Super swimmer Rebecca Adlington has just pushed her body to the limits to grab a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle at London 2012. Hopefully in a couple of days she will add a gold medal to her collection in the 800m.
After the swim an emotional Adlington admitted it had been hard work and she asserted that “Swimming was one of the hardest sports to medal at.”
That is not just because the competition is fierce but the amount of dedication and sacrifice required to be a top level swimmer is extraordinary.
Putting in the lengths
Olympic swimmers will swim seven miles a week. A freestyle swimmer, like Becky Adlington will burn about 700 calories an hour whilst training.
Our Olympic champion spends four hours a day, six days a week in the pool. She is up at five in the morning every day ready to put in the hard yards to achieve success. In a single two hour session she may swim from 3000 – 8000m.
Whilst in the pool she won’t simply just swim up and down. She will refine her stroke and develop specialised drills so that she can shave extra seconds off her best time.
Out of the pool
Swimmers don’t spend all their time in the water. They will also spend time doing strength and endurance training.
This will involve weight training. If you want to move through the water quickly and efficiently you need to build long and strong muscles. A swimmer’s body has to be strong and flexible.
Some swimmers do other sports to help them build the strength they need. British swimmer Liam Tancock does rock climbing to improve his upper body strength.
He also does kick-boxing, cycling and running as well as ballet to help give him that extra edge over his competitors. The ballet helps to strengthen his ankles giving him a stronger kick in the water.
Good exercise if you have an injury
If you suffer from knee pain or have suffered a knee ligament injury then swimming is a good sport to choose to get you back on the road to fitness.
You don’t need to put in the amount of lengths that Ms Adlington does but a gentle swim will help to strengthen weak knees.
However, there is a condition known as “breast stroke knee” where the kicking motion of that stroke can cause knee ligament damage. It is unusual for the casual swimmer to suffer from this condition.
Swimming is a low impact exercise and an excellent sport to do to stay and keep fit.