While running is usually first on the list of things to do when you’re trying to lose weight, the pain of hitting the pavement has got more people heading to the pool in search of a complete workout without the wear and tear on their bodies.
Indeed, swimming creates less stress on the joints but it still comes with all the cardiovascular and endurance benefits people want. “Well, you’re obviously going to stay in shape if you swim all the time” says swimmer Tanner Poppe.
His sister Amanda Poppe agrees. “I prefer swimming. I like being in the water. On the cardio side, you’re constantly moving, and I think it just burns a lot more calories than running.”
The pair has been swimming competitively since they were kids, and so far, Tanner says it’s been smooth sailing. “Swimming in the water is a lot safer for your joints; you’re not constantly pounding on the ground like when you’re running, and in swimming, you’re only fighting against the water,” he adds.
For long-time runners, weight-lifters, or people who might not be as nimble as they used to be, less stress on the joints can mean the difference between getting fit and getting injured.
Physical therapist and Custom Fitness Crossfit Gof Metgot co-owner Ryan Claros explains that “low-impact” refers to any activity that reduces the stress put on your joints, muscles, bones, tendons, or ligaments.
Claros says for people recovering from injuries or simply just trying to lose weight, swimming is a prime option. “It’s an easy way for them to increase cardiovascular endurance, increase circulation, or increase range of motion,” he says, adding that buoyancy also helps reduce stress, “especially for those who are overweight or trying to lose weight. It also can increase exercise capacity.”
With a lighter load on your knees and elbows, the physical benefits of swimming also make the water worth it. Aside from the aforementioned cardiovascular and endurance benefits, swimming can also boost your lung capacity and tone muscles from top to bottom.
“I feel like swimming, it uses every muscle in your body. It’s better than lifting weights because when you lift weights you focus on one muscle only, but with swimming you use everything in your body. It’s more well-rounded than lifting weights,” Tanner says.
“It improves your focus. Your focus gets better, you’re able to accomplish harder tasks if you’re really dedicating yourself to swimming and being able to break your times, or just training for exercise,” Amanda adds.
Cait Gayle, organizer of the Cocos Crossing, Guam’s only open-ocean swim race, says swimming is one of the few sports that actually give you a life skill— to survive in the water. “Other sports, of course they give you fitness, but this one in particularly can save your life, so it’s a good sport fitness-wise, but also for life.”
If you’re ready to dive in—kids and young adults alike—swim clubs are the way to go.
“So we do have four local teams; actually one is on-base—the Andersen Marlins. Then there’s Manukai Athletic Club, Manhoben Swim Club, and the Tsunami Swim Club,” says Guam National Swim Team and Manukai coach Jenina Cruz. She has been in and out of the water since she first learned to swim at age 5.
“I started to compete when I was 8, and my last competition was when I was 19. I took a year break, and then I came back and started coaching right after that, so I’ve been with Manukai probably for a good 3 seasons,” Cruz tells us. For her, swimming is about more than just the cardio. “You can build friendships like family with others that are interested in the same sport. And it’s a good mental exercise as well.”
Private swimming lessons are available through these local swim clubs, and many adults hit the pool on their own time, Cruz adds. She sees a range of people in the water, whether they’re competitive athletes or simply those trying to get fit while recovering from back, knee, or hip injuries. “They come and show up to the pool and get their exercise on as physical therapy. So we do see those types of people with injuries come in because it is a low-impact sport. We’re all willing to help,” she says.
For those who aren’t quite ready to trade in the gym shoes for swim shorts, Gayle points out that swimming isn’t the only low-impact water exercise out there. “There is water aerobics—I believe Synergy offers a water aerobics class, and then every once in a while Parks & Recreation will come out with a series,” she says.
One of the water aerobics classes is aqua zumba. “It’s [just] zumba in the water,” says Paradise Fitness instructor Pinky Lujan. With waist-high water, blasting music, and dance moves that keep your heart rate pumping, aching joints are no longer an excuse to skip out on a work out. “You need to take care of the ticker, man, that’s the battery of your body,” she stresses. “If you don’t take care of the ticker then you’re going to develop problems, so low-impact or zero-impact will really prolong your life and improve your quality of life in the long-run.”
Incidentally, Lujan is a former swimmer whose love for the sport is what led her to aqua zumba in the first place. “It’s a wonderful workout, and giving yourself one hour in the water, it’s really good because it makes you relaxed, so you’ll notice your quality of sleep, when you spend an hour in the water like that, you actually reach a more relaxed state of mind,” Lujan says.
Like swimming, aqua zumba is good for all ages and fitness levels, so grab a towel and come on in, the water’s fine.