Whether you’re looking to improve or refine your swim skills, meet your health and fitness goals, or simply want to take swimming more seriously, lap swimming is the way to go.
If you know any seasoned swimmers who have swum competitively, you may have heard an anecdotal complaint about lap drills. But don’t let laps’ bad reputation turn you off from the idea! There are many benefits to swimming laps, but it’s important to remember this is a repetitive, trying, and tiring workout that takes commitment. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, you’ll soon see it’s worth the endeavor – especially if you follow our tips on how to make lap swimming more attainable!
Physical Benefits of Swimming Laps
A lot of competitive swimmers might complain about lap drills, but they know they’re getting benefits from the exercise because they can feel them. Swimming is extremely efficient for weight loss as it is a super high-intensity cardio workout, increasing your heart rate and pumping your heart to its limits (in a good way!). The more you increase your heart rate (and the more often), the healthier and more efficient your circulatory system becomes. In addition to that, swimming works almost all of the muscle groups as you work against the resistance and propel yourself through the water. Lap swimming lets you truly reap those benefits as it’s intensive, consistent exercise which yields the best results.
- builds and tones muscle
- promotes bone health & strength
- burns fat
- builds stamina
- increases lung capacity and improves overall lung health
- keeps arteries flexible & healthy
- lowers cholesterol levels
- boosts the metabolism
- improves the body’s ability to remove toxins
- boosts the immune system
- and much more
Most people looking to stay in shape should perform anaerobic/high cardio exercise three to five times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session. So, if you’re looking to swim for fitness, you should aim to swim laps for at least 20 minutes at a time, several times a week. Of course, you can work your way up to this, starting with swimming laps for as long as you can.
Make sure to count and time yourself so you know how you’re performing day-to-day and week-to-week. The biggest mistake people make is having high expectations of themselves. Unrealistic expectations are just a recipe for failure. Instead, set attainable, realistic goals for yourself. Remember, it’s ok to start small and work your way up! Don’t be discouraged if you can only manage five minutes of consistent lap swimming to start. It’s better to take a break and try again later, or in the next session, than push through and risk injury as your form deteriorates.
Make This Your Mantra
A mantra is a form of self-discipline that develops mental fortitude and self-confidence over time and can help you reap extra benefits from your exercise. Try repeating the following mantra while you’re going laps and see what impact it has on your ability to make another turn — “the benefits far outweigh the way I feel in the moment.”
Swimming laps requires you to push yourself, not just physically but mentally as well. It can be especially discouraging when you’re new to swimming laps and notice you get extremely out of breath after one lap. But reminding yourself that this feeling is temporary and it’s helping you reach long term goals can make it easier to overcome that “I can’t do it, I should just give up” mentality that might start to creep in.
Hurdles can make you want to quit at the first sign of struggle.
Mental Benefits of Swimming Laps
Exercise’s impact on the human body is amazingly complex, and there’s still so much to discover. Actions we perform on a macro level in the physical world (such as increasing heart rate through exercise) directly affect us on the invisible, molecular level. Swimming is an extraordinary example of how much influence our actions have over our body chemistry on the molecular level. Specifically, with regard to the brain, the effects of exercise are massive on a microscopic level. Chemically, exercise triggers the release of enzymes, proteins and hormones that affect mood, energy, memory and sensory information and more!
Swimming has been shown to be extremely therapeutic and beneficial. While it is not definitively known why, scientists know that endorphins, serotonin, and cortisol all play a role. Endorphins act as a natural painkiller, helping the body deal with pain or stress. Performing intense physical activity activates and releases endorphins which make us feel euphoric.
There are two other hypotheses regarding exercise; one where it triggers serotonin production and another where it triggers a chemical reaction which in turn stimulates the production of a hormone responsible for choosing an appropriate response to the stress. Basically, if you have a healthy amount of this, then your stress response is less sensitive. Leaving you feeling stress-free and relaxed.
Setting and Mapping Attainable Goals
Are you wondering whether or not you can do it? Everyone has different capabilities and starting points. It’s important to make an honest assessment of your skill level, competency, and capability. For example, how long can you swim before you start getting tired? Is your breathing technique pretty good, or is it a skill that needs more development? Which stroke are you the best at, or which stroke do you find the most efficient for swimming laps? Goals start with knowing your capabilities, then testing to see how much you can or can’t push yourself. If you can’t reach goal “X” today, you might be able to tomorrow, next week, or the week after that.
There are tons of benefits of swimming laps! Creating and sticking to a routine to swim laps teaches you responsibility, time management, adaptability, and self-awareness. Goal setting and mapping out the path to goal achievement is a highly useful skill in our day-to-day lives. There are benefits of typically mundane aspects of our lives that transcend the obvious ways we might approach thinking about “benefits”.