It’s high time you took your workout underwater. Not only are there a variety of workouts you can perform in the pool, but there are also some pretty amazing benefits: swimming is easier on your joints than working out on land, water provides constant resistance to increase tone, and swimming increases cardiovascular fitness. On top of that, the water keeps you cool and masks sweat (buh-bye smelly armpits)! To help you get started, we’ve created this beginner’s guide chock full of proper swimming techniques and tips. Grab your goggles, swim cap and one-piece and dive on in.
Typical Pool Length: 25 meters
Olympic Pool Length: 50 meters
Lap: Down one pool length and back
Flutter kick: Small, quick kicks preformed continuously
Pull: Using your arms to propel you through the water, allowing your legs to drag
Freestyle: The most basic swimming stroke. Keep your face down in the water and maintain a small kick as you alternate pulling with your arms (you should have a small, white wake around your feet). When swimming freestyle, look down and don’t let your hips or feet sink to avoid drag. With each stroke, turn your hips as your arm leaves and reenters the water. Cup your hands to pull the water towards you and keep your elbow high while you pull your arm back. Keep breathing, and find your rhythm–you’re doing great.
Backstroke: The backstroke takes all the elements of freestyle and turns them over. Perform the same kicking motion and arm pulls, but this time, belly up! No need to worry about when to breathe with the backstroke.
Sidestroke: The sidestroke is somewhere between freestyle and backstroke. Swim on your side and bring both arms into your chest, and then push with the submerged arm and bring your other arm parallel to the surface of the water. In this stroke, continue to flutter kick with an extra burst of energy when you propel yourself forward with your arms.
Once you’ve mastered these strokes, go ahead and check out the other strokes (Breaststroke and Butterfly), but start with these building blocks before you try to get too fancy.
Don’t Forget!: Before you begin, remember two things: keep that form up and don’t forget to breathe. Breathe regularly and “bilaterally” (meaning alternate breathing on the right and the left). Don’t lift your whole head out of the water to take a breath, just turn your head to the side as you bring your arm out of the water, and put your head back into the water as your hand enters the pool. When you begin to grow tired, don’t let your form slack–it will lead to a less efficient workout and more potential for injury.
Pace: For reference, a good starting speed is 2 minutes for a 100 meters. If you’re not there yet, don’t sweat it (not that we’d be able to tell in the water); just keep swimming and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish over time.
Warm Up and Cool Down: To warm up before getting in the water, shrug your shoulders, do some arm rotations and light leg stretches. Swim a couple of laps and then get going: you’re ready to make them eat your bubbles. Once you’re finished, swim a few more laps (nice ‘n’ easy) to bring your heart rate back down. This will help prevent injury.
Injury: Swimming is one of the lowest-impact activities out there. The biggest risk of injury comes from competitive swimming and not listening when your body says to stop, but all swimmers should watch out for micro tears in the shoulder muscles and stop if there’s any pain around the rotator cuff. If you keep your form on point, don’t overdo it and strengthen that core, it’s highly unlikely that you will end up injured due to swimming.
What You’ll Need:
Swim Cap: We promise, it’s worth it. Perhaps swim caps aren’t the most attractive workout attire, but they will keep your hair out of your face and reduce drag.
Swim Suit: Put that bikini away and invest in a tie-less one piece. You can purchase a real deal competitive suit, but the most important thing is to have a suit that won’t come undone when you’re swimming hard.
Goggles: Protect your eyes from chlorine and protect your head from hitting the end of the pool. Goggles are a must for every swimmer.
Water Bottle: Just because you’re in the water doesn’t mean you can’t become severely dehydrated. It’s a bit harder to tell just how much you’re sweating in a pool than it is on the land, so make sure to come prepared with lots of water.
Sunscreen: If you’re swimming outside, don’t forget to lather up! Even on cloudy days, it’s imperative to protect your skin.
1. Basic Laps: There’s more out there than just lap swimming, but if you’re sore from other workouts or just starting out, laps are the best way to go. The best thing to do for sore muscles is to keep blood flowing to them via slow, steady state cardiovascular workouts. Try setting a time goal and counting how many laps you can swim in 20, 30 or 60 minutes. Keep at it and you’ll be amazed how much faster and stronger you become.
2. Beginner’s Intervals: Ready to mix it up? Rather than doing the same stroke steadily for a set amount of time, try this workout from Fitness Magazine. It incorporates different kinds of swimming strokes at different levels of intensity–oh, and you’ll need that kickboard.
Have this one down? Check out these 10 workouts for beginner swimmers.
3. Aerobics class : While water aerobics are great options for older folks, we promise they’re good for you at any age. Your local YMCA, gym or swimming pool likely offers classes that can help you tone and strengthen in the water. It’s the best way to give your joints a break while keeping those muscles strong.