How old is too old to be a serious fitness swimmer or a competitive swimmer? Well, I don’t really know. What I do know is that at the age of 41, nine time 1984 Olympic medalist, Dara Torres, was still competing. Her fourth comeback after first retiring in 1982, after she broke a world record at the age of fourteen, was in pursuit of keeping her aging body fit. From the looks of her fabulous physique in a swimsuit, I would say she has been one hundred percent successful in achieving that goal.
Now, if you are in the same age group as Dara, don’t despair when you discover she has a fitness staff that costs her around $100,000 annually to keep her in top competitive form. Unless you plan to be an Olympian like her, you don’t need to spend that kind of money to age gracefully and be fit.
If you are looking into competitive swimming, however, as a woman you need to consider how it will shape and contour your body. To swim most efficiently, certain muscle groups will be stronger than others. A competitive swimmer’s body often develops into the shape of an inverted triangle. Broad shoulders develop and hips slim down. For the apple shaped women, toning and strengthening through swimming for fitness will accentuate your already natural inverted triangle shape. For the pear shaped woman, swimming for fitness may help to bring a more balanced appearance if your hips have begun to get a little out of control. For the man, he will achieve the physical form of his dreams.
To help keep muscle groups balanced, cross-training with cycling is a great way to mix up a swimming for fitness program. As muscles strengthen, yoga is perfect to help muscles remain flexible. Also, swimming may only be an option seasonally. If that’s the case, swim when you can then cross-train the rest of the year cycling, rowing or running.
Also, don’t forget the ever-important strength training. Especially for women, as they age, strength training is even more important to keep bones strong and healthy. Follow up a swim routine with some weight lifting. This doesn’t have to be an extreme workout. Fifteen minutes of curls and squats with challenging weights are sufficient.
When you plan a swimming for fitness program the first thing you want to do is a warm up. Windmill your arms to stretch and warm up muscle groups in the arms and shoulders. Whether you dive straight in or gently enter the pool, begin with a gentle paddle or stroke to the other side of the pool. Turn around and head for a part of the pool deep enough to tread water for a few minutes. Perform another slow and gentle warm up lap. After about ten minutes of stretching and warm up, start in with some serious strokes that really get you moving in the water and elevate your heart rate.
Exercise accessories that are useful are a kick board and a noodle. After about five minutes of swimming laps, grab the kick board for an intense five minutes of power kicking your way around the pool. Then switch to the noodle. Hook it under your knees, float on your back, and perform power arm strokes around the pool for five minutes. Swap the kickboard and noodle for one more round of five minute sets for arms strokes and kicks. When you finish with twenty minutes dedicated to arm strokes and kicks, begin your cool down. Gently paddle around the pool with the swim stroke of your choice, or gently tread water, for the next five to ten minutes, or until you feel your heart rate significantly slow down.
When a body hits a certain age, the fact must be accepted that it takes longer to recover from workouts. Rather than workout every day, a more realistic schedule for a thirty-something or forty-something is three days weekly.
As we age, swimming becomes more and more attractive as a form of physical fitness. Older athletes need to be kind to joints, especially knees and hips. Aging gracefully doesn’t mean we sit around and slather cold cream all over those fine lines and tiny wrinkles. Aging gracefully means fighting it gracefully every step of the way. Swimming for fitness is a great way to do this.