Cross Training is a very popular workout method used by a number of different athletes. It combines several forms of exercise that differ from the actual sport that the athlete is involved in. Cross Training helps take advantage of the different aspects of each particular exercise. This benefits the body because it can then be worked in more ways then the specific sport has to offer. For example, a football player would benefit by using plyometric training, running, and weight lifting. Each of those different exercise methods help condition in the body in a different way, which can help the athlete excel far beyond what he or she otherwise would have been able to do. There are many different types of exercises that can be used in cross training. One of the most beneficial though, is swimming. It is very good for your heart and has a very low impact on your joints.
Swimming: A Brief History
Even though swimming has been around since the beginning of time, it has only been considered a sport since the 1800’s. In fact it was in 1830 that swimming started to rear its head in England. However, the first indoor swimming pool, St. George’s Baths, did open to the public in 1828. Although, swimming would not reach the Olympics until 1896 when it was introduced in Athens, Greece.
By 1837 however, regular swimming competitions were being held in six different swimming pools around London, England. And in 1844 a very famous competition was held in which two Native Americans participated. What’s interesting about this story is that unlike the British swimmers who only really used the breaststroke. The Native Americans used their native style, which was a variant form of the front crawl. This method was not known to the British, so when “Flying Gull” won the grand prize medal, swimming the 130-foot length in just 30 seconds, questions were raised. The Brits claimed that the Native American form was barbaric and unrefined. They considered it “Un-European”, but this was also coming from the same “gentlemen” who preferred to keep their heads above the water.
Thankfully though, as time went on, swimming was refined and hemmed to what we now see today. It is a very highly competitive sport that uses four main strokes in competition. Those four strokes are the back stroke, free style, butterfly, and of course, the breaststroke.
The Different Styles of Swimming
As stated above, there are four main types of strokes in swimming. The first, and most common, is the Freestyle. This is a hand over hand method in which the swimmer is face down in the pool. As they propel their body with their arms and kick up and down with their legs, they will turn their head side to side to take breaths as the swim down the length of the pool.
The second type of stroke is the Breaststroke. This is when the swimmer is on their chest and they do not rotate their torso. It is one of the most popular, because it can be preformed without the swimmers head going under water. It is also is sometimes referred to as the frog stroke because the hands and legs move in a frog like motion as it pushes the swimmer through the water.
The Butterfly stroke is probably the least popular of all the strokes and this is mostly because it is the most difficult stroke to preform. It lives up to its name because the swimmer will literally fly out of the water as they are preforming this move.
The final stoke is the Backstroke. This is by far the easiest stroke because it requires the simmer to lie on their back as they go hand over hand through the water. It is actually just like the Freestyle but it is preformed on your back.
Why It’s Effective
Swimming is not only a competitive sport, but it is also a fantastic way to stay in shape without putting tremendous strain on the body. It uses low impact aerobic activity to rip your body into shape. Unlike an exercise like running, which puts tremendous strain on your muscles and joints. Swimming is able to accomplish the same level of fitness, without taxing your body.
In fact, many pro athletes use swimming as a cross training tool, to give their bodies the break they need without having to take a day off of their schedule. Most runners actually religiously use swimming to help not only keep them in shape on their days off, but they also will use it in place of running to have an equally tough workout.
There are several ways one could preform a cross training exercise in the pool. One of those ways would be to simply use one of the four basic strokes to swim laps back and forth down the pool. This is a tough workout in itself, because it not only requires muscle strength and endurance, but extreme lung strength as well. If you have ever tired to swim laps in a pool you’ll know this to be true. Breathing on land is far different than trying to breathe while swimming in a pool. Not only do you have to worry about swallowing water, the pressure from the water, even though it’s light, constricts your lungs just enough to make it even more difficult to breath. This is why a lot of athletes turn to swimming to not only give their muscles a break, but too improve their lung strength and air capacity as well.
Another form of cross training in the pool is water running. This can either be done with a belt or free. A lot of times athletes, especially runners, will do a running workout in the water. How this works is they jump into the deep end of the pool where they can’t touch and they tread water by going back and forth between the sides. Sometimes to increase resistance and make it more difficult, they will add a weighted belt. This makes it harder not only to float, but also it creates even more resistance in the water, which makes for a tougher workout.
Even though neither of these methods are easy, they still provide the athlete, or individual, the well needed break for their bodies. Swimming provides a way to do a tough workout without putting a ton of strain on muscles or joints. Thus making it one of the most safe and effective cross-training methods.
Swimming: The Unsung Hero
Swimming could be considered an unsung hero of the athletic world. This is because most people view it as a summer past time to be enjoyed. In fact if you were to be asked what the first thing that popped into your head was when you thought of swimming, guaranteed nine times out ten you would answer something like this. “I see swimming as something you do in the summer in a lake or pool. It’s fun to just sit back and relax by a pool on a hot summers day. “ And while this is definitely true, swimming is an activity that can be enjoyed by everyone at every age. If take seriously, it can be one the toughest workouts you’ll ever preform. It not only burns fat like nobodies business, it can also increase muscle mass. But it does so without putting a ton of strain on your muscles or joints.
It is one of the most perfect cross-training exercises any individual or athlete can do. It builds strength, both muscle and lung, as it provides a safe and taxing-free way to give your body the break and workout it needs. So make sure you keep swimming in mind the next time you are looking for a cross-training exercise. It won’t leave you disappointed.