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Swimming For A Workout: A Beginner’s Guide

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We have a great guest post today on swimming for a workout from Hayden Stewart, a public relations specialist for Orange Theory Fitness. He regularly produces content for a variety of fitness and health blogs centered around overcoming the physical and mental obstacles to living a healthier life. Enjoy!

swimming for a workout

While most people like to swim recreationally, not many consider swimming as a means of working out. Yet, swimming can be an excellent way to burn calories, build muscle and endurance.

Since swimming has less impact on the joints compared to other exercises that utilize running or jumping, it is easier on the body too. Before diving into a swim workout though there are a few things to keep in mind. Prepping effectively can lead to a better swim workout and overall experience.

The Facilities

It would be nice to have a private lap pool right in the backyard, but most swimmers have to venture to some facility to endeavor their workout. If you don't already belong to a health club that has a pool, a good place to start is a local community pool. It is usually less expensive to go this route and most community pools have lap swimming.

On that note, it is important to plan your workout during lap swim times. Most pools have set times for swim lessons, lap swimming, leisure swimming, and maybe swim teams practices, so it is important to plan accordingly.

Dressing for Success

Every sport has ideal attire that should be worn for optimal performance; for swimming, that obviously means a swimsuit. But there are some swimsuits that are better than others.  Wearing a suit that isn't form-fitted or has too much material makes it more difficult to glide through the water.

It is also essential to have a trusty pair of goggles that will continually keep the water out of the eyes.  Many sporting good stores will have a rack of goggles that vary in style and price.  If you are starting out you may want to consider purchasing a couple of different styles to see which type you are more comfortable in.

Owning a swim cap is also beneficial. While this is especially true for those with longer hair, even those with short hair may want to keep one handy. Frequent exposure to chlorinated water can dry out hair and can alter the color of dyed hair.

Finally, don't forget to tote along a water bottle. Even though it may feel cooler being immersed in water, swimmers still sweat. Hence, it possible to get dehydrated during a swim if you don't drink water periodically.

Even though the above-mentioned items are key for every swim workout, some swimmers like to incorporate various tools into their workouts. These devices can help strengthen certain muscle groups and can add variation into a workout.

Some tools that can be integrated are as follows: kickboard, pull buoy, paddles, and flippers. After feeling comfortable with swimming as a form of exercise, using these devices are an effective way to alter a workout routine.

Warming Up

Just like runners don't start sprinting right after lacing up their shoes, swimmers shouldn't swim as fast as they can upon jumping into the water. It's important to stretch beforehand and warm up before doing any exercise.

Since the shoulders are greatly used in swimming, it is imperative to warm up these muscles. Stretching the arms overhead for 15 seconds or so can help loosen them. Likewise, gently pulling each arm across the chest for a few counts is another way to prep the upper body.

After sliding into the pool, it's best to start out swimming slowly. It takes a few laps to get the body used to the water, regulate breathing, and get into a rhythm. When swimming those first few laps, concentrate on elongating the arms, keeping the legs straight, and keeping the body streamlined.

The Workout

As a novice swimmer, it is better to focus on form and developing endurance, rather than building speed. As odd as this may sound, it may be beneficial to practice the form of whatever stroke you are going to attempt outside of the water while standing up or lying on your stomach.

Understanding the right form for your stroke can significantly reduce friction and help you move more freely through the water, therefore straining your muscles less and allowing for more energy and more time working out. If your body hasn't had a lot of cardio-based activity, a beginning workout might be swimming freestyle (front crawl) four laps non-stop and then taking a minute or two break.

Repeating this pattern for 30 minutes or so, a couple times a week, can help build endurance. Those with more endurance may want to swim for longer stretches of time and incorporate some of the other strokes such as breaststroke, backstroke, and butterfly.

Thanks to the Internet, there are numerous websites that can assist swimmers at any level to develop solid workouts and improve their form. With most things in life, more practice leads to better performance; and this certainly applies to swimming. Swimming consistently and using a variation of appropriate workouts will result in a healthier, stronger swimmer.

  • Lori Floyd says:

    This post is soo informative and sincere. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips.

  • Amber Wilson says:

    I highly agree when you said that building up endurance is better than speed when still learning swimming. I usually get leg cramp so that’s why it better that my legs get relaxed and used to swimming.

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