With the New Year fast approaching, recent research from one of my sponsors, Yakult UK, to mark the launch of the exclusive campaign #SwimWithJazz has found that Britons are literally a nation of water babies. Nearly half (48%) of those polled saying swimming is the sport they enjoy most, ahead of walking (38%) and cycling (26%).
However, despite 85% of those polled believing that swimming is the best exercise for your health, more than a third (40%) gave up swimming lessons when they were ten years old or younger, and over a quarter (27%) don't even go swimming once a year.
In response to this, I've teamed up with Yakult to provide some top tips to improve confidence and techniques in the water, in an effort to get Brits back in the water.
My top tips:
Dress for success: Swimming can be daunting if you're not 100% confident in the water. A good way of banishing those feelings is with a swimming costume that fits properly, and that you are comfortable swimming in. Speedo has a great range called Speedo Sculpture, which supports and shapes your body. Having a good pair of goggles is also key, so you are able to see ahead of you and feel in control of your strokes.
Lane control: Before diving head first into the water, make sure that you understand the depth of the pool and choose a lane you are comfortable with.
Power half an hour: Even if you have a spare 30 minutes, swimming is a great whole body workout and works on muscles you wouldn't normally use in everyday life.
Mix it up: Always try and use a variety of muscles in your sessions, working on different strokes and different parts of the stroke. Kicking is a great way to focus on your lower body and a pull buoy is a great way to isolate your upper body. If you mix it up, you will benefit from a full body workout.
Eat yourself healthy: It's important to make sure you eat before you swim and but remember to give yourself time to digest food before taking part in any physical activity.
All the gear: If there is a particular stroke you are weaker on, there is some great equipment out there to help you improve. My favourite piece of equipment is finger paddles, they keep your stroke nice and long, and give you feedback if part of your stroke is slipping through the water. Fins are a great way to strengthen your legs and to work on certain stroke patterns, they allow you to have more propulsion through the leg part of your stroke too.
Eat, swim, repeat: I always get really hungry when I'm training, so it's important to make sure you take enough snacks with you when you are planning a swim - energy levels and perseverance is crucial to improving your swimming technique. Week by week you should notice a difference in your fitness the more you practice, and try and test yourself, going faster on each repetition or having less rest. This is great to improve your stamina and I use a lot of short interval training in my training week.
And breathe: This is something that many people struggle with but there are some exercises you can practice to build your confidence.
Here are some useful tips:
- Standing in the water with your head on the surface and turn your head to the side and breathe in, then to put your head in the water and breathe out, repeat that a few times to get a feel of the breathing pattern
- Begin to use this in your stroke, slightly moving your head to breathe and getting used to breathing in and out of your mouth.
- If you have access to a pool with shallower water, you can use your legs to walk on the bottom of the pool and then use your arms like you are swimming and get a feel of the breathing pattern while walking in the pool. This would let you focus solely on breathing and then you can gradually bring the legs into it.
For more information on Yakult, visit www.yakult.co.uk