As a former professional Waterpolo athlete, I can’t hide my enthusiasm when I see swimming showing up more and more in CrossFit competitions.
Growing up along the seaside in Genoa, Italy, I’ve spent more time in the water than on land as a child. Before 12 I was already competing at national level and my life was at the swimming pool five days a week, two times a day, plus the usual match over the weekends. I loved it, I was in top shape and that was fun!
Even though there were not many guidelines regarding training outside the pool, I was diligently hitting the gym three times a week to improve my strength. I found cross-training was giving me that competitive edge I could not achieve with water-based training only.
Here I am, many years later, owning my own CrossFit-style gym and teaching swimming in my spare time, combining my two passions.
As a CrossFit coach, I actively encourage our athletes to hit the pool to vary their training protocols and the demands they place on their body. Swimming, a multi-joint discipline that places high demand on both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, is a good fit for CrossFitters as many of the physical attributes required in the water are also applicable to CrossFit, such as coordination, speed, endurance, strength, and so on. Plus, it’s great for active recovery.
Likewise, swimmers would benefit from incorporating low-impact CrossFit workouts into their programming too.
Why Swimming and CrossFit?
CrossFit was born from the idea to make it varied and be prepared for anything, to become the “quintessential athlete”.
So why just stick to the usual weightlifting and gymnastics? Adding swimming into your CrossFit training will benefit you in so many ways and help you become a better athlete.
As a waterpolo player and swimmer and as a Crossfit proponent I’ve always known the benefits of both disciplines and I can draw many parallels between the two disciplines.
I truly believe swimming complement CrossFit training in many ways and can be an athlete’s best friend when used to improve your general physical preparedness and your recovery without the high impact on joints seen on land.
1. Total Body Disciplines
Both Crossfit and swimming are total body disciplines. You use arms, legs, back and core all at once. Instead of working one set of muscle groups at a time, you are working multiple groups simultaneously and repeatedly, which is where the first parallel between the two sports emerge.
2. Good for Your Heart
Both swimming and Crossfit are brilliant for cardiovascular development. Not only your lung capacity but also your endurance and stamina will increase with time.
The intention of CrossFit is to exercise our bodies to such a high intensity and attempt to maintain that intensity for as long as possible. And even when we reach the brink of exhaustion, we keep going to improve ourselves. As a swimmer I’m very familiar with this feeling of oxygen debt, lactic acid and muscle fatigue, especially after some interval training consisting of multiples 100m, 50m or 25m sprints.
3. More Endurance
Both are great for muscular endurance. Your shoulders, legs and core do A LOT when either swimming or doing a CrossFit workout and this improve their ability to cope with repetitive intensity.
4. Active Recovery & Injury Prevention
Swimming is low impact and can help with taking the “load” off and alleviating stress put on the joints during land exercises while maintaining high intensity. That’s why swimming is fantastic as active recovery on your “rest” days.
In addition, if you have an injury or a niggle, swimming is a great thing for you to help you heal faster as there is little impact on the joints and you are supported by the water.
5. Better Breathing Control
Swimming can also teach you better breathing control which you can then apply to your training “on land”.
It can aid in helping build an aerobic base and improved lung capacity, along with coordination of arms and legs. There aren’t many activities that will force you to take notice of your breathing. In swimming, this is fundamental in order to move efficiently… or move at all.
Frequency and Programming
Athletes training for health and longevity should at the very least try to get down to the pool 1 time per week for an hour. Anything upwards of that is a bonus.
It doesn’t have to be about boring swimming up and down doing length after length. As Crossfit, swimming is a highly technical sport and requires a lot of detailed practice to become more proficient in. With the right coaching and programming anyone can see huge progresses both in and out of the pool.
What I usually recommend to my students and athletes is to start with the fundamentals and use lots of drills to get better over all and enjoy swimming much more. And of course, like in any other sports, consistency is the key to improve in swimming too.
So get your swimsuit and goggles ready and
hit the pool with us this Summer!
In 2021, we will meet at Parnell Baths at 9am on the following dates:
- Sunday, January 10th
- Sunday, February 28th
- Sunday, March 28th
Get in touch at [email protected] for more details. See you there!