Distance Vs. Interval Swimming

Distance and interval workouts both will float you to a better body.

Distance and interval workouts both will float you to a better body.

If you want a total body workout with little chance of injury, look no further than the pool. Thanks to the buoyancy, resistance and cool temperature of the water, swimming is a sustainable aerobic and strength workout all in one. There are many different ways to go about a workout, the most basic of which are interval and distance.

Sprint

Because sprinting involves several short, intense bursts of speed, the overall workout is shorter. It is simply impossible to sustain 100 percent effort over any extended period of time. For example, after a short warm-up, try a set of 5 by 100 yard freestyle sprints at maximum effort on a 5-minute interval. You may swim an easy 100 yards in between the sprints. Finish with a cool-down.

Distance

Distance swimming involves slow-twitch muscles. In other words, it involves swimming at a slower pace than a sprint but over a longer period of time. An example of a distance set would be 5 by 400 yards freestyle with 30 seconds of rest in between each one.

Muscles

A quick look at Olympic swimmers will tell you that the sprinters have bigger muscles than the distance athletes. High intensity exercise forces the fast-twitch muscle fibers to expand. While it may seem that some people are simply “born sprinters,” anyone can experience increased muscle mass from sprint workouts over time. Alternatively, anyone can reap the benefits of the long, lean muscles that result from distance swim workouts.

Fat

One of the biggest advantages of a sprint swim is the afterburn. The body continues to burn calories for up to an entire day after you exit the pool. In other words, you increase the number of calories you burn while on the couch or even asleep in bed. A distance workout also produces an afterburn effect, but it’s not as pronounced as with a sprint. As a result, sprinters tend to experience greater fat loss.

Caveat

Mix up your workouts. Sprinting has its advantages, but even in the pool, its intensity takes a toll on both body and mind over time. To prevent plateaus and boredom, focus on speed only 2 to 3 times each week. Fill in the holes with longer, slower swims, or, better yet, cross train. Running, biking, yoga and weight training are just some exercises that can only benefit your performance in the pool.

 

About the Author

Jordan Bucher is a journalist in Austin, Texas who has been writing professionally since 1998. She is also an AFAA-trained group exercise instructor and a DONA-trained postpartum doula. She holds a BA in English from Carleton College and a certificate from The University of Denver Publishing Institute.

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