Fort Bliss, Texas – Soldiers from Fort Bliss received a week-long swim lesson from September 19-23 from a pro at the facility’s Aquatics Training Center.

The Fort Bliss Holistic Health and Fitness Team hosted this training to increase Soldiers’ knowledge of proper swimming techniques and to demonstrate the benefits that physical training in the pool, when done correctly, can have on physical readiness.

While there are jobs that give soldiers the opportunity to travel the oceans, lakes, and rivers, the Army is primarily a ground force not known for its ability to conduct operations on the water. So why should soldiers learn to swim?

“Being in the water can help us do better on our missions on land so we can recover faster,” said Jeff Utsch, a tactical swimming instructor. “[Swimming] can be a career booster, extend careers, increase uptime, expand skills and other things.”

Utsch says that with the right technique, a person can get in a pool and work as hard as possible to maximize their heart rate, but recover from the effort more quickly.

“As we get older it gets harder to do those jerks and runs because our bodies start to get tired,” he said. “We bring in people who might have a hip injury or who can’t run as fast or who are in pain, but swimming with the right technique can keep them fit without causing additional damage.”

Utsch stressed that the first rule of swimming is do no harm, and for that people need to use the right techniques.

“Too many people get in the pool and don’t know what to do or how to swim, so they just stay out of the water,” he said. “When they go into the water, they just find it boring. The laps are too strenuous, so why at all?”

Utsch’s goal is to teach the skills for proper technique to avoid injury and then to expand the soldiers’ minds about what being in the water can do for them.

“There’s a lot of research out there from Indiana University Bloomington’s Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming about all the benefits of swimming, like just getting in the water and what it does to our blood pressure,” he said. “They did a 40 or 50 year study of runners, walkers and swimmers. The benefits of getting in the water and what it means for quality of life, longevity and most importantly health.”

Health is just one of the benefits of water activities, he says.

“We have recovery, rehabilitation, off-season conditioning, in-season conditioning, alternative weight loss training, training for all the energy systems that you can do in the water when you’re too tired to do it on land,” Utsch said. “There really are extra arrows in the quiver, extra tools in the toolbox that not enough people are using.”

He added that many older athletes like Tom Brady use water training to prolong their ability to compete.

“Rather than tightening things up, we need to work more on stretching our muscles to keep them younger, especially as we age,” Utsch said. “Swimming can be a kind of antidote to tightening, aging and less flexibility.”

This training isn’t just for athletes or military personnel, anyone can benefit from learning these skills, he said.

“I’ve taught people who can’t get off the bottom of the pool and are afraid to get all the way to Olympic swimmers,” he said. “You’ll both benefit.”

A soldier learned a great deal about his own abilities during training.

“I think I’ve learned a lot,” said Sgt. Christopher Higgins, a health specialist with 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team. “I thought I was a good swimmer, but this course taught me that I’m really not as good as I thought I was.”

Higgins hopes to see more of this type of training and would like it to be added for the restoration or overhaul of physical training for Soldiers who need it.

“Workouts are always looking for things that don’t walk and jerk or push-ups and sit-ups, and this is one of those things that, when done right, is just as effective, if not more effective,” Higgins said. “Even if you have injured soldiers, you can still involve them in a swim.”

Utsch, who works primarily with the Navy, said this is the first time he has worked with army soldiers. He does this training to give back and connect with great men and women with patriotic spirit.

“If the Army introduced a swimming program, it would lengthen careers. There would be fewer injuries, faster recovery from injuries, fitter soldiers and overall it would improve the capabilities of our armed forces,” he said. “We have shown how this can extend the careers of great athletes, especially when they supplement their training with swimming.”

He explained that by creating good swimmers we will lead to fitter soldiers as evidence shows that people who enter the water are healthier and have greater physical endurance.

Soldiers should contact their holistic health and fitness instructors for more information on what swimming can do for their units.

Date of recording: 09/20/2022
Release Date: 23.09.2022 10:21
Story ID: 429830

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