FEATURES,  View from the Water

Seven reasons why an enforced break from swimming might be good for you

There’s been lots of social media chat this week about whether outdoor swimming could be acceptable as your allocated one form of exercise per day. Opinions became quite heated. Rather than wade into that debate, we thought we’d share a few reasons why an enforced break from swimming, however much we don’t like it, might be good us.

1. Give that niggling injury a proper chance to heal

How many of you have continued swimming with pain in your shoulder, elbow or back? How often have you pretended that it wasn’t caused or aggravated by swimming? How often have you taken painkillers and just hoped the pain would go away permanently? What you really needed was a proper rest and time to do your rehabilitation exercises, but you hated the idea of missing out on swimming. Well, now you’ve got no choice. Go and fix yourself up so you can come back stronger than ever.

2. You smell better

This applies to those of us who swim frequently in chlorinated pools. Now you, like me, might be oblivious to the smell of chlorine on your skin. You may even like it. But, surprisingly, not everyone is a fan. If you have a non-swimming partner, they might be quietly celebrating your break from the pool.

3. You get to stay in bed longer

I’m an early morning swimmer. It’s my favourite time of day to swim. But I don’t bounce out of bed with joy at 5:30 when my alarm goes off. I know it will be worth it once I make the effort – it always is – but it’s a battle every morning to overcome that part of my brain that says, “you could just roll over and go back to sleep.” Well, now you can.

4. You’ve got an opportunity to build better all-round exercise habits

In an ideal world, for optimum swimming performance and longevity, you’d balance time in the water with other exercises, such as core strength, shoulder stability exercises, flexibility and mobility. If you’re anything like me, these are tacked on as an afterthought – you’ll do them if you get time. The trouble is, if you’re cramming your swimming into an already hectic week, well, guess what? You could use this time of no swimming to create a new exercise habit that you could stick to once we return to the water, and which will help you long term.

5. You can “let yourself go” and not feel guilty

We swim because it feels good, connects to nature and our friends, to keep fit and for our mental well-being. However, you can have too much of a good thing. A good habit could turn into a compulsive activity. Or we might not recognise that we’ve become over-trained and fatigued. Many elite athletes take an annual break from their sport but it’s something recreational athletes are loath to do because they worry about losing fitness. In fact, letting your fitness slide for a few weeks, might be good for your mind and body, and you’ll return with renewed enthusiasm – as long as the ban doesn’t go on too long. For now, embrace the break and its benefits, rather than curse them.

6. You could do more running

Around London, at the moment, it seems as if everyone has become a runner. While we’re still allowed outside, a lot of people are making the most of it. You could do the same. It’s probably the easiest way to maintain your aerobic fitness while not swimming. Often I’m too tired from swimming to enjoy running, but now it’s the only thing I can do outside, I’ve found I like it a lot more. Just one thing: pick your times carefully to make maintaining social distancing easier.

7. You appreciate how important swimming is

Sometimes you only realise how important something is when it’s taken away. It’s absolutely right that in the current circumstances we prioritise minimising the spread of coronavirus over swimming, but it doesn’t change the fact that swimming plays a big part in many people’s lives. If it were permanently taken away, their quality of life would suffer. Long term, swimming is good for our physical and mental well-being and, for many of us, contributes to our identity. Luckily, a short break is not a calamity. Best to embrace it, keep yourself and those you come in contact with safe from coronavirus, and use the time to reflect on how lucky we are to usually have swimming as part of our lives.

Stay up to date with The Dip, our free weekly outdoor swimming newsletter.

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.