Benefits of Swimming When Recovering

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Male athlete with goggles swimming in a pool

Recovery time. Conquer it and life moves forward without so much as a hitch. Bow to its many painful challenges and your regular routine will suffer more detours and setbacks than you care to endure.

Adequately bouncing back, both from injuries and grueling workouts, can be the difference between achieving your personal goals and frustratingly missing the mark. And if you really want to maximize that all-important down period, you’ll need to dig out the Speedos from the bottom of the drawer and invest in a pair of goggles. It’s time to locate a body of water, because swimming is one of the best activities for returning back to optimum strength.

Recovering From Activities
You’ve pushed yourself to the limit, with the spent look of exhaustion and sweat-soaked clothing to back it up. Now what?

Giving your teammates or your workouts everything you’ve got is only admirable if you’re able to rebound in time for your next outing. If there’s no gas in the tank, then forget about realizing consistency or sustained excellence. Tired and sore muscles flooded with blood lactate will make it impossible to perform at your usual peak potential.

First, a quick and rudimentary physiology lesson. When the human body is overexerted, it produces a cocktail of acids, lactates and other metabolites that lead to soreness and fatigue when allowed to accumulate in the muscles. The faster these byproducts are cleared from the system, the quicker you can get back to work, minus any limitations or restrictions. But what’s the most effective approach for properly draining a gassed and overworked body?

Athletes have three primary options for recovery—active, passive and massage. Passive recovery, while tempting, is least beneficial. Massage can be very effective. However, studies are increasingly showing that active recovery is best for reducing pain and overall down time. And among the many active options, nothing tops swimming.

Swimming has long been the gold standard among exercises, and that’s especially true for athletes looking to quiet barking muscles. True, there are few sensations more enjoyable than taking a dip in a cool pool following a four-alarm workout. But there is also science behind the value of swimming when recovering. Findings indicate that swimming not only helps clear impurities faster and lowers markers for inflammation, but it also results in improved performance during subsequent events involving aerobic exertion. In other words, you get back to being you again … quicker.

Male athlete with goggles swimming in a pool

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Recovering From Injuries
Injuries. Regardless of your age, sport or fitness level, they are unfortunately inevitable. A long and unproductive recovery period, though, is not.

As an athlete, you’re going to experience physical setbacks. They’re baked into the unpredictability of repetitive motion, particularly when contact sports are involved. The key is to get healthy and return to form as quickly as possible by winning the all-important recovery period. And nearly every recovery regimen, no matter the specifics or the severity, can benefit with the inclusion of some pool time.

Most athletes on the mend respond so well to swimming, because it allows them to resume exercising without the punishing impact that could aggravate the preexisting condition. Laps in a pool will not only improve endurance, but it will also build muscle since water provides a form of gentle resistance training. So whether you’re backstroking, butterflying or, heck, performing the doggy paddle, more time spent in a pool typically means less time on the shelf.

Much like in post-workout recovery, post-injury recovery time can be shortened with an active attack plan. When it’s possible, continue to move in order to prevent weight gain, avoid a decline in range of motion and even help ward off depression, common when one’s usual physical routine is upended. In this regard, swimming has no peers. It’s the ideal athletic bridge during recovery, toning and cooling muscles minus the impact and potential hazards of most exercises.

Like most activities in the aftermath of an injury, it’s advised to take it slow before gradually increasing intensity. Now is not the time for a regression in progress. But however you proceed, attempt to incorporate some swimming, an exercise that’s simultaneously low risk and loaded with benefits as you climb your way back to full strength.

Recovery, both following workouts and injuries, is an integral part of any athlete’s blueprint for long-term success. And low-impact, high-value swimming should have a place in every recovery handbook. However, when taking laps alone isn’t enough,
contact the professionals at JAG-ONE Physical Therapy to discover which of their tailored services is best for your particular ailment.