Swimming is a popular sport that many people enjoy. From amateur swimmers who use backyard pools to professional athletes who enter competitions, people of varying skill levels are able to easily enjoy and benefit from this form of exercise.
Health Benefits of Swimming
Swimming is a healthy way for people to exercise their bodies. Swimming is an especially healthy form of exercise due to the fact that it is low impact. Low impact exercise is better for joints, lowering risk of joint injuries and preventing people from developing joint problems that they would normally with other exercises. It also means that people with certain kinds of joint problems may participate in swimming activities when other forms of exercise are difficult for them to safely or painlessly do.
People can also often swim for longer periods of time than they would with other exercises. Part of this may be due to the fact that it’s harder to become overheated by swimming than other forms of exercise. It should be noted that swimmers still should work to stay hydrated while they swim.
Swimming improves muscle strength and endurance. It improves heart function and efficiency. People who swim regularly have lowered risk of heart attack and stroke. They are less likely to develop high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Many people associate competitive swimming with the Olympics, although there are non-Olympic swimming competitions. Celebrity athletes such as Michael Phelps are known for their high performances and have achieved notoriety due to the large number of Olympic medals they have earned.
Competitive swimming usually pits a number of swimmers together in a pool separated by lanes. Swimmers are able to begin at an announcement and false starts done before they are allowed may result in disqualification. Each swimmer will have to race a certain distance depending on the event.
The shortest swimming events are only 50 meters distance, which coincidently is the length for a standard competitive swimming pool. Other events may be held for longer distances, such as 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1500 meter races. Additionally, different events of the same distance may be held for different styles of swimming. For example, there may be 200-meter races for both backstroke and breaststroke. This allows for swimmers to showcase their talents in different styles of swimming.
Open water swimming is done in natural bodies of water. While this is often a recreational activity, some swimming races are done in open water as well. The Olympics in recent years has added a 10 km open water swimming marathon event to their Summer Games. Triathlons, including the Olympic triathlon, generally begin with an open water swimming portion. Other open water swimming events include the FINA ten kilometer Marathon Swimming World Cup and the Great North Swim held in Europe.
Synchronized swimming is another form of swimming athletics that appears at the Olympics. Similar to gymnastics to a certain degree, synchronized swimming competitions involve athletes performing a pre-set routine for judges in order to be scored on points. As the name implies, at least two people form a team and part of the goal is for all the athletes involved to execute the same movements simultaneously. In the Olympics, currently only women are allowed access to synchronized swimming competitions, but there is growing interest from male athletes in this sport outside the Olympics.
Different Swimming Strokes Are Used in Various Races
While there are a wide variety of different swimming strokes, only four are generally used for competitions. Many races require one of three different strokes: the breaststroke, the butterfly stroke, or the backstroke. Many competitions will also include several freestyle events, allowing swimmers to choose what stroke they would like to use. Most however, choose to use the front crawl due to its superior speed.
The freestyle generally has more events than the other strokes in the Olympics. Each of the three strokes only features two races, the 100-meter competition and the 200-meter competition. The freestyle features race distances 50, 100, 200, 400, and 1500 meters, and in 2020 an 800-meter freestyle race will be added. There are also 200 and 400-meter medley races, in which swimmers are required to perform different strokes at different points in the same race in order to succeed at the event.
Swimming Injuries Are Rare but Athletes Should Be Careful
The constant arm use and torso rotation means that the rotator cuff in the shoulder can be susceptible to injury for habitual swimmers. Rotator cuff injuries are commonly referred to as “swimmer’s shoulder” and are the result of repeated use and traumas to the related tissues.
Some swimmers may develop injuries of the knee, a condition called “breaststroker’s knee.” These injuries likely come from the constant usage of the legs to kick during swimming. Swimmers should be especially careful to not return to the water until fully healed lest they risk repeating their injuries.