Is A Morning Swim Good For You? (The Pros & Cons)


swimming at sunrise

A morning swim can be one of the most refreshing and life-changing activities you can do if you can make it part of your daily routine.

A morning swim has excellent health benefits and can be great for your overall health. From burning the most amount of calories to creating endorphins that last for hours, there are excellent physical and mental health benefits to swimming in the morning.

Early morning swims are not just for competitive swimmers or high-performance athletes. Every day, millions of individuals get up early to feel the benefits of the morning water.

In this article I am going to look at:

  • Is a morning swim good for you? (The Pros and Cons)
  • The mental health benefits of morning swimming
  • How can I get motivated to swim in the morning? (Handy Tips)
  • Morning Larks vs Night Owls – Is a morning swim for me?

Is Morning Swimming Good For You?

As someone who has had a long-term morning swimming routine, I can testify to the benefits of swimming in the morning.

A morning swim routine is not easy at the beginning. Getting out of bed is difficult on a cold and wet day, however, it is certainly worth the effort if you can push through the first 30 minutes of morning grogginess.

With time, I found the habit easier to keep to until I reached a point where I would wake up and my body would look forward to and expect a swim.

The Pros Of A Morning Swim

1 – Lots Of Energy

Many people who swim first thing in the morning report having excellent energy throughout the day.

When I first started morning swimming, I expected myself to be exhausted for the day. However, after a morning swim, I am bursting with energy for the rest of the day.

In particular, it seems to do wonders for my brain and removes that terrible “brain fog” that so much of us experience regularly.

It is true that exercising gives you more energy. According to science, cellular changes take place when you exercise. [source]

When you exercise, you produce mitochondria, which creates fuel from the glucose in your food. More mitochondria mean more energy for your body.

In addition, a swim will increase oxygen circulation in the body, which will result in your body using energy more efficiently.

With all the energy-boosting benefits of exercise, starting with a swim is a great way to kick off the day.

2 – A Happy Mood High

There have been many scientific studies done that link exercise with mood-boosting chemicals that are released in the body, resulting in a good mood for the day.

Exercise releases chemicals such as endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline, and endocannabinoids, which are chemicals associated with reduced anxiety, feeling happy and positivity. [source]

Runners talk about the “runners high”, which is a feeling of euphoria experienced after an intense run. Although I have never experienced the “runners high” personally, I have regularly experienced an intense feel-good high after a swim, which I guess we could call the “swimmers high”. [source]

I find that this feel-good “swimmer’s high” lasts for hours and I can feel confident and calm for most of the day.

Although there is constantly new research being completed on the mood benefits of exercise, how this “swimmer’s high” actually happens and the long-term positive transformation exercise has on the brain, [source], all the scientific research agree that exercise has a positive and mood-boosting effect on our bodies and mental health. [source]

3 – Beat The Rush Hour Traffic

One of my key incentives when I first started swimming every morning was to beat the rush hour traffic.

Before I started swimming in the mornings, I would leave for work late and sit in traffic for over an hour. That is not a fun way to start the day.

I sat down with a pen and paper and worked out that by leaving the house an hour earlier, I would beat the rush hour traffic, and end up with only a 25minute commute, meaning I could gain an hour swim every day.

This did wonders to increase my quality of life, my physical health, and my mental health.

If you find your mornings stolen by a commute, then consider a rethink and a gentle swim. It could dramatically improve your quality of life.

4 – Feeling Of Strength

I always feel physically strong after a morning swim.

Personally, I put this down to feeling invigorated from the water, however, science tells us we can feel strong after a high-intensity workout because of a rise in our testosterone levels. [source]

Although most of these testosterone studies focused on men, a 2001 study of women found that resistance training can have a temporary testosterone increase and an impact on fat distribution. [source]

Not everyone will use their morning swim as a high-intensity workout, and not everyone will experience a rise in testosterone levels, but, whether testosterone-related or not, there is a widely reported feeling of strength and empowerment after a morning swim.

5 – Mental Space

A morning swim is a perfect time to plan your day and get control of your thoughts.

The great thing about a morning swim is that your body has “something to do” so your brain is engaged, but your mind is free to wander.

I like to use my morning swim as a time to clear and organise my thoughts for the day.

In addition, getting up to swim can be wonderful for your mental health, particularly if you need some “me time”.

I recall reading excellent advice that really helped my mental health and helped me put my day into perspective. I wish I could give credit, but I cannot recall the source. started

Here is what I learned: If you are getting up to go to a job or must do something you dislike, claim back your mornings. Do not get up and just go to work. Do something in the morning that you enjoy before work, so you are getting up for the thing you love, not the thing you hate.

I love swimming and started my day doing the thing I love.

After a morning swim my head is clear, I feel great, and I am ready to take on the day.

The Cons Of A Morning Swim

1 – Sleep Deprivation

Getting up early every morning can take its toll.

Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep a night [source], so if you are losing out on sleep as you want to get to the pool extra early, you might become sleep deprived over the week.

2 – Lack Of Motivation In The Morning

There are many factors that might influence our motivation to get out of bed in the morning.

From minor things such as it being a little on the cold side to more serious issues such as stress in our lives, if you suffer from a lack of motivation in the morning, a morning swim can feel more like a challenge than a treat.

3 – Bad Hair Days

Before I discovered chlorine removal shampoos, I used to have a bad hair day after a morning swim.

The chlorine would dry out my hair, and the rush to get changed to get to my desk on time meant I would be left with frizzy and dull-looking hair.

The Mental Health Benefits of Morning Swimming

1 – Sunlight

According to research, sunlight improves mood and can help reduce anxiety and depression.

With exposure to sunlight, it is widely believed that the hormone serotonin will increase in our brains, which will help regulate our mood. [source]

Although a lot of swimming pools are indoors, many can have good natural lighting. In addition, just getting up in the morning sun and travelling to the pool will expose you to the happy morning sun.

2 – Get Some “You Time”

Before I used to swim in the morning, I hated that my mornings were all about work; I only got up to go to work.

Swimming gave me the opportunity to see swimming as “my time.” I was getting up to swim.

Is Surfing a Good Workout?
Is Surfing a Good Workout?

Taking a gentle swim in the morning can help relax your brain and get some quality thinking time in to clear your thoughts and unwind.

3 – Feeling Restored

Exercise is great to help you feel restored and alert in the morning.

Exercise will increase blood flow around your body, which over time will improve your cardiovascular fitness. After a gentle morning swim, your muscles feel stretched and flexible.

4 – Controlled Breathing

For me, swimming feels like water yoga or a floating meditation.

When you swim laps and wish to swim for a longer time, you must control your breathing to do so.

Your coordination and breath timing must be in sync. Focusing on my breathing as I swim can calm my mind and help me organise my thoughts.

5 – Social Meets

Many believe that swimming is a solo and individual sport, but this is not true.

Swimming can be a very social activity, particularly if you join a swim club or a swim class.

Even if you are an introvert like me, if you take a regular morning swim, you will soon get to recognise familiar faces in the pool and, perhaps with time, start to talk to your fellow early morning risers.

How Can I Get Motivated To Swim In The Morning?

Handy Tips To Get To The Pool In The Morning

Getting up to swim in the morning can sound fantastic in principle but is very difficult in practice, particularly if you like the comfort of your bed!

One of the best steps you can take to get yourself out of bed and into the pool is to place as few obstacles as possible between yourself and the pool.

1 – Pack Your Swim Kit The Night Before

The least amount of searching for clothes and swim kit you do in the morning the better.

If you pack your swim kit the night before, in the morning you should be able to “grab and go”, ensuring that you get out the door easily and smoothly.

2 – Lay Your Clothes Out

Preparing your clothes the night before so you know exactly what you will wear is important to help you get out the door to swim.

First, by laying out your clothes the night before, you will have a mental image of what you will do the next morning. This visualisation of what you will wear on the way to the pool will make it easier for your body to get out of bed and transition to actually doing it.

Second, knowing what you are wearing and having it ready will speed up your morning, making it smooth and efficient, reducing obstacles between you and the pool.

3 – Prepare Your Morning Drinks

To help get me out of bed in the morning to swim, I will plan my morning drinks in advance and have everything ready so I can just turn on the kettle, grab a coffee and run.

I will also leave out any water bottles that I am taking, ready to be filled.

Again, this idea comes back to reducing the number of obstacles and decisions you have to make in the morning.

You want to get out of bed, glide through the house and get out the door to the pool.

4 – Plan A Tasty Breakfast For After Your Swim

To motivate me to swim in the mornings and to get myself excited about the day, I will often plan a tasty breakfast for after my swim.

To make this extra special and break up the week, I might even treat myself to breakfast out on a Monday morning. This is a lovely and fun start to the week and can get you excited and motivated to make a swimming routine part of your day.

5 – Visualise Your Workout

In order to motivate yourself to swim, it can help to visualise your morning swim the night before.

Will you be doing drills? Pool laps? Aqua aerobics? A gentle swim? – Whatever your plan is, it can help to visualise it and think it through to help motivate yourself to get up and get out the door to the pool.

Once your brain knows what it is going to do, doing it is much easier.

6 – Treat Yourself To New Kit

When I get myself a new piece of swim kit, be it a swim cap, goggles, swimsuit or training aid, I cannot wait to get into the pool to try it out!

I appreciate that not everyone is so motivated by new things, but if you are, you can use this motivation to your advantage and get yourself some new swim gear to get excited about your morning swim.

7 – Keep A Swimlog

Keeping track of your swimming progress can be very motivating to help you get out of bed in the morning.

A simple swim log that documents how much you swim in a week, or distances you covered, or what exercises you did is a nice way to keep track of your progress.

If you swim 5 days a week, even doing gentle swimming, you will be amazed at how many miles you can swim!

Once you see the distances ticking up, it can be very motivating to keep you going.

Morning Larks Vs Night Owls – Is A Morning Swim For Me?

If you are struggling to get up in the morning, you might not be a morning person.

You may have heard the term “morning larks” and “night owls” used by medical professionals to help us understand that some people have lots of energy in the morning (larks), while others find they have lots more energy in the evening (owls).

According to Dr Simon Archer, Professor of Molecular Biology of Sleep at the University of Surrey, we all have genetic markers and all experience sleep loss in different ways. [source]

If you wake up bright and cheerful before 7 am, fall asleep swiftly at 10 pm, and consider yourself a morning person, then you are most probably a lark and a morning swim will be much easier to get up and do as it is your natural genetic tendency to be active in the morning.

On the other hand, if you like to sleep in until 11 am, cannot get up early unless the alarm drags you out of bed and you find you don’t need food until later in the day, then you are probably a natural night owl and a morning swim will be incredibly difficult for you to do as mornings are not your time of day.

If you are an owl yet determined to swim, there is a way to switch from being a night owl to a morning lark, according to Dr Michael Mosley, author of Fast Asleep: How to get a really good night’s rest.

Sleep is a complex process and if you are determined to be a morning swimmer and shift from “night owl” to “morning lark” check out his book, Fast Asleep: How to get a really good night’s rest

This book explains how night owls successfully shifted their body clocks over three weeks to wake up two hours earlier each day. I would summarise here, but you need the book to do this correctly and not mess up your sleep patterns.

If you are naturally a morning lark, however, you will love a morning swim, as it will be much easier for you!

Louise Byrne

Hi, I am Louise and I am obsessed with swimming. I spend my free time in the water or getting ready for my next water adventure.

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