Swimming is the movement of the body through water using arms and legs. Most of the time equipment is not used. People swim for exercise, for fun, and as a sport. People can swim in the sea, swimming pools, rivers and lakes. There are several styles of swimming, known as "strokes", including: breaststroke, freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke are some of them. Many schools use swimming as a physical training exercise.
Swimming works all the muscles simultaneously. It is impact free. It also builds up stamina. The goal of competitive swimming is to improve speed, and to beat other competitors in events. Some professional swimmers, who do not hold a national or world ranking, are considered the best because of their technical skills. An athlete goes through several stages of training. At the beginning, the body is overloaded with work. The workload becomes less closer to the date of the competition. This final stage is often referred to as "shave and taper"; the swimmer tapering downs his or her workload to be able to perform at their optimal level. At the end of this stage, before competition, the swimmer shaves off all exposed hair and dead skin. Often confused within shaving, swimmers shave to rid the skin of dead skin cells to expose sensitive skin to the water. The effect of shaving is a decrease in drag from hair and an increase in the sensation of "feeling" the water. Women who are menstruating may also use tampons rather than pads.
There are several styles in swimming. Some of them are:
- Front crawl: Fastest and most efficient technique; also called freestyle, because swimmers use it in freestyle events.
- Backstroke: Only stroke that is swum on the back with the swimmer looking up; uses the same flutter kick as crawl.
- Breaststroke: One of the easiest and most relaxing strokes for novices; competitive swimmers find it difficult because it uses more energy when swum at a fast pace.
- Butterfly: Powerful and fast; relies on good technique; uses the dolphin kick; the hardest and least popular stroke.
Sometimes equipment is used when swimming, and can include:
- Fins: rubber or plastic and are worn on the foot.
- Kickboard: keeps the upper body afloat; allows the swimmer to concentrate on kicking correctly
- Pull buoy: foam float that swimmers hold between their thighs to keep the lower body high and flat; helps to learn the arm & upper body movements
- Aquatic locomotion deals with animals swimming.