormone) and norepinephrine (adrenaline) are spiking. It takes a while for your body to return to normal, with norepinephrine taking up to 48 hours to level out after all-out exercise.

This is another great reason to make sure you tack on a generous amount of active recovery to the end of those speed and power workouts.

In my own experience I’ve found that getting to sleep after those brutal speed-and-power workouts is much easier if I allow time for a 15-20 minute warm-down.

4. More sleep makes you mentally tougher.

Think back to the last time you were running on low sleep. What was your mood like? Probably not awesome, right? Sleep deprivation makes us grumpy. No big surprise there.

Restless nights of sleep also makes training feel harder than it would when regularly rested. Study after study has shown that perceived effort—how hard you feel you are working—spikes from sleep deprivation.

Which means that we are less likely to push ourselves when groggy and tired.

The dryland and swim workouts are hard enough already, no need to make them feel more difficult than necessary. In this way, being properly rested makes you mentally tougher.

5. And yes, more sleep means faster swimming.

Being rested is a great feeling. We feel fresh, energized, and ready to rock and roll. This translates into faster swimming.

When a group of varsity swimmers were told to increase their nightly diet of sleep by an hour they experienced significant drops in times in the water in just six weeks.

The study, done with swimmers at Stanford, found that reaction time off the blocks improved, turn time improved, and most impressively of all, the swimmers shaved an average of half a second on their time to 15m.

That’s an absurd amount of improvement for something as simple as getting a little more shut-eye each night.

The Next Step

Knowing you need more sleep isn’t the issue swimmers face—it’s managing your time and making it a priority to get into bed earlier that is the challenge.

There are some simple things swimmers can do to get more sleep:

  • Turn off the smartphone at night. Laying in bed while scrolling through your social feeds will keep ya perked up. Power down the screen in bed and put the phone across the room to remove the urge to check it.
  • Plan out naps. If you can’t get more sleep at night work on getting a power nap somewhere in the middle of your day. A 30-minute nap is enough to help boost mental and physical performance after a 4-hour night of sleep.
  • Time management. At the end of the day this is the biggie—you need to prioritize sleep by wrangling the rest of your schedule. Stay on top of your schedule by working to get ahead of your schoolwork, planning and prepping meals, and creating a cut-off time each night for you to begin preparing for bed.

Apple Watch for Swimming: A Review from the Lap Pool

Unless you live under a chlorinated rock you’ve heard of the Apple Watch. Like it’s brother and sister products the iPad, iPod and iPhone, it’s a ground-breaking piece of electronic gear that made smartwatches mainstream.

Since then other players have jumped in, including Garmin (and their Garmin Swim watch as it related to swimmers), along with FitBit and their waterproof watches, and others including Speedo (and their MisFit Shine 2).

The Apple Watch, however, is a true smartwatch: a device that runs as a digital home on your wrist for everything from playing tunes, sending and receiving text messages and adding third-party apps that can do just about anything you can think of.

As it relates to swimmers and crushing their swim workouts, the Apple Watch is also a massively powerful tool for measuring and tracking your swimming.

Whether you use the native app that comes bundled with the smartwatch, or pick up one of the popular third-party apps that add workouts and videos to the logging features, the Apple Watch is one of the best waterproof fitness trackers for the casual and competitive swimmer.

The first Apple watch was announced in 2014 and launched in the spring of 2015. New editions have followed since then, with the most recent Apple Watch being the Series 3.

The Apple Watch is a fancy-pants smartwatch. There’s no question about that. We could get endlessly lost in its capabilities and features.

Instead, we will talk exclusively about how powerful the Apple Watch is for swimming laps.

The Apple Watch Series 3 for Swimmers

It’s surprising to think how long it took most of the wearable makers to show up when it came to creating devices and apps for swimmers. With the millions of people that hit the pool every day, from casual lap swimmers to triathletes to competitive swimmers, the market for this audience is massive.

The first edition of the Apple Watch was not made for swimming: the Series 2 and Series 3 editions, however, are not only water-proof but come fully loaded with their own app for swimmers.

The Apple Watch Series 3: What Does It Track?

The fancy-pants engineers at Apple installed an accelerometer and gyroscope to capture all the rollicking and rolling we do in the water with our wrist, and as a result can quickly figure out what we are doing (backstroke, freestyle, breaststroke) and quantify it.

While the accelerometer tracks velocity and motion, the gyroscope helps figure out what stroke you are doing judging by the angle of your wrist. The gyro also helps to figure out when you are doing a flip-turn.

The Apple Watch will track total time swum, the number of meters or yards completed (all you have to do is input the pool size before getting in the water), how many strokes you are taking per lap (a barometer for efficiency), the type of stroke you are doing, lap time, and somewhat (but not really) heart rate data.

Critically, it can also sense when you start and stop and will keep track of your bouts of rest.

Fun Facts About Swimming with Your Apple Watch

The app provides all the basic features you would expect from a waterproof fitness tracker: you get your total time elapsed, splits, stroke count

The screen locks once you start a workout. When you kick off a swim practice your Apple Watch screen locks. The reason for this is that you will register fewer disruptions in the monitoring of your session in the water from unintentional tapping of the screen against the water.

Set pool distance before you start. Seems obvious but plugging the length of the pool before you start swimming will give you more accurate results. If you are unsure, ask a lifeguard or the fast swimmer in the pool—they’ll know.

How do you pause the workout mid-swim? Because the screen is locked when in waterproof mode, the normal way to pause a workout is out the window. Apple has thought this through—pressing on the side button and the crown at the same time will pause your practice.

Apple Watch Swimming

It will try to measure your heart rate. Like most fitness smartwatches the Apple Watch struggles to measure heart rate while swimming.

Although a lot of waterproof fitness trackers have leaned away from having a heart rate monitor (the Garmin Swim does away with this feature completely, for example) the Apple Watch measures your heart rate in the water. Just don’t expect the results to be perfectly accurate.

Water inevitably slides between your watch and your wrist, making detection difficult. Apple themselves note that this feature doesn’t work that well (“Water might prevent a heart-rate measurement”). If you are really serious about tracking heart rate while swimming check this guide to water-proof heart rate monitors.

It will track pool length of any type. And I mean any type. You can set the pool length to be as short as 1m. Which is great news for all you bath-tub athletes who are crushing laps in the bathroom.

But in all seriousness, this would come in handy when swimming in random hotel pools, which come in all shapes, sizes and lengths. Before you get in fire up the swim app and you will be prompted for a pool size. Punch it in, and off you go.

It’ll GPS your butt in open water. Fancy yourself some open-ended swimming in your local lakes and ocean? The Apple Watch can track you while you do that too.

Although the GPS chip doesn’t broadcast through water, once your arm breaks the surface it will ping the satellite signal each time you perform one of those majestic arm strokes.

Third Party Logging Apps

One of my favorite features of the Apple Watch is the availability of third party apps. Swim logging apps like MySwimPro and Swim.com can give you much more information than the workout app that comes stock.

If you are using your Apple Watch for straight bouts of freestyle swimming these added features won’t matter much, but if you are doing different strokes, drills, kick, and want more flexibility in your workouts and want to try some expertly-crafted sets, than the added features of the third-party apps can come in handy.

MySwimPro and Swim.com come packaged with workouts and sets. You can upload your own favorite sets and workouts to the watch as well. This is probably the best feature, particularly for you swimmers who train on their own and like to have a clear idea of what’s being served at practice when you step onto the pool deck.

The Apple Watch for Swimming: In Conclusion

The one thing I will say about the logging and tracking abilities is that the Apple Watch is highly, highly accurate. Probably the best I’ve seen among the smartwatches, and even when compared against the swim-only wearables that are available.

I love the third party apps—both outstanding in their own right and developed by former competitive swimmers, making them intuitive as well as feature-rich.

The only downside to the watch?

If you are buying it solely for swimming it’s a bit of a kick to the teeth when it comes to cost. It retails for $300-400, which makes it the second most expensive watch I’ve tried out (the Garmin Fenix 5 being the priciest at $600+).

If you plan on wearing it outside of the pool (and why wouldn’t you—it’s a badass watch), then it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

Where to buy the Apple Watch Series 3:

Apple Watch Series 3 Swimming

by:  Olivier Poirier -Leroy