Sea-swimming on the Dorset coast is more popular than ever (even before the sun came out!), but why has it become so popular?

What does swimming do for my health?
Swimming is an excellent mode of cardiovascular conditioning, it also increases muscle strength and tone and improves stamina. Regular swimming, especially over long distances, will make you stronger and fitter, because of this, many athletes use it as cross training to develop stamina, without the impact stress of other disciplines.

What muscles does it work?
Freestyle is a powerful, efficient stroke using muscles of the forearm, upper arm and shoulder, front of neck, the whole of the torso (front, back and sides!), glutes and legs – from hip to foot.

And what about open-water/sea swimming?
There are believed to be many benefits to swimming in the natural outdoors, not least the exhilaration and the initial temperature shock – brings us very much into the moment, increasing mindfulness and temporarily banishing worries. Activating our cold water sensors makes us feel ‘alive’ and the cold water is a natural pain reliever as it soothes aching muscles and joints, repeated exposure over time has been found to reduce stress levels. It is also thought to boost immunity and has even been linked with improved sex life!

How should I get started?
There are various sea-swimming groups along the Poole-Bournemouth coast and it’s always wise to swim with others, whether a formal group or a few friends. If you’re new to open water swimming, stay in the shallow water and swim parallel to the shore. As for what to wear, most people use a thin triathlon suit, though some hardy folk are just in their swimmers! Goggles, plus a bright swim cap – great for warmth and to make you more visible to other water craft etc.

Anything else I should know?
From a training point of view, swimming is excellent for cardio and generally conditioning of the body – inside and out. In addition it’s always wise to also incorporate some strength training to your weekly exercise schedule too.
From a muscle health perspective, adding sports massage to your programme increases the blood flow to the muscles, relieves muscle spasms, alleviates soreness and help prevents niggles turning into injury, thereby speeding up recovery thereby improving your performance.

Written by: Jo Gaskill

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