Becoming a successful swimmer involves more than just hours spent in the pool. Cross-training is necessary to prevent injury and strengthen other muscle groups. For many amature and elite swimmers, yoga fits the bill.
Because of its slow and soothing nature, yoga may seem like strange activity to engage in, but many athletes consider it to be the perfect complementary exercise. In an article on U.S. Masters Swimming's website, Olympic silver medalist Emily Silver said that practicing yoga was a critical component of her success.
"Yoga requires the same discipline and laser-focus needed to swim lap after lap in the pool, but without the mundane repetitiveness of swimming," Silver wrote. "[…] But of all the benefits of yoga, one thing I liked most was that it enabled me to practice visualization and mental toughness, two things that helped me achieve success throughout my career."
According to USA Swimming, yoga can improve the following:
- Core strength – Balance is necessary to execute many poses. This strength comes from the core, and this part of the body is used throughout the entire practice.
- Flexibility – Yoga's standing postures can improve ankle flexibility, which is necessary for effective kicking. The muscles in the shoulders and back are also strengthened which can counteract the front-side imbalance that swimmers commonly have.
- Focus – Attention and awareness to one's surroundings is one of the core foundations of yoga. Focusing on breathing is necessary to deepen the stretch in certain postures. Harnessing the ability to focus may be beneficial for swimmers who easily get the jitters during important meets.
To improve your swimming, you may want to occasionally swap out your competition swimwear for a yoga mat!