Why Do You Swim?

My Swimming Question...

If you swim for fitness, recreation, competition, or just for fun, I have a question for you. What makes swimming fun for you? Why do you enjoy swimming? What is it about getting the water that brings you back again and again? I cannot answer that question for you, but I have some ideas on the answers. Most of us fall into multiple categories. My three main divisions are Fitness, Recreational, and Competitive swimming.

Fitness Swimming

If you swim for fitness, then the answer is you want to be healthy. You have found that swimming does things for you that make you feel good, and hopefully that improve your general well-being. You reap the benefits of a great exercise that is non-impact and gentle on the joints. It does require a certain amount of skill, but only as much as you want. You are probably not worried about swimming up and down the pool quickly, you just want to get in the exercise (not that you might want to be a faster swimmer, but that is probably not your primary concern).

You may have a special exercise or workout routine. Maybe you attend water aerobics, AquaZumba, or some other organized water exercise class, or maybe you do it on your own. Whatever it is, one of the reasons this type of swimmer goes into the water is to enjoy what it does to and for them; that is what makes it fun.

Recreational Swimming

Splash or no splash, recreational swimming is all about relaxation...

or maybe it is not, maybe it is about fun. Two different ends of the spectrum, one is floating, easy swimming, or sitting in the pool, and one is a lot more active.

Relaxing is what I think of as being more passive in and around the water (of course, you find relaxation out of the water, too). Maybe some movement (at least the getting in and out of the water parts) but mostly non-motion or very easy, very slow motions.

It might be going in the water to cool off on a hot day, to sit in a hut tub to sooth the mind and body, or you may just enjoy the feeling of weightlessness that can be found when you get in the water. Not a lot of action, not a lot of wave making. It might even be sitting next to the pool, on the deck, or sitting on the beach, enjoying the sights and sounds around the water. Using the water for relaxing makes this kind of swimmer feel better.

The opposite end of relaxation is what I am calling fun. Of course, anything can be enjoyed and could be called fun, but in this case, I mean action. Swishing your child around and around in the water. Using diving boards and water slides - maybe even a water park! Playing games in the water. Racing a friend, relative, offspring, or sibling across the pool for bragging rights. All things that are action oriented. This kind of swimming is what I think of as playing in the water. All things that people do for fun and excitement. This kind of swimmer enjoys the action, the activity in and around the water.


Swimming to be faster, to either get a best time or to beat others is competitive swimming. The swimmer against the clock and against other swimmers.

It might be in the pool, open water, triathlons, aquathlons, or even things like water polo and synchronized swimming. These are all competitions, and they involve wining, losing, or being better than someone or something.

This type of swimmer spends a good deal of time working out or practicing the elements that make them better. Increasing fitness and technical skills are key to being a successful competitive swimmer. Swimmers workouts help them to improve fitness, and help them improve swimming technique. While doing these workouts, some swimmers will "zone out" for a while, and actually find a level of relaxation during a workout that might be hard to believe. Swimmers also play games in their minds during workouts (as opposed to mind games with other swimmers - those go on as well), racing others, real or imagined, up and down the pool among other things.

This kind of swimmer enjoys the action, the feeling, and the emotions of racing, of improving, of testing themselves in the water.

No matter what kind of swimmer you are, you can enjoy the water. Not a great swimmer but want to get better? It takes some time and effort, but it is not as hard as you might think to teach yourself to swim. Get in the water, do nothing or do something, but be sure you enjoy it. Swim once in a while or swim often, how often you swim is up to you and up to why you do it.

Swim on!

Updated by Dr. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS on January 31st, 2016.