Today I want to write something about swimming. To start, I LOVE swimming, always have and always will. My mom called me a water rat when I was young (in a loving way of course). On holidays I could spend hours in de pool, playing, swimming, doing water ‘acrobatics’. Later on in life, I started speed-swimming when I had my knee injury and couldn’t do normal sports out of the water. I was actually not bad, but stopped due to time and motivational problems.
Last year, when I started my weightloss and getting fit journey, I started swimming once or twice a week before work. I did it for 45 minutes and then felt really accomplished. Until I read an article with the title ‘swimming makes you fat’. I was like: What?? I thought I was being very good by swimming, it’s easy on the joints for a very obese person, but if it makes you fat then why should I do it? I read the article and did some of my own research and found the following:
Swimming on itself doesn’t make you fat, BUT: most people who go swimming to lose weight, do it in a slow pace and because of the weightlessness you actually don’t really get your heart rate up so you don’t burn more than when you sit at your desk. The problem is that people THINK they had a great workout, and tend to eat more to compensate the calories they never burned, so they can actually gain weight.
I wanted to see if this was true, so I bought a heartrate monitor that could get wet and works in pool water. I measured my heartrate during my 45 minutes in the pool and guess what, I didn’t even get into the first zone on the monitor. I was shocked, I thought I had some great workouts in the water, meanwhile I could’ve just laid in my bed (ok, I admit, I’m a lazy person). So instead of quitting swimming, I changed my routine. I did some reading and read a lot about HIIT (high intensity interval training). I did the following: I started with 5 minutes higher tempo swimming, the kind that will raise your heartrate to level 1. Then I did 30 minutes of HIIT. Normally you use the clock for HIIT, like 30 seconds fast and 30 seconds slow, but that’s kind of difficult in the pool. I chose to swim my fastest (the type that will leave you out of breath) from one side to the other and then swim medium speed back to my starting point then did this until 30 minutes were finished. After 30 minutes I did a 10 minute cooling down swim. This way, I burned about 300-400 kcal during this 45 minutes.
Currently I don’t swim anymore as weightlifting and climbing takes all of my time. I do think swimming can be a great cardio workout for very obese people or people who have injuries (and the elderly), because it’s easy on the joints, tendons and muscles. What you need to remind yourself of (if you want it to be a workout), is that it’s only a real workout when you raise your pace and get a bit out of breath. Personally, I’ve stepped away from the cardio-only view and started weightlifting to aid my weightloss. You can read about it in this post. I also wrote something on how to start weightlifting in this post. As you all know, exercise is great, but if you don’t control what you put in your mouth, it won’t make you lose weight: you can’t outtrain a bad diet!