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Old 10-20-2008, 01:49 PM   #1
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Question Swimming for Beginners: Questions!

Hello all!

I've been exercising for most of my life to some extent, but since I started to lose weight, I would like to focus more on cardio, whereas before I focused mostly on weight training (also have some injuries that make weights difficult). I have arthritis in my hip and both feet, so I usually do no/low-impact workouts. I have been riding my bike a lot since Spring, and I walk to work and anywhere else I can (grocery store, etc.).

Now that Winter is approaching I'm thinking about what good cardio work-outs I can do indoors. I would rather not join the gym again, but there is an aquatics center that does drop-in swimming classes. You swim laps, and a coach is there to help you improve your form.

This would be new to me so I have a couple of questions. One is, for anyone else that could swim but never swam laps, how long does it take before you don't feel like you are just flapping around in the water?

My other question is about calories burned. I've read that swimming is good cardio, but I've also read that because you are working out in the water you don't burn as much because your body tried to hold onto fat because of the lowered temperature. This may be a pure myth, but I thought if anyone would know the true story, it would be you gals here on 3FC.

I don't get that "cardio" feeling from swimming, so I just need some reassurance that I really will be burning calories and improving my heart.

Thanks so much for any help! I'm hoping this works out because I'm 41 and would like to add something that I could be doing for the rest of my life!
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Old 10-20-2008, 02:40 PM   #2
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've also read that because you are working out in the water you don't burn as much because your body tried to hold onto fat because of the lowered temperature. This may be a pure myth,

The number of calories you burn is going to have a lot more to do with your heart rate than the temperature of the water.

Also, you burn more calories in colder water, because your body has to work harder to stay warm.

And finally, most gym pools aren't cold enough to make that much of a difference either way.

A lot of people don't feel like swimming is as hard a workout because you don't feel yourself sweat when you're swimming. I'll admit that I have to fight that feeling as well - for me part of a good solid workout is the pouring sweat at the end of it. So when I don't sweat (or can't feel myself sweating) I sometimes feel like I'm not working out hard enough.

But I've worn my heart rate monitor into the pool before and I know when I'm swimming laps, that I do get my heart rate up there and I do burn calories. In fact because I don't swim a lot (I'm a good swimmer, but it's not something I do all the time), I often get my heart rate up higher, faster when swimming laps than when I'm on the elliptical or treadmill. I find it harder to maintain a steady pace while swimming and wind up over working myself quickly.

As far as feeling like you're flailing around - I usually start out pretty well, but feel like I'm flailing by the end. I suspect it's just like the elliptical, treadmill, whatever - it'll take you a few weeks to get into a groove. I know the first few times I used the elliptical I felt like I was going to fall forward and felt like I looked ridiculous - it took me a couple of weeks to get into the groove of it.

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Old 10-20-2008, 02:57 PM   #3
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I had never swam laps before and then I started swimming. First few times, I felt like I was flailing around. Now I'm getting better. I don't have any coaches or anything though to help me out. The class I want to take starts in a couple weeks so hopefully that'll help with form and what not.
You can't out-exercise poor eating habits.
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Old 10-21-2008, 05:42 PM   #4
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I'm a former competitive swimmer and I swim a lot now. I credit my swimming with a lot of my weight loss and now, it's great for keeping in shape without joint pain. I also run and it's been a good accompaniment to that, keeping up my fitness without all the pounding, etc.

Swimming is a technique sport, so the better your form is, the less flailing you'll do and you'll swim faster and more efficiently. So I would make sure the coach pays attention to you and take advantage of this resource - be a pest if you have to, it's worth it!

Also, build up gradually. Swimming uses your body a lot differently than other sports and it can be surprising how hard you have to work compared to other things you are more used to, so taking it one step at a time is important and also keeps down discouragement.

There is a book and DVD, Total Immersion Swimming, that I have found helpful and I know a lot of other people have also, if you are looking for technique info.

I think the main thing is just to enjoy being in the water. I find it comforting and relaxing just to be swimming and I'm happy it also is such a good exercise that for me also removes stress and aggravation. Good luck!
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