Swimming is an aerobic exercise that requires a steady supply of oxygen to the muscles. It also develops a strong, lean physique. It can be performed in water that is not polluted, such as lakes and rivers, or in a pool. The sport also provides a low-impact exercise that can be done by people with certain injuries or health conditions. It is used for recreation, fitness and competition, and is taught as a lifesaving skill. Swimming is also a part of other sports and activities, such as surfing, diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming.
Most people who swim participate in competitive events, called races or meets, for fun and enjoyment. Those who are serious about competitive swimming pursue training under the guidance of coaches and trainers, who can help them improve their technique. Some swimmers go on to compete at the elite level.
The most popular competitive strokes are freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. Each requires a different skill set and is executed differently, but they are all powered by the same principle: moving the body through water with the arms and legs, using the natural buoyancy of the human body to stay afloat.
For many newcomers to the sport, learning to swim can be difficult. Taking time to build up endurance, learning to relax and adopt the proper body position are all important steps. Practicing regularly and taking it slowly will help to avoid injury and allow the body to adapt.
In most competitive events, swimmers begin the race by stepping on to blocks, called the starting block, and then dive into the pool when a referee signals them to do so. A long whistle or a bell is commonly used to signal the start of a race. Swimmers in a head first dive event, such as freestyle and breaststroke, will enter the water from a raised platform, while those in a flip turn or individual medley start will get into a crouched position on the diving board.
The most common cause of injury in swimming is overuse of a particular muscle group, but poor technique and improper stretching can also lead to an injury. If an injury is not treated properly, it can become severe and may affect the entire body or even the whole pool.
When it comes to improving performance, swimmers can increase the distance covered during a workout and the speed at which they cover that distance by working on specific skills. The best way to do this is to break down the work into manageable chunks. “Start by recording how long it takes you to swim a given distance, then aim to reduce your time a little bit each week,” says U.S. Masters Swimming.
To speed up your freestyle stroke, try to reach your hand down and across the bottom of the pool before pulling it up and forward again, suggests U.S. Masters Swimming. This will help you to move your arm quickly through the water, so it is not wasted in the recovery phase. Make sure to breathe every two or three strokes by rolling your head to the side and breathing through your nose rather than your mouth.