Endurance activities are just as much a test of wills as they are a test of physical prowess. As an athlete trains and starts to improve in their chosen endurance sport, their mental strength will increase as they learn to push themselves and their bodies further than they thought possible. This article will explain the physical and mental benefits of open water swimming, arguably one of the most difficult endurance activities to excel at.
Anaerobic respiration and lactic acid
While undergoing physical exertion, the muscles use large amounts of oxygen to convert glucose into energy. The body is able to provide the muscles with oxygen by absorbing it from the air using our lungs. This process is known as aerobic respiration. Unfortunately, aerobic respiration is rarely able to provide the muscles with all the oxygen they need to keep energy levels high.
Fortunately, the body is able to generate additional energy when required by using a process called anaerobic respiration. Oxygen is not required to carry out anaerobic respiration, which means that it can provide a great deal of energy in addition to aerobic respiration.
Unfortunately, the process of anaerobic respiration causes the build-up of an acidic substance known as ‘lactic acid’. Lactic acid is the substance responsible for the feelings of fatigue and aching in the muscles when performing the exercise.
While it may seem counterintuitive that the body produces such a damaging substance, lactic acid is actually quite important to prevent permanent muscle damage. If the muscles were to operate at a high level of stress for a prolonged period of time, they may become susceptible to permanent damage. Lactic acid ensures that the muscles are not able to operate at unsustainably high levels of stress for long periods of time, thereby reducing the change of permanent damage.
Battling through the lactic acid build-up
The build-up of lactic acid in the muscles causes an incredibly uncomfortable feeling. Fighting through this feeling requires a great deal of mental fortitude and mental endurance.
The most effective way to build up the mental strength needed to fight through the ills of lactic acid is to face it head-on by performing endurance activities for a prolonged period of time. This way, the mind will start to become stronger and more capable of pushing the body past its limits, even when facing the aches and pain caused by lactic acid build-up.
Building mental and physical strength through open water swimming
Open water swimming is an incredibly taxing physical activity. The entire body is worked heavily causing lactic acid build-up in virtually every muscle in the body.
Through open water swimming, the mind will be pushed to its limits as it learns to adapt to fight through the ills of lactic acid build-up. As the distances being covered while swimming in open waters increase, focus and concentration will improve as the mind learns how to better focus on the activity of open water swimming rather than the aches caused by lactic acid build-up.
Open water swimming also provides a number of physical benefits that can help any athlete. The muscles will become stronger, and the cardiovascular system will be improved as it becomes more adept at supplying the muscles with increased amounts of oxygen to keep the process of aerobic respiration going for longer periods of time.
The cold waters will also stimulate the release of hormones that can help to strengthen the immune system. Hormones known as endorphins that can help to improve moods and help reduce aches and pains will also be released during open water swimming.
Open water swimming is one of the toughest physical activities known to man. It greatly taxes the body and the mind, causing both to become stronger and more able. Once an athlete is able to endure the mental and physical tolls of open water swimming, other physical activities will feel easy in comparison.