Want to be a better athlete? Start swimming!

I was talking to a running friend the other day who is a father of a young girl. She is around 10 years old and has chosen swimming as her primary sports activity. Her dad, Mike, was telling me about how the minute his daughter gets in the pool, she loves it, excels and is incredibly competitive. He said he hopes that his daughter will continue her swimming journey but isn’t sure she will – because of a range of reasons – scheduling being the primary reason and second being her common dread for getting in the pool before a practice. While I was talking to him, I immediately thought of a recent realization or proclamation I made.

I’ve decided that if I had to do it all over again I would swim as a young kid. And when I have a child, especially a girl, I will push her to swim at a young age. Of course later on (in high school, college, etc.) she can be a runner, but starting off as a swimmer would be ideal. Why you ask? Because from my observations (especially as of late), I have noticed that the really successful and competitive high school track and cross country athletes were swimmers as a young age. Why?

  • In general, they are typically stronger (abs, shoulders and back especially), fitter and healthier than the non-swimmers. And as a result they aren’t focused on being super skinny but rather lean and strong.
  • Just as important – these swimmers are avoiding the pounding and resulting injuries caused by running at a young age.

But don’t just listen to me…look at the evidence. Case in point, here are a few examples of successful runners who started off as swimmers…

  • Lily Williams, recent Florida High School graduate, who won three State Championship Titles at the Florida 4A Track & Field meet. She won the 1600 meters, 800 meters and 3200 meters. An feat that is so rare – I believe she is the first to accomplish it. She is heading to Vanderbilt University. She was a swimmer.
  • Jordan Hasay, a track athlete at the University of Oregon, has already won numerous national championships. She is a tiny girl with an extremely muscular build. She was and continues to be a swimmer. (Her mother was a very successful swimmer as well.) More on Jordan’s story here.

Need swim lessons? Techniques to make you faster? Check out this program.

An interesting article on “Building Better Athletes with Swimming’ here.

More benefits of swimming courtesy of HumanKinetics.com.

Swimming is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package, working most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently. Swimming builds these core muscles better than any abs video or gadget advertised on television. Finally, a properly structured swim workout provides incredible improvements to the cardiovascular system. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.

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