There are any numbers of cross training activities that can be beneficial to swimmers. Indeed, swimming is a very favorable cross training activity for many other types of athletes! But we digress...
Many swimmers currently do some sort of dry land training which may incorporate anything from basic calisthenics at home to more detailed lifting programs in a gym to spin classes to gymnastics to yoga to tai chi and other forms of martial arts to boxing. The list is nearly endless.
If the activity does any of the following it probably has merit:
Promotes basic strength
Develops any type of core muscles
Has any cardio element to it
Safely promotes risk taking
We know lots of swimmers who bike, run, hike, rock climb and box in addition to the more standard (still enormously beneficial) weight lifting.
Here in northern California we have some on our team who love to surf. This option is not available in many locales but for those who have access we would ask you to consider it. We even go as far as giving those who surf a regular pool workout off so long as they go to the ocean.
In our minds surfing has excellent value. It is water based and as such it still places a premium on figuring out how your body works best in the water. It often demands super strength in the upper body to get the board out into position. When you catch the wave it presents all sorts of timing issues which is great for swimmers working on coordination in the water. Then when you stand up on the board all sorts of core muscles are being recruited.
Perhaps the quality we like best though is the one involving choice and risk. Every day the ocean is different such that you never really know if what you expect is what you will find. That is very much like many swim workouts and races...you never really know what you are up against until you engage. The icing on the cake in surfing is that once you are there and get a "read" on the scene it still changes! One minute you are looking at riding 4 footers and then along comes a 6 or 7 footer and everything immediately and without warning changes. If you look over your shoulder expecting a 4 footer and are faced with a 6 or 7 footer you are faced with a decision that must be made NOW. Are you willing to attempt riding it? And if so, what do you need to do to be successful?
Competitive swimmers often face instantaneous decision making. How well you respond often determines how successful you are. You had a great prelim swim and now you are in the finals - often unexpectedly. You are racing a well known competitor and suddenly she/he makes a move that is not expected thereby catching you off guard. How will you react and how well will you handle the unknown?
To our way of thinking, surfing presents you with a chance to practice all these skills. For that reason alone it is a favorite cross training activity in our book. If you have ever surfed and have a story to tell, let us know. We would love to share it with the swimcoachdirect community. Have a great week!