So you want to swim? Forget everything you’ve just read after googling “beginners guide to swimming” because I am a beginner writing for another potential beginner as opposed to either A) a competitive swimmer or B) a health fanatic who doesn’t swim but knows what they think is important information about swimming.
I’m not talking about learning to swim; I’m talking about knowing how to not drown but using those skills for health and fitness.
I have been trying to work out what type of exercise works for me for just under 2 years now and the result is in: I love the gym, I love swimming and I don’t mind boxercise type workouts… jogging/running/spinning/step classes are not for me!
Swimming helps me find inner peace and calm (I find my mind drifting whilst doing my backstroke), it works my body and pushes it to it’s limits without the pain of jogging and my mood has been a lot more positive since I started.
Here is what I’ve learnt in the last few weeks as a newbie fitness swimmer (is that a thing?!):
- You need a swimming costume you’re comfortable in I only had 2 tankini’s when I started swimming and thought I would use them until I decided if I enjoyed swimming or not, because why waste money otherwise? Now that I know I like swimming, I know I need a proper swimming costume that I don’t need to keep pulling down everytime I finish a lap! Yes, it may not be the most fashionable but it will be comfortable, durable and make you feel like you’re not so much a beginner anymore.
- You need goggles The first day I went swimming in my tankini, I didn’t have goggles because I wear glasses and thought there would be no point if I can’t see properly anyways. False. The second time I went swimming, I bought goggles LOL. Your head won’t always be above water which means you will end up with sore eyes if you don’t have goggles (or doing a lot of swimming with your eyes shut which isn’t really ideal!). Again, they’re not pretty and not even comfortable but they keep your eyes dry and safe from chlorine.
- A swim hat is kind of a good idea (even if it doesn’t look pretty) Again, on my first swim I skipped the swimming hat even though there are 3 in my house. On my second swim, I wore a swimming hat. Wet hair is cold hair on the way home; it’s kind of annoying in the pool; and it’s just a lot more sensible to keep your hair dry, chemical free and your pores tucked away for the journey home.
- It’s okay to be naked in the changing rooms I am never one to shy away in a female changing room whether it’s at the gym or the pool but I do always have a look around to see how others around me are changing to make sure no-one else is uncomfortable with nakedness. So far, I’ve seen so many naked bodies that I now know that nobody really cares whether you’re naked or not. We all came to swim at the end of the day so well done us for getting it done!
- Bring some type of flip flop for the showers I’m not sure about everyone but I know hygiene is a massive thing when it comes to shared areas and pools. So, I make sure I have a pair of flip flops to walk around in from the pool into the shower (kept on in the shower) and on until I get my socks and shoes on. It may sound excessive but I prefer to keep my feet free from other people’s bacteria and vice versa.
- Nobody is watching you You know this is your first time. The likelihood that anybody else has noticed you or cares whether it’s your first time is about 1%. On my first time, I didn’t do as much as I could and avoided the lanes with the most people in because I felt like they were all watching me to see what I could or would do. Reality check: they didn’t care. They were doing what they came to do and as long as I wasn’t drowning or in the way, nobody batted an eyelid at my arrival, progress or exit.
- You can do this “OMG my lungs are on fire! My nose is burning! My legs ache! My arms ache! Argh!”. Nobody said it would be easy… starting any kind of physical activity for the first time will be hard. I am so unfit it’s unbelievable and I suffer from asthma so believe me when I say, I know it feels like you’re dying. When you need to stop and catch your breath – do it. When your legs are aching – stop and just let your legs paddle a little. The last thing you want to do is pass out, get cramp or make yourself hurt so bad you never want to go again but do make sure you push yourself enough.
- Swimming might not be for you – don’t give up! If you don’t love it the first time, try again a few more times. Maybe try doing it for less time or going into the general swim area as opposed to the area specifically for people doing laps. If after 3 times you really don’t want to go, then swimming might not be for you but that doesn’t mean something else isn’t. As I mentioned in the beginning, it has taken me a long time to find the exercise that I enjoy so don’t give up completely. Try something else and keep trying. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
- Bring a wooly hat Random I know but it’s nearly December, it’s cold and you have a lot of pores in your scalp. The last thing you want is to catch a cold or some other infection because you had a lovely warm shower, your pores were open and you went out into the cold without a hat. Obviously, you might get ill some other way but at least you know you tried!
- Most activity trackers are NOT waterproof! So I spent a lot of money getting my Fitbit Charge HR when I thought I wanted to be a jogger. I don’t like jogging but I do like swimming… oh wait! Water resistant doesn’t mean waterproof? So I now have an activity tracker that can’t come into the pool which is when I get the most exercise in the week.
Awesome.I’ve looked into alternatives and I’m currently deciding between a Fitbit Flex 2 or a Misfit Shine which are both waterproof, have apps on Android and Apple, and can connect with myfitnesspal if you happen to be on there.
- Eat something small but sufficient 30-60 minutes before you swim. The second time I went swimming it was just before 10am and I had been up since 7.30am without eating. Needless to say, by the time I got out of the pool at 11am I felt so nauseous that getting home was a problem because I kept thinking I was going to vomit. I’m not talking a massive fry up, I’m talking a protein shake or a bowl of porridge or some yoghurt with a banana. Something small enough to not unsettle your stomach but sufficient enough to stave off the hunger until you get to eat your post-swim meal (full of goodness and protein for recovery!). My favourite post-swim meal is generally a 2 egg omelette (protein + zinc) stuffed with beneficial spices and herbs, red pepper, red onion, mushrooms, spinach and a bit of mozarella on top for calcium.
- Have an isotonic drink or protein shake to get you from post-swim to your next meal. Once you’re out the pool and making your way to work or back home or wherever, have something on hand to give you an energy boost. I always have an orange isotonic drink on hand because I love how they taste, they hydrate me as well as giving me the energy my body craves after swimming for 55-60 minutes non stop.
I hope this has been helpful for anybody considering swimming for whatever reason aside from the casual trip to the pool with the children in which you don’t actually get to do any swimming!
If you don’t feel confident to just jump in the pool and start swimming lengths, you can always find classes to help you improve your swimming technique or adult swim lessons to learn to swim or group swimming classes.
If you swim or are beginning to swim, let me know what you think is important to know when going for a swim for the first time!