Twice a week, I begrudgingly roll out of bed at 4:45 a.m., shimmy on a swimsuit with my eyes half shut, and head to the pool for a swimming workout.
I’m always terribly moody on my way to the pool, typically wondering why I’m willingly depriving myself of the warmth and comfort of my own bed. Thirty seconds after I’ve jumped in the pool, I’m immediately reminded of the answer.
I deal with the early morning alarms because nothing boosts my mood, calms my mind, and gently (yet effectively) works my entire body quite like logging in laps. I’m so obsessed with swimming that I’d even go as far to say it’s the best early morning workout of all time.
That’s quite the opinion, I know, but here’s why you can find me swimming while you’re still in that sweet, deep sleep.
It Instantly Wakes Me Up
If splashing cold water on your face wakes you up, imagine what jumping in a chilly pool can do. The jolt is brutal initially, but my mental and physical drowsiness are erased the second I’m submerged. Plus, there’s really only one way to warm up (both in body temperature and for the workout) — start swimming. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.
It’s a Full-Body Workout
Your arms, legs, core, and back are all getting attention with this form of cardio, which is a huge bonus if you’re bored with what the treadmill has to offer. Depending on the energy exerted while in the pool, it can also be a significant calorie burner. “While calorie expenditure during swimming depends on many different factors, the average person swimming freestyle at a moderate intensity will burn 500-550 calories an hour,” Dr. Samuel Chan, DPT, ATC, CSCS, explained to me.
It’s also effective at burning fat.
It’s Easy on the Joints
In the morning, when my tight, sore muscles need a prolonged, gentle stretch before any sort of jumping or sprinting, swimming is the ideal choice.
It’s also famously labeled as one of the best low-impact exercises. But how does all that work? “Water buoyancy provides an upward force against gravity, decreasing the stress on joints you’ll typically have with weight-bearing exercises,” Dr. Chan told me.
So for achy joints that might be aggravated from exercises like running or HIIT-based workouts, swimming is a decent alternative.
It’s a No-Phone Zone
I’ve gotten into a really bad habit of waking up, turning over, and scrolling through Instagram. It continues at the gym, where I’ve found myself texting or falling into a deep rabbit hole of Instagram Stories between sets of dumbbell curls. When I swim, that problem is eliminated because my phone is locked away and out of sight.
Actively starting off my day has always put me in a better mood, but that positivity gets a boost when I take a step away from social media, stop comparing, and focus solely on my thoughts with every stroke I take.
It’s Meditation in Disguise
Most swimming pools have large black lines painted down the center of every lane. At the very end, the black line comes to a T, which lets a swimmer know to perform a flip turn or that the wall is near and they’ll need to turn around soon. That black line wasn’t painted on the bottom of the pool for meditation purposes, but it provides a visual focus that transfixes me when I swim.
Combined with the calming environment water creates, repetitive motions of stroking, and the soft splashes and underwater noise, it’s a mini escape for my mind as I work my body.