Saturday, March 24, 2007

Swimming for exercise

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise. Because the density of the human body is approximately similar to that of water, the body is supported by the water and less stress is therefore placed on joints and bones. Therefore, swimming is frequently used as an exercise in rehabilitation after injuries or for those with disabilities.

Resistance swimming is one form of swimming exercise. It is done either for training purposes, to hold the swimmer in place for stroke analysis, or to enable swimming in a confined space for athletic or therapeutic reasons. Resistance swimming can be done either against a stream of moving water (often termed a swimming machine) or by holding the swimmer stationary with elastic attachments.

Swimming is primarily an aerobic exercise due to the long exercise time, requiring a constant oxygen supply to the muscles, except for short sprints where the muscles work anaerobically. As with most aerobic exercise it is believed to reduce the harmful effects of stress.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Occupational swimming

Some occupations require the workers to swim. For example, abalone divers or pearl divers swim and dive to obtain an economic benefit, as do spear fishermen.
Swimming is used to rescue other swimmers in distress. There are a number of specialized swimming styles specially for rescue purposes (see List of swimming styles). Such techniques are studied by lifeguards or members of the Coast Guard. The training of these techniques has also evolved into competitions such as surf lifesaving.
Swimming is also used in marine biology to observe plants and animals in their natural habitat. Other sciences use swimming, for example Konrad Lorenz swam with geese as part of his studies of animal behavior.

Swimming also has military purposes. A swimmer in the water or under the water can be difficult to detect, especially at night. Military swimming is usually done by special forces, such as Navy SEALS. Swimming is used to approach a location, gather intelligence, sabotage or combat, and to depart a location. This may also include airborne insertion into water or leaving a submerged submarine through a hatch or the torpedo tubes.
Swimming has become a professional sport as well. Companies such as Speedo and Tyr Sports, Inc. sponsor swimmers just as Nike sponsors basketball players (Nike also sponsors swimmers). Cash awards are also given at many of the major competitions for breaking records.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Competitive swimming

The goal of competitive swimming is to be the fastest to swim a given distance. Competitive swimming became popular in the nineteenth century, and currently comprises 34 events - 17 male events and 17 female events. Swimming is a popular event at the Summer Olympic Games, where male and female athletes compete in 13 of the recognized events each. Olympic events are held in a 50 meter pool. Competitive swimming's international governing body is FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation), the International Swimming Federation.

The four competitive strokes are the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle (frontcrawl). Also, there are different times to get to different levels in these strokes. These strokes can be swum individually or together in an individual medley (IM). The IM order is: 1) butterfly, 2) backstroke, 3) breaststroke, and 4) freestyle. There are two types of relays: medley and freestyle. The medley relay order is: 1) backstroke, 2) breaststroke, 3) butterfly, and 4) freestyle. Each of the four swimmers in the relay swims a predetermined distance, dependent on the overall length of the relay. The three relay lengths are 200 meters or yards, 400 meters or yards, and 800 meters or yards (which is only swum freestyle). In a 50 meter pool, each swimmer swims one length for the 200 relay, two lengths for the 400 relay, and four lengths for the 800 relay. In a 25 meter or yard pool, each swimmer swims two lengths for the 200 relay, four lengths for the 400 relay, and eight lengths for the 800 relay. Many full-size competition pools in the United States have a length of 50 meters and a width of 25 yards, allowing both short course (25 m or 25 yd pool) and long course (50 m pool) races to be held.
There are a few types of judges: a starter sets off the swimmers; turn judges check that the swimmers' turns are within rules; swim judges check the swimmers' strokes; time keepers time the swims; and the referee checks that everything is running smoothly. If an official catches a swimmer breaking a rule concerning the stroke he or she is swimming, that swimmer is said to be disqualified (commonly referred to as "DQ'd" or "deaked") and the swim is not considered valid.

In the United States and the United Kingdom communities may sponsor competitive swimming leagues for children and teenagers, made up of swim teams. These leagues for the most part adhere to recognized swimming rules, swim the standard strokes, but swim shorter lengths as events in swim meets. These leagues are usually active in the warmer months, and are not directly associated with a national or world swim organization. However, swimmers who begin their competitive swimming experience on such a local swim team may go on to join a nationally-governed team.

In Australia such competition is usually conducted under the auspices of a club affiliated with the State Association which in turn is affiliated with Swimming Australia, the FINA accredited body. This provides a direct pathway to top level competition for those capable of taking it while still providing a more relaxed environment for those whose main intent is to have fun swimming competitively.