A Firefighter Workout You Wouldn’t Expect

When you think about workouts for firefighters and workout supplements you may think about lifting heavy weights. You may think about how much you can add to the bar. You may even think about taking that magical powder just before you do your first rep. While that is quite often when someone will take a preworkout supplement, there is another workout that you will see immense returns from, especially when combined with BCAAs or Nitric Oxide. One you may not think about that often; Swimming.

Swimming has all of the benefits of regular exercise, including cardiovascular health, muscle development and reduced stress. It also has several added benefits. These include:

1. Survival Skill: No matter where you live, there will always be the potential for water-related emergencies around you. Being comfortable in the water, even with simple floating and water navigation skills, can go a long way in any water emergency. Part of the value of swimming on a regular basis is feeling comfortable in the water; someone who is panicking or vertical is more likely to sink in water, whereas someone who is calm and relaxed will be better able to get out of water quickly or stay safe in water for a longer period of time if necessary.

2. Uses different muscles: When you’re in the water, you are simultaneously supported and given resistance from all directions. This gives overused muscles typically isolated during cardio work a break while giving other muscles a chance to work harder that you might not get from forms of exercise such as walking or running. If you’re intimidated by the pull-up bar but know you need to find a way to strengthen your back, swimming will most definitely help. Depending on the stroke you focus on your shoulders, arms and chest can also get a killer pump. Then there is the leg workout. Continuously kicking will get your legs burning without question.

3. Injury and disability friendly: Anyone with a compromised ability to swim should always be accompanied by an experienced swimmer, in a safe and controlled water environment. However, as long as swimming is approached safely, it can provide physical exercise for people who are recovering from injuries or who have other health conditions. Swimming is a low-impact form of exercise, which offers relief for those struggling with arthritis or those who are recovering from sprains or other injuries. Swimming is also empowering for many people with disabilities (such as Cerebral Palsy or Multiple Sclerosis) or chronic illness (including illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, which can make more traditional forms of exercise tiring and painful), allowing for greater ease of movement and reduced pain. If you do have a health condition, however, be sure to check with your doctor to make sure that
swimming (or any other form of exercise) is a safe option for you.

4. Bridges the gap between skill levels: Chances are, you’ve been on a hike that turned out to be a miserable experience because either you couldn’t keep up with someone in your group, or someone else couldn’t keep up with the pace you were hoping for. One benefit of swimming is that you can share a space with friends or family who may be much more or less experienced than you are, without needing to slow down or push yourself more than you are comfortable with. This can be a big game changer when it comes to just getting out and working out; one of the most powerful motivations for working out is having a plan to go with someone else, and swimming lets you partner up with anybody, no matter what level you or they are at.

Swimming can benefit you and your health, whether you are simply enjoying time in the pool or employing a more disciplined swimming workout regimen. If you want to engage in performance swimming or incorporate swimming into a broader athletic or bodybuilding routine, supplements such as Pure Creatine Monohydrate, Whey Protein, Vitamin C and Vitamin E are widely considered safe and effective supplements for swimmers, in addition to a healthy diet. You may also want to consult a doctor about whether and when to take other supplements to aid swimming performance, such as pre-workout or post-workout BCAAs, nitric oxide boosters, or other bodybuilding supplements. As well, when you swim, be sure to stay hydrated; you may not feel as thirsty or like you are sweating as much, but you need to replenish water just as you would after exercising at the gym. If you’ve had an intense swimming session, you may want to replenish with a drink containing electrolytes instead of or in addition to drinking water.

A few other things to consider…

Post Workout hunger is a very real thing with swimming. The cool water will require your body to burn more calories to keep you warm AND push you through the water. This means often times swimmers will get incredibly hungry about 30-45 minutes after getting out of the water. Plan ahead and have a whey protein shake waiting for you. This will curb your chances of accidentally ending up in a Burger King drive-through on the way home.

Technique is critical, just as it is when you’re lifting. If you’re going to do a considerable amount of swimming it is very important to understand proper technique or you can injure your rotator cuffs (swimmers shoulder is a real thing).

Get the gear. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on new swim gear but there are a few things that you’ll thank me for. Ear plugs to keep water out of your ears, a swim cap to help reduce drag and a decent swim suit. For guys, get a decent pair of jammers, they look like old school spandex shorts. For women, get something with a high neckline. Both of these help reduce the drag that casual swimsuits can create. You may also want to consider a front-facing snorkel to use while you figure out how to breath correctly and lastly, a nose plug. These last two aren’t a must, but can definitely help.

Happy Swimming!