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How to keep swimming fit during the coronavirus pandemic

Thinking about keeping fit for swimming while there’s a coronavirus pandemic raging may seem, at best, a little odd, or, worse, utterly thoughtless. On the other hand, exercise is known to help combat stress and anxiety. It’s surely better for your mental well-being to have a plan and take some action rather than staying glued to social media for constant updates (both true and fake) on what’s happening and then suffer the negative feelings this arouses. I therefore thought I’d share my plans for staying fit over the forthcoming weeks, in case they are of any use to other swimmers.

My first priority is doing everything I can to stay healthy – for my own sake, for those around me and the wider community. And, importantly but not necessarily obviously, you need to be healthy in order to maintain your fitness. I’m therefore following Public Health England guidance on hand washing, avoiding touching my face, working from home and minimising social interactions. I try to eat good food (not always easy when the shelves are stripped bare of fresh fruit and vegetables) and get sufficient sleep. In addition, I’ve toned down the intensity of some of my training because extreme physical exercise can compromise your immune system.

At the moment, my local pool is still open, so I’m continuing to swim my regular sessions (while staying conscious of social distancing). Swimming pools are supposed to be relatively safe places but I suspect they will close soon, so my back up plans are as follows:

a) Assuming we’re still allowed to exercise outside

Running. I hope things will return to some sort of normality later in the year and there will still be opportunities to do some swimrun events, and I’ve been lax with run training over the winter. It would be good to get in a few extra miles.

Stand-up Paddle Boarding. I’m lucky enough to live a short walk from the Thames and I have a SUP that doesn’t get as much use as it should do. SUP is great for getting out on the water and I recommend giving it a go if you can.

Outdoor swimming. The water is still too cold for me to do any long distance swimming but I will try to get in occasionally, and increase time in the water as it gets warmer.

If you are going to swim outside, please check out our open water swimming safety advice

b) If we have total lockdown and can’t exercise outside

Body weight exercises. I have a routine of body weight exercises (e.g. press ups, squats, single leg squats, plank, crunches etc) that I probably should be doing anyway but don’t.

Mobility and flexibility. I already do mobility and flexibility exercises most days but there’s always more I could (and should) do.

Swim simulation. I know I’ve got some stretch cords hidden away somewhere. I will dig those out and use those to work on swim-specific movement pattens.

For other ideas for exercises you can do at home see:

Top five land training exercises

Yoga and Pilates – swimmers secret weapons

Remember to prioritise your health!

Whatever precautions we take, there is still a good chance that we will get ill during this time – some estimates suggest that 80% of the population will contract corona virus. If/when that happens, the priorities change to (1) trying not to pass on the illness through following self-isolation guidance and good hygiene and (2) self-care to maximise the chances of a speedy recovery.

Doing what you can to stay fit, even if it’s not exactly what you want to do, has got to be a good thing. However, the reality is, if you do lose fitness, it’s not the most important thing right now and you will get it back again. Focus firstly on staying healthy and taking care of those who are more vulnerable than you. Anything else is a bonus.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.