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Is swimming a balanced workout?

The question: If all I do is swim, am I getting a balanced workout? I want to make sure that I am strengthening my bones and muscles.

The answer: So much of my life is spent encouraging people to be active that, when I get a question from someone like you who is already active, I have a hard time dispensing constructive criticism. I would never want to say anything that would discourage you from maintaining your current routine.

So, my below advice begins with this disclaimer: You should be proud of the fact that you swim regularly. Keep up the good work!

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Ideally, add in two strength workouts a week and substitute one swim workout for a cardio workout that involves impact.

Swimming does not involve any impact. Activities like walking involve impact and therefore will help to maintain or increase your bone density, which is important in preventing osteoporosis.

Strength training is worthwhile because it produces lean muscle mass which increases your metabolism; bolsters your strength and athletic performance; and helps to build bone density as well.

Make sure to include rows and rotator-cuff exercises. They will strengthen the shoulder girdle, helping to prevent swimming-related shoulder injuries.

Try these two strength exercises:

  • Resistance band internal rotation: Attach one end of the band to a stable object at hip height. Stand perpendicular to the attachment, holding the band with the hand closest to the attachment, palm up, arm bent at 90 degrees. Rotate the arm inward so that your hand comes toward your belly button. Don't let your shoulder roll inward. Repeat 15 times.
  • Resistance band external rotation: Hold the band horizontal to the floor with both hands, palms up, elbows held into your sides at a 90-degree angle. The closer together your hands are, the harder the exercise will be. Keep the 90-degree angle as you rotate both hands out to the side. Don't break at your wrist. Do 15 reps.

Trainer's Tip: Vary the swimming stroke you use, and include intervals. Try this pyramid set: After your warm-up, swim 25 metres hard, 50 m recovery, 50 m hard, 100 m recovery, 100 m hard, 200 m recovery, 200 m hard, 400 m recovery. If you are a strong swimmer, make your recovery intervals the same distance as your work intervals and do the entire set twice.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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