Fatigue is something many professional athletes have to deal with at one point or another. For swimmers, fatigue poses more dangers than any other form of sports or exercising. Drowning can occur even in a pool, or even hours after leaving it (the so-called dry drowning, when water has entered the lungs and prevents the oxygen exchange at cell level).

How Do You Recognise the Symptoms of Swimming Fatigue?

This is why both swimmers (professionals and amateurs) and swimming coaches need to treat fatigue as a very serious issue. It is important to recognise its first signs and prevent it from becoming chronic or advanced, with even higher dangers and risks for the swimmer. Most swimmers describe the onset of fatigue as the sense of making no progress, although their arms and legs are moving.

The next symptom is the feeling of dead weight in the arms and legs. It becomes increasingly harder to maintain the stroke and swimming style, and the regular breathing is replaced by deep, irregular gasps. This is the source of risk – when the swimmer starts gasping and potentially aspirating water together with the air into the lungs.

The problem connected with dealing with swimming fatigue is that people with a strong competitive spirit may be tempted to push on, ignore their initial symptoms and get over the difficult moment. However, this is a clear path towards disaster. Here is the correct and safe way to deal with swimming fatigue:

  1. Do Not Fight Fire with Fire

In other words, if you feel weak, tired and unable to sustain effort, do not try to swim faster, harder and longer. Even if you are mentally motivated to get over the weak moment, this is a serious signal sent by your body. Listen to it and slow down, get within a safe distance to the shore or the edge of the swimming pool and, if necessary, take a break from swimming and get out of the water.

  1. Vary Your Swimming Style

Fatigue may be caused in some situations by using a single type of stroke for a long time. Remember that each swimming style will exercise different muscle groups. When you are exercising the same groups of muscles for a long time, they will use up their reserve of glycogel and become fatigued.

Also, certain swimming styles, such as on your back, allow you to breathe more freely and easier, and thus achieve the optimal intake of air with each breath.

  1. Switch Stroke Intensity from Arms to Legs

Some swimmers will use their arms more than their legs, even in swimming styles when both sets of limbs are required to work at the same pace. It is time to give up your “secret stroke” when the supplementary effort is doing you no favours and causing you to feel fatigued.

  1. Practice Mental Relaxation

One of the secondary dangers of fatigue is getting into a state of mental panic or frenzy. Learn how to achieve mental relaxation, maintain a clear mindset and find the solutions which will get you out of the danger zone. Maybe you need to stop. Maybe you need to breathe in a steady fashion. Or maybe you need to enjoy swimming for itself, and let go of your competitive side.

  1. Take Advantage of the Gliding Effect

With each stroke, your body cuts through water and glides effortlessly. You should take advantage of that. Allowing your body to glide saves you effort – and every bit of energy you can save matters in the water. Test various strokes and discover the ones which allow you to glide for the longest distance, without supplementary effort from you.

In the end, remember that the first rule in swimming fatigue is this: do not ignore it, it will not go away by itself. Instead, learn how to minimise its effects by allowing your body to recover and your mind to stay clear and focussed.