If you’ve always been the girl who stays on land and doesn’t get her hair wet, you’re missing out. Swimming is expanding beyond the pool to dams and the ocean – and the body benefits are enormous.
How swimming changes your body shape
It legit changes the way your body looks. Plus, you won’t be the only woman in a sea of dudes, says Olympian Michelle Weber. “Women’s swimming is getting so much faster and it’s just crazy how it’s improved in the last 10 years,” she says. “Records are being broken. And that’s exciting for female swimming.” Here’s what you can expect if you take the plunge.
READ MORE: 3 Kilojoule-Obliterating Swimming Workouts
You’ll tone up
Unlike traditional cardio, like cycling and running, which use one particular muscle group, swimming incorporates every part of your body. Want sculpted shoulders? Check. Keen to tone your butt? Check. Killer core? Check, mate. It’s also low impact, so there’s very little chance you’ll be injured and benched. Plus, there are drills you can do to target specific muscles or get you in the peak heart-rate zone.
You’ll torch kilojoules
Not keen on slipping into cold water? That chill factor can turn your body into a fat-burning machine, even if you’re just swimming at a manageable pace. It’s why people who swim the English Channel have to bulk up on carbs before swimming: their body needs fat to burn. “You burn so much in cold water because your metabolism just has this humongous boost,” says Michelle.
You’ll never get bored
If you’re the kind of person who can’t bear to do the same thing. Every. Single. Day. Good news! Open-water swimming, like the ever-changing ocean, is always different. “You’re in a different environment, whereas in the swimming pool, you’re looking at a black line all the time,” says Michelle. And races are in different places: some are in dams, while some are in the ocean.
Michelle took up the sport when she was 11 and found a social club and travel opportunities in the process: “I used to do pool swimming. When I was 11 years old, I did my first open-water event and after that my parents and I just searched the country for other ones,” she says. They were hooked after experiencing the social culture of the events. “The community is so great and you’re getting away with your family and friends and having a braai and then competing,” she says.
You’ll be zen
You may find yourself subbing your next yoga class for a swim: a small Finnish study found that swimming a few times a week significantly lowered tension and fatigue scores in participants. Michelle agrees: “You sort of zone out and you’re on your own,” she says. “Some swimmers I speak to find it very relaxing and just time to get away from the noise.”
Got your cossie yet?
We’re loving how reasonable the costumes are at MrP Sport. These two are our resident Women’s Health swimmer’s fave.