You feel it the moment you enter thewater. Your heart pounds, your muscles contract, your lungs tighten up! Fortunately, that feeling doesn’t last for long. A few minutes later, you’ve moved beyond that initial hump of shock (and temperature change) and floated into a world where swimming freestyle is almost as comfortable as walking.
Water is nearly 800x denser than air, and as they say, a body in motion stays in motion! Beyond the simple inertia, what’s actually happening inside your body as you move through the water? Let’s dive in and find out!
Think of your body as a vessel. When you start your workout, every part of your body works together to move your vessel forward. Some body parts and energy systems work harder than others. Your heart will begin to beat faster to pump blood to your muscles, while your stomach will slow down because digestion is no longer a priority. When you’re exerting physical effort, your body tries to accomplish three main things:
The result of making all those things happens results in your body creating ATP, scientifically known as Adenosine Triphosphate. ATP is the basis of function of your body’s activity, and depending on what type of workout you do, your body will kick into one of three states:
• Phosphagen System • Glycogen System • Aerobic Respiration System
In this state, every one of your cells has enough ATP to last 5-15 seconds. During short-term, intense activities, a large amount of power needs to be produced by the muscles, creating a high demand for ATP
Example Swim Set:4 x 15m Bursts @ 2:00
Since 5-15 seconds of physical movement gets used up pretty quickly, your muscles also have a reserve called glycogen. Glycolysis is the predominant energy system used for all-out exercise lasting from 30 seconds to about 2 minutes and is the second-fastest way to resynthesize ATP.
Example Swim Set:4 x 100s Best Average @ 3:00
Aerobic Respiration System
After you’ve been swimming for about two minutes and your body realizes that you’re not stopping anytime soon, it goes into aerobic respiration and responds with oxygen. The aerobic system, which is dependent on oxygen, is the most complex of the three energy systems. The metabolic reactions that take place in the presence of oxygen are responsible for most of the cellular energy produced by the body. However, aerobic metabolism is the slowest way to resynthesize ATP.
Example Swim Set:10 x 200s Short Rest @ 2:30
Now knowing all of that, what is actually happening to the rest of your body when you start to swim?
Blood Blood flow increases as your body supplies additional blood cells to your rapidly beating heart.
Skin As you warm up, your body is trying its best to release heat. Your blood vessels dilate, bring heat towards the skin, and then release it. This is why your skin feels warm when you work out: It’s your body’s way of getting all the inner heat out. Some people’s faces (and bodies) turn red during a tough swim, signifying that heat is leaving the body.
Muscles In addition to calling on one of the previously mentioned systems to gain energy and ATP, your muscles also tear. But don’t worry — these are tiny “micro tears” that take a day or two to rebuild. The tears explain why your muscles feel sore, and the rebuilding is how they get stronger over time.
Lungs VO2 Max is a term you may have heard around the gym, and it represents the maximum amount of oxygen that a person can use. When you swim, your lungs work quickly to take in all the oxygen that your body requires. Over time, as you get more fit, your VO2 Max will be higher.
Heart Remember how working out for more than two minutes takes your body into aerobic respiration? This means that oxygen is needed throughout the whole body. As a result, your heart rate will increase to efficiently move the oxygen to your muscles.
Brain Your brain loves swimming. The extra blood and oxygen helps you become more alert, awake, and focused. It releases endorphin's, the “feel good” hormones in our body. There are some cool graphics that show how the brain literally lights up in more areas even after a 20-minute walk. The same thing happens when you swim!
A Stanford University student walks in front of Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif.
1. STANFORD UNIVERSITY
Stanford University is known for being a challenging school that provides students with one of the best educations in the country. In addition to top academics, Stanford also offers a top men’s water polo team. The team is part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and often finishes atop the standings. The team is full of dedicated members with a strong work ethic. At Stanford, student-athletes have their choice of majors. The affordable cost, high freshman retention and on-time graduation rates, make the university a good option for a men’s water polo prospect.
2. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The University of Southern California is a private research university with a reputation of offering top academic programs. USC also has one of the strongest men’s water polo programs in the U.S. The team is consistently competitive in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation along with national competition. USC men’s water polo has earned a total of nine national championships, including six straight from 2008-13. This highly competitive program is the top choice for outstanding athletes looking for the chance to play among the best.
3. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-LOS ANGELES
The University of California – Los Angeles is the first public university to top this list. Also a member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, men in this program have the opportunity to travel and compete against powerhouse teams. Due to the strength of the program, the Bruins have held their own, claiming the 2014 national championship, it’s ninth national title. Along with impressive athletics, UCLA also has some of the best academic programs in the country. Known for offering interdisciplinary programs aimed at developing well-rounded students, UCLA is an excellent choice. The high on-time graduation rate along with the large percentage of full-time faculty further demonstrate the quality of the education.
4. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA–BERKELEY
The University of California – Berkeley is another member of the University of California schools that makes this list. The Golden Bears are part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and battle in one of the toughest conferences against many top teams. The program has 35 conference championships and has produced 27 Olympians. In addition to having impressive athletics, UC Berkeley also has outstanding academics. Students are sure to receive a strong education and opportunity to participate in exciting research opportunities. Berkeley is a great option for any student thanks to the strong education offered at a low net price.
Dig deeper into College Factual’s men’s water polo rankings with this interactive tool
5. PEPPERDINE UNIVERSITY
Pepperdine University is a private school known for it’s excellent men’s water polo program. With 38 straight top-10 finishes, the program has a proven track record for excellence. The school attracts some of the top players from around the country and builds a competitive team in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The school also attracts some of the top students due to its positive academic reputation. The wide array of majors and concentrations ensure students and student-athletes alike are able to find a degree program that suits their interest.
6. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA–SANTA BARBARA
The University of California – Santa Barbara is another member of the University of California system to have a top 10 men’s water polo team. The team is also part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and plays against the fiercest competition in the country. Due to a strong coaching staff and dedicated athletes, the team has consistently finished among the top 10 teams in the country almost every season. In addition to having a top men’s water polo team, UC Santa Barbara also offers distinguished academic programs.
7. UNIVERSITY OF THE PACIFIC
The University of the Pacific is the oldest chartered university in the state and has a long history of providing a comprehensive education to its students. Along with a reputation for providing a strong education, Pacific is known for having one of the best men’s water polo teams in the country. Another team that is part of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, this team competes among the best in the states. Along with success in the pool, student-athletes are consistently recognized for their success in the classroom. Water polo players interested in joining a top team with strong values and a winning tradition should consider University of the Pacific.
8. BROWN UNIVERSITY
Brown slips into this list at #8 to show that you don’t have to live in California to be a great water polo player. In 2014, the Brown Bears claimed their first Collegiate Water Polo Association title since 1985, showing that they are a force to watch. In addition to being a solid school in which to hone your skills in the pool, Brown also is a powerhouse in terms of academic excellence.
9. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-IRVINE
Joining fellow UC campuses, the University of California – Irvine is another school that makes the list of best colleges for men’s water polo. Due to the impressive team, UC Irvine is a great option for water polo prospects. The program has a strong tradition of building a consistently good team due to the skill of the student-athletes. Athletes are recruited from around the world and many represent their native country in international competition. Students interested in attending an affordable school with top programs may want to consider UC Irvine. Student-athletes will be in a position to compete for national titles as they work towards their degrees.
10. LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY
Loyola Marymount University is a liberal arts university with a strong history of providing a quality education to its more than 6,000 students. With 60 undergraduate majors, students at LMU are always able to find a program of their interest. This school also has a top men’s water polo program. The young men have notably won multiple conference championships and made numerous NCAA appearances. The school recruits some of the best athletes to ensure they build a quality team. If you’re interested in earning a degree while competing on a winning water polo team, LMU might be for you.
This article comes from The USA TODAY College partner network. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of USA TODAY. You understand that we have no obligation to monitor any discussion forums, blogs, photo- or video-sharing pages, or other areas of the Site through which users can supply information or material. However, we reserve the right at all times, in our sole discretion, to screen content submitted by users and to edit, move, delete, and/or refuse to accept any content that in our judgment violates theseTerms of Serviceor is otherwise unacceptable or inappropriate, whether for legal or other reasons.