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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

Do you need a rest day between swimming sessions? I am swimming about 1000-1500 meters per morning 5 days a week. With weight training, it is suggested that you do not work same muscles on consecutive days. Is this the same for swimming?

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Swimming is like running and cycling in that it is an endurance exercise. Endurance exercises generally don't take the toll on your muscles that weight training does, so there aren't the same restrictions as weight training. Weight training is specifically geared towards building muscle; to do that requires that the muscles be stressed enough so that they create small tears. When the tears heal, the muscles become bigger (hypertrophy) and grow stronger. The real key to effective weight training is resting in between sessions to give the muscles time for the healing process to take place. Endurance exercises focus on the length of time a set of muscles can perform a particular function. On most days you don't create the kind of muscle tearing that weight training does, so there's not the same healing requirement. You're not swimming an excessive amount every day so doing it two days in a row shouldn't be a problem. Use common sense, however - if your muscles are sore after an especially hard swimming session, then you will need to take a day or two off because you have overworked your muscles and they do need healing. But if you feel fine after your swimming session and are not sore the next day, then you certainly can swim again. Also, if you weight train, on the days that you work out your upper body - chest, shoulders and/ or back - you may want to take the next day off from swimming, to let those muscles have their rest. And just a reminder - no matter what your form of exercise is, remember to stretch when you're done!

All that said, it might be a good idea to pick some other forms of exercise to alternate with your swimming sessions. Swimming primarily works the upper body. You should also give your lower body's muscles a workout occasionally. If your joints don't allow you to run, consider a more low-impact option such as the elliptical trainer. Brisk walking is also a good alternative, and doesn't have as much impact as running. It is never good to work out one set of muscles at the expense of the others. It creates a muscular imbalance that can set you up for injury and weaken your body as a whole over time. To maintain your fitness level you should have a variety of activities that you do on a regular basis. If you want your fitness level to progress, a varied exercise program is an absolute necessity.

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