Laps are mind-numbingly boring and I hate doing them. It’s part of the reason why I call pool workouts “pool purgatory.” The other part is due to my lack of gills. However, pool workouts are undeniably great for cross training, recovery, range of motion, flexibility, and your breathing. Sure, a lot of people wait to incorporate swimming until they are injured, but I think it’s highly beneficial to get in the pool (or lake or ocean) BEFORE you are chronically injured or sentenced there by a Physical Therapist.
From a runner’s standpoint, swimming is great for strengthening hip flexors, promoting ankle flexibility, strengthening the back muscles to help with running posture, and increasing lower abdominal strength. If my legs are too sore and inflamed to go on a recovery run, then I jump in the pool and swim some laps to get the recovery benefits from the circulation.
Lengthy swims are particularly good for endurance athletes. Everyone has their limits to how much they can train before any more is damaging to their muscle endurance. But because swimming is zero impact, it enables athletes to push past those limits and build a stronger, more efficient cardiovascular system.
Swimming is a full body workout and it is tiring. It feels odd for me to be physically tired without feeling skeletal muscle fatigue. But besides getting the running benefits from pool workouts, it’s also a relaxing and peaceful form of exercise – as long as I can remind myself of all the benefits on the days when I really dread the pool.