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keep on swimming, keep on swimming

December 15, 2007

Today I cleaned my apartment, washed six loads of laundry and worked out at my town gym. Everything I did was without pause, no breaks unless otherwise noted.

What I did:

  • 12 laps freestyle swimming
  • Break (had to dry off)
  • 10 hand stand push ups
  • 10 Hamstrings – 20 kilos
  • 10 lead leg snap kicks – both legs
  • 10 Hamstrings – 22.5 kilos
  • 10 lead leg snap kicks – both legs
  • Break
  • 30 sec bridge
  • 20 upas – 10 slow, 10 fast – both sides
  • Break
  • 8 lunges – 16 kilos
  • 8 shots – slow then fast
  • 20 neck curls
  • Repeat the above three exercises
  • Break
  • 10 balance ball clap push ups
  • “6” medicine ball pylo push ups – 6 each side, 12 altogether
  • 10 medicine ball slams – 2 kilos
  • Repeat the above three exercises
  • Break
  • 1 min sprint jump rope
  • 20 meter farmer’s carry – 12.5 kilos
  • Repeat the above two exercises 2x

My gym is not very big but it’s decent. I have no access to kettleballs or barbells or free weights. The gym only has dumbells up to 12.5 kilos and old school looking weight lifting machines. We have eight stationary bikes and two treadmills. A small dance studio room and the saving grace of the gym – an eight lane swimming pool.

It was the pool that made me sign up.

Today I wanted to swim for ten minutes straight but it’s been months since I last swam and the muscles were complaining after not using them in that way for so long. I stopped after three laps, did a little stretch and swam for three more. Then stopped again and was amazed at how out of shape I was (swimming wise) and then cracked out the last six laps non-stop.

Now this is my own opinion on the matter but I believe swimming to be the best form of cardio training for BJJ besides BJJ. Why is swimming the best? What about running?

Well, let me address running first. Running is bad on the knees. It’s high impact. And because of the very nature of BJJ we already submit all our joints to other forms of pressure. We don’t need extra. We don’t need to cause more damage to our body when we’re working on our conditioning. Also running just works the lower body. We use the whole body in BJJ not just the legs. Why use an exercise that benefits only half of the body? So, running is a waste of time in my book.

Swimming on the other hand is low impact. Can’t get much lower impact than water. Also swimming requires the entire body. Arms as well as the legs. And then there are two other points that swimming has over running. When someone runs they can cut corners – this means that the body movement of someone sprinting is not the same as the body movement as someone jogging. Both are forms of running at different speeds with different movements. Swimming is the exactly the same body movement at any speed. Like rolling at different speed in BJJ, the movements are the same, no cutting corners. So swimming takes advantage of full body motion much like BJJ does whether you’re on cruise control or going full tilt.

Finally, swimming helps you to control your breathing. Very important in jiu-jitsu. Especially in sparring. When I run I like to take two quick deep breaths in through my nose and exhale out my mouth, and I can dictate the pace of my breathing. When I swim I can’t dictate my breathing, the water does. I’m allowed one breath then my head goes under, I exhale slowly while under and when I pull my head back up I have time for only one breath again. Swimming teaches me to relax and wait for the opportunity to breathe. In this respect, BJJ’s much more compassionate. If I’m tense and don’t relax and use up all my energy and oxygen in jiu-jitsu I just get tapped. If I don’t relax, spend way too much oxygen when I’m swimming, I drown.

Of course not everyone has access to a pool. I mean I haven’t been to the pool that often and my training’s been off and on – and I haven’t really gone hard with the guys I train – so how do I work on my conditioning? That’s something I’ll address for next time.

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