This is the time of the year when we're all most likely to be around the water, whether that means the beach, a lake, or even the kiddie pool you dragged up to your New York City rooftop (guilty!). But, few people take to the water for a real workout — you know, one the involves more than treading water in the deep end or riding waves on your boogie board.
Why not? Swimming is an incredible workout, one that engages every muscle on your frame. Come on, we've all watched the summer Olympics. There's not an ounce of fat on the swimmers' bodies. That should be inspiration enough for all of us to jump in and swim some laps (after finding a good local coach to teach us technique, of course). If it's not, here are a few more reasons from Chelsea Piers' Scott Berlinger, who coaches the gym's triathlon tri team here:
It tones all over.
"Swimming is the only thing that uses absolutely every muscle in your body, from toes to head right through the core," says Berlinger. "Spin bikes and weight training just use the muscles that get the job done, while swimming guarantees that you'll engage your whole body, not just a specific area." The natural resistance of the water also provides more resistance than, say, air, so you'll build muscle faster.
You'll burn more calories.
"If you’re engaging every muscle in your body, you’re burning more calories," explains Berlinger. "You will get more efficient as you do it, so the trick is to constantly switch up your sets in ways that make it more challenging, so your body never has time to adapt." In a one-hour session, you can burn over 500 calories.
You'll protect your body.
There’s a reason runners can’t keep running – eventually, gravity will beat you down and destroy your joints. "In a pool, there is no gravity," says Berlinger. "You won't be as sore or beat up as you would in most other workouts, because swimming has virtually no impact. Even though the water is providing resistance, the buoyancy of it takes all the pressure off your body and your joints."
"Whenever I see someone trying to keep their iPod on their swim cap, I just shake my head," says Berlinger. "When you dive in to that pool, you are in your own world, in your own head. You never get your own time in this world — it moves too fast, there's too much stimulation. In swimming, it's impossible to be interrupted until you stop." Who doesn't want a time-out like that? Swimming can give you the kind of stress relief (during a workout, no less!) you won't find at any other gym.
"The only tough part about swimming — especially in a city — if finding a pool," says Berlinger. But if you can cover the membership fees, the rest is inexpensive — all you need is a swimsuit, a cap, and a pair of goggles.
Duh. It's hot out there, guys! You don't need an expert to tell you this — when temperatures are topping out at ninety-plus degrees, a dive into a cold pool does wonders. Plus, the cool water will help keep your body temperature down, so even with you're working hard, you won't be overheating. No excuses — grab a towel and dive in!