Swimming is fantastic for coordination and motor skills. Have you ever wondered why swimming makes both adults and children so tired and sleepy thereafter?
Swimming – a full body workout
Swimming is the only exercise that uses all the muscles of your body. All strokes require full body effort and a lot of energy which will exhaust your muscles. It is important to eat well and do light stretching before you go for a swim.
Water is 12 times more resistant than air. This explains why swimming requires more physical effort than any other dry-land workout.
It may seem counterintuitive, but most people tend to feel more energized after a hard workout than an easier one. After a high-intensity workout, there’s an effect called after-burn. This is the extra energy your body requires to repair muscles and return your body back to resting state. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours for your body to return to resting levels after an intense workout. This is when you will start to feel tired or sleepy.
According to Olympian Samantha McGlone, our bodies lose heat much more quickly than in air of the same temperature. Even if the swimming workout is tough, your body temperature will still drop. Cold water decreases blood flow in the muscles and makes one lose heat quickly, so the body has to expend more energy to maintain its usual temperature. This results in greater fatigue than normal.
After the swim, our bodies will go through a re-heating process, which is also energy consuming, making you even more tired. If you would like to keep yourself awake after a swim, try sipping cold water or plan for a short run after swimming to counteract the warming up process.
Having direct contact with the sun can cause fatigue. If you swim outdoors, you can try go to for an early morning or late afternoon swim when the sun is less intense. Wearing sunscreen and consuming lots of a water are essential. Opting for a sheltered pool like the one we have at Haig 162 is also an option.
Swimming lessons always seem to be scheduled early in the morning, so much so that sometimes we don’t feel that we have the time to eat breakfast before the swim. A swim workout after 12 hours of fasting leaves us depleted, which sets us up for a post-breakfast crash once we get out of the pool.
Try to have a bite before or during the swim if you don’t have time to eat much—even if it is just a piece of toast or glass of juice or sports drink. Include some protein afterward to balance out your carbohydrate intake, since a solely high-carb breakfast sends us to nap time very quickly. Michael Phelps eats a five-egg omelet along with his double stack of chocolate-chip pancakes! Small amounts of caffeine spread over a longer time—even if the total intake is less—will maintain more consistent levels of alertness throughout the day as well.