ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Swimming, Dive in - Guide to Adding Swimming to Your Workout Routine

Training Tips

Dive in - Guide to Adding Swimming to Your Workout Routine

Reading Time: 6 minutes 21 seconds


Date: 2020-09-10T00:00:00-04:00

Swimming is a workout even the biggest fitness buffs tend to avoid for several reasons:

  • Not everyone knows how to swim.

  • The pool can be an intimidating place for beginners.

  • Some people find chlorine irritating.

  • It's hard to know where to start.

Don't be intimidated by swimming because of the caps, chlorine, and impressively fast swimmers in the other lanes. Try it because it's fun to change your workout routine sometimes. And, swimming is a great cardiovascular workout that also builds endurance and strength.

What Are the Benefits of Adding Swimming to Your Workout Routine?

Unless you're afraid of the water, there isn't much bad to say about swimming. From changing up a boring routine to burning more calories and improving overall fitness, there are several benefits to swimming.

Swimming is Great Cardiovascular Exercise and Builds Endurance

Above all else, swimming is great for your heart and lungs. Studies show that regular swimming improves cardiovascular fitness and endurance. This isn't just great for fitness. The research also indicates that any amount of swimming added to your routine will significantly reduce the risk of dying from any cause and especially from a cardiovascular event (1).

Looking for other ways to improve endurance? Here's a list of endurance exercises to inspire you.

Swimming is Good for Everyone

Many workouts are limiting for a lot of people. Swimming, on the other hand, is open to just about anyone. Even people with serious physical disabilities can do a pool workout with the right equipment. Swimming can be safe and beneficial for pregnant women, children and adults with asthma, and even babies, with supervision of course.

Get a Full Body Workout - Including Strength

When you move through the water, you work against a lot of resistance. This means you're building strength as well as cardiovascular fitness. Swimming works almost every part of the body too, because you use the arms and legs to push against the water. Studies show that swimming has a similar growth effect on muscle fibers as sprinting and power lifting (2).

Swimming Supports Weight Loss

The combination of elevated heart rate, full-body effort, and resistance makes for a powerful calorie burn. A 150-pound person can burn 409 calories in just 30 minutes of swimming laps doing the front crawl (3).

If you have a client who is overweight and looking to lose, suggest swimming. Encourage them to get past any insecurities and give it a try. This is a great workout for weight loss. This is especially for someone already carrying extra weight because it avoids putting extra stress on joints.

The Pool is Perfect for Problem Joints

Whether you have bad knees after years of running, you are recovering from an injury, or you have arthritis, joint pain can derail fitness quickly. Swimming is low-impact, but high-resistance. That means you get a great workout with minimal or no joint pain and damage.

Knee pain and injuries are all too common in active people, especially as they age. Try these tips to protect your joints and to help your clients make knee-safe choices when training.

It's Fun to Try Something New

When your workout routine gets stale, you may slack off or hit a plateau. Swimming is a great way to change the routine and try something new. It may reinvigorate your training. Try swimming for a cross-training activity. The low impact nature aids in recovery on your easier days or when your body needs a break from your usual workout or athletics.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Swimming, Dive in - Guide to Adding Swimming to Your Workout Routine

How to Start a Swim Routine

Unless you are a dedicated swimmer who has lapsed for a while, ease into this new routine. Depending on how confident you are in your abilities, consider starting with an aerobics class in the shallow end and see how you feel in the water. When you're ready to swim laps, take these important steps:

1. Making Sure You Can Swim

The good news is that anyone can learn to swim. For the sake of safety, though, evaluate yourself honestly before trying to start a swimming routine. Can you actually swim a lap? Or can you only manage to keep your head above water with a doggy paddle?

Don't be afraid to take lessons. Many gyms and city recreation departments offer lessons for adults. You can still learn. If you can swim but are a little rusty or haven't mastered strokes, there are also more advanced lessons at most pools.

Even as a decent swimmer, you can always work on and improve form. Consider enlisting a coach for a few sessions, to give you feedback and instruction on your strokes.

2. Getting the Right Equipment

Swimming is a simple sport, but there are a few things you'll need to get started and to have a good experience:

  • A comfortable, durable swimsuit that fits well. Try on as many as you need to before buying. The last thing you want is a suit that stretches out or fits too tight and makes you uncomfortable or insecure.

  • Invest in a good pair of goggles as well. With cheap goggles, you will forever be emptying water and defogging the plastic.

  • Unless you have very short hair, get a cap. Simply pulling your hair back will not be adequate.

  • Consider getting some extras too. What you wear are the basics, but you may also want fins, a kickboard, and a pull-buoy. The latter floats your legs so you can focus on arm work.

3. Slowly Adding Swimming to Your Workout Routine

If you are new to swimming, or even if you just haven't done it for a while, take your time to build up fitness and good form. Start simple with easy intervals of 30 seconds or one length. Take a break in between and repeat up to ten times. See how you feel and adjust your next workout accordingly.

Increase and diversify your laps slowly. Try new strokes or kickboard workouts in small sessions to begin. The well-known running rule applies here too: increase distance by no more than 10 percent per week. As with any activity, it's possible to over train. Believe it or not, you can get injured swimming.

4. Avoiding Comparison

Try to avoid comparing yourself to other swimmers in the pool. There will be faster swimmers, some much faster. To enjoy swimming, don't make comparisons to others. Some people have been doing this for decades and may even be competitors. Go your own pace, stay in the lane where you feel comfortable, and enjoy the swim.

Sample Swimming Workouts

Start out slowly with simple, short swimming workouts. When you're ready to spend more than ten minutes doing easy intervals, try these workouts.

A quick note on terminology: a length is from one end of the pool to the other, while a lap is to the other end and back again, or two lengths. Most American pools are measured in yards with each length 25 yards.

Swimming Workout #1

Start with two laps at an easy pace for a warm-up, any stroke or alternating strokes. Follow this with two laps of kicking with a kickboard. Do five laps freestyle (front crawl) at a moderate intensity pace. Rest as long as necessary in between each lap. Do two laps at an easy pace, followed by two laps at moderate intensity on the kickboard. Cool down with two laps at an easy pace. This is a 750-yard workout.

Swimming Workout #2

When you're ready to increase the distance, try this workout. Warm up for four laps at an easy pace. Do two kickboard laps at an easy pace. Swim freestyle or change up the stroke for these intervals:

  • 2 x 2 laps at moderate intensity

  • 1 x 4 laps at harder intensity

  • 2 x 2 laps at moderate intensity

  • 1 x 4 laps at harder intensity

  • 1 x 1 lap easy

  • 2 x 2 laps sprinting

Cool down with a couple of laps of easy kick boarding followed by two laps of easy freestyle. This workout will take you over 1,000 yards.

Swimming Workout #3

Interval workouts are great, but so are slow and steady sessions. When you're ready to go the distance, do a warm-up and then swim at an easy or moderate pace for about one mile, 1,760 yards. That's just over 35 laps. Cool down with a couple easy laps.

Adding swimming to your workout routine is a great idea. It may also be a good option for many of your clients. For weight loss, to build total-body endurance, and just for something new and fun, try the pool.

Kickstart your personal training career by becoming well versed in all types of workouts—sign up now for the ISSA's Certified Personal Trainer Self-Guided Study Program. It's east to start and you'll end up with a fulfilling and profitable career.


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