Swimming might not be the first workout you think of when you decide to get active. With a lot of people nowadays flocking to the gym, the benefits of an aquatic workout are sometimes forgotten. But do yourself a favor and don’t underestimate the power of the pool.
Swimming is a great way to strengthen your muscles, improve your endurance, and improve your health overall (plus, it’s a great opportunity to rock your favorite swimsuit). With all the cardio that swimming provides, you’re sure to get your heart rate up and trim your weight down. If you aren’t used to exercising in water, however, it can seem a bit intimidating. That’s why we’ve compiled a couple of workouts to get used to the water.
Is Swimming a Good Workout?
The short answer is: absolutely! Swimming is a full-body workout, meaning it targets a lot of different muscles. If you’ve been in a pool, or any body of water, before, you know how it feels simply to walk underwater; the water provides a natural resistance, making even simple movements more difficult. That means that, when you swim and move through water, your muscles are getting an extra workout––and you might not even notice until later.
What Are the Benefits of a Swim Workout?
Swimming has a lot of health benefits. It can improve your cardiovascular health, as well as improve the function of your lungs. Doing a water workout can also strengthen and build up the endurance of your muscles since you use almost all your muscles while swimming.
Swimming or other pool-based workouts are especially good if you experience joint pain or arthritis. The buoyancy of the water provides a low-impact exercise––which means that there is less strain on your joints. You also don’t have to worry about injuring yourself by losing your balance.
A lot of people also point to swimming as a peaceful type of exercise. It has been shown to relieve stress and improve balance, posture, and coordination. Of course, swimming and water-based exercise can also help you lose weight.
Can Swimming Help You Lose Weight?
When summer comes around the corner, a lot of us try to lose a little extra weight to look our best in our new swimsuit. But throwing on that swimsuit can actually help you lose weight! Pool exercises are a great way to burn calories and trim extra pounds. While your metabolism, weight, and many other things factor into your personal weight loss, you can expect to lose around 300 calories from a 30-minute swim workout.
How Long Should Your Swim Workout Be?
This depends somewhat on your overall health and how much you are trying to push yourself. However, 30 minutes in the water will provide you with a solid workout. If you want to go a bit further, an hour is a great time––two hours, for experienced swimmers or athletes, can also provide an extra dose of exercise.
What Muscles Do You Work Out While Swimming?
There are a lot of muscles that come into play while you swim and move around in the pool. Pushing yourself through the water in itself works out your back muscles and deltoids; kicking activates your pectoral muscles, glutes, and thighs.
Different swimming strokes will have different muscle impacts: for example, freestyle and backstroke put a greater emphasis on your middle and upper back muscles, while breaststroke and butterfly do more for your chest and abs.
What Sort of Equipment Do You Need for a Pool Workout?
If you’re not interested in getting extra gear, you can just head to your local pool and get started. However, a lot of effective pool workouts require some items. These can help you switch up your routine and find new ways of doing certain exercises. Take a look at this list to see what you might need.
- A swimsuit. This is an obvious one, but a comfortable swimsuit is vital to a good workout routine. Just like you wouldn’t go to the gym in heavy or ill-fitting clothing, you want to have a swimsuit that makes you feel confident.
- A swim cap. This isn’t totally necessary, but the chlorine in a lot of pools can damage your hair over time. A swim cap helps protect your hair from this damage.
- A kickboard. A kickboard is the number one piece of gear that a lot of swimming exercises require. The pool you go to might provide you with one, but make sure you have one handy.
- A pool noodle. Similar to the kickboard, some pool exercises or yoga routines require a flotation device; pool noodles are good to have around.
- Goggles. Nobody likes the feeling of water making their eyes sting. Get a good pair of well-fitting goggles to avoid this issue. They also come in handy when diving.
- Towel or cover-up. For taking breaks in between or getting to the pool, it’s good to have an easy cover-up to slip in and out of. Think about getting swim shorts, a swim skirt, or something similar.
- Foam water weights. Foam water weights and dumbbells can be used to add extra resistance to pool exercises.
- A stopwatch. Some exercise routines are based on distance; others require you to keep track of time. You can keep your eye on the clock, or have someone time you on a stopwatch.
What Should a Beginner Know About Swim Workouts?
If you’re completely new to swim workouts, you might want to look around your local pools and fitness center for classes. Aqua aerobics and swim classes can be helpful to make sure you are on the right track. If you consider yourself a decent swimmer but want to get better, make sure to practice your breathing technique and focus on staying straight and parallel while in the water.
What Are Beginner Workouts That You Can Do in the Pool?
There’s nothing wrong with just leaping in and swimming laps for half an hour. However, if you’re looking for some more structure, take a look at these exercises and routines to give you some guidance.
Even though exercising in water is easy on the joints, it can still test your muscles. Be sure to stretch before and after to avoid injury and alleviate soreness.
Workout #1: Deep Water Running
This is a simple workout and easy to memorize if you have trouble keeping a lot of steps in your head. Really, it’s as simple as jumping in the pool and starting to run! You can begin by jogging in waist-deep water, then work your way up to running in water that is chest high.
Try combining this practice with interval training––which means varying the speed and intensity at which you run. For example, run 100 yards as fast as you can; then do another 100 of leisurely walking. Even with breaks in between, you will be surprised at how quickly this workout can tucker you out. Instead of measuring by yards, you can also switch off every 30 or 60 seconds.
Workout #2: Swimming Laps
Here is a workout that involves swimming laps in structured segments. Remember that the standard size for a pool is 25 yards––so 50 yards, for example, means swimming to the end of the pool and back.
- Warm-Up for 100 yards. Do this in whatever style comes most naturally to you, but take it slow.
- As you do these next couple steps, take a 30 to 60-second break in between every 25 yards. Make sure you are able to catch your breath and adjust your pace if it is too taxing. As you get more experienced, you can up the intensity.
- Swim freestyle for 50 yards.
- Swim another 50 yards in a style of your choosing.
- Swim backstroke for 50 yards.
- Swim breaststroke for 50 yards.
- Swim 100 yards in a style of your choosing. Slow down for the last 50 yards; take this as your cool-down period.
Workout #3: Water Yoga Routine
Water yoga, also known as aqua yoga, is a great swimming alternative to get used to working out in the pool. Just like regular yoga, it combines flexibility, strength, meditation, and breathing training. Water adds an extra element to this. Do these poses in waist-deep water. Remember to breathe.
- Begin with a mountain pose. Stand your feet hip-width apart. Keep your spine straight and tall. Have your arms slightly away from your sides, palms facing outward. Take five deep breaths.
- Bring your arms up over your head on an inhale. On an exhale, step your left foot forward into warrior pose; this is a deep lunge in which one leg is bent at a 90-degree angle and the other is extended behind you. Keep your arms and back straight. Count to 30.
- Shift the foot on your extended (right) leg outward and move your torso to the right to go into warrior pose II. Bring your arms down to form a T pose. Take ten deep breaths.
- Put your right hand on your extended right leg. Bend your torso toward it, arching your back slightly. As you do this, bring your left arm up to the sky. This is peaceful warrior pose. Looking up, take ten deep breaths.
- Step back into mountain pose. Repeat the whole sequence with the legs switched.
- Grab two foam water weights and move to chest-deep water. Have your arms out to your sides in a T formation. Start leaning to your left; as you do, lift your right leg up until it is parallel to the water’s surface. Hold this half-moon pose for one minute, then repeat on the other side.
- Going back into shallower water, hold the foam weights straight out in front of you. Lean forward and put your left foot against the pool wall. Make sure your legs and back are straight, lean forward until your torso is parallel with the water. This is warrior III pose. Hold for ten breaths, then repeat with the other leg.
- Come out of warrior II slowly back into mountain pose. Finish by bringing your arms up over your head and bringing your hand together at your chest in a praying motion.
- Repeat the whole sequence three times.
Workout #4: Breathing Workout
This workout is designed to help you learn how to breathe properly while swimming. Getting enough oxygen can be difficult for inexperienced swimmers, so it’s important to practice your technique. Try to breathe in through your mouth and exhale through your nose.
- Warm-up by swimming 100 yards in freestyle. Rest for 30 seconds after every 25 yards.
- Follow this up with another 100 yards in your choice of swim style. Rest for 30 seconds after every 25 yards.
- End the warm-up by swimming with your arms, holding a pull buoy securely between your thighs. Do this for 100 yards, then rest for two minutes.
- Swim in your chosen style for 100 yards, taking a 30-second rest after every 25 yards.
- Try to swim 100 yards with the pull buoy in two minutes. Take the excess time to rest.
- Swim 50 yards. Rest for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the last three steps.
- Cool down by swimming for four minutes; take a 30-second break after two minutes.
Workout #5: The 1K Swim Workout
This workout pushes you to swim one kilometer––one kilometer is made up of 1000 meters, or around 1090 yards. For a beginner, this might prove to be a bit of a challenge. This is a workout you can build your way up to.
- Warm-up with four minutes of freestyle. Take a 30-second rest after each minute.
- Grab a kickboard. Kick swim for 50 seconds, then take a 20-second rest. Repeat four times.
- Swim for 50 seconds in a style of your choice (other than freestyle). Take 30-second rests in between. Repeat four times.
- Swim for 50 seconds in freestyle. Do this six times, with 30 second rests in between.
- For each 50 second interval, focus on a different part of your body. For example, begin by thinking only about your fingertips and making sure they glide into the water smoothly. On your second round, extend your body as much as possible. On your fourth round, make sure to rotate your body as you stroke. On your fifth, swim as quietly as you can.
- Cool down with 100 yards of freestyle.
There are a lot of ways to improve your health and wellbeing through swimming. If you are unsure about exercising in the pool, don’t be afraid to take that first step. Enlist a friend or family member and head to your local pool together. Be sure to talk to a coach or swim instructor if you want a little help. Remember to go at your own pace and be patient––even Olympic-level swimmers had to start somewhere.