Lap Swimming for Out-of-Shape Swimmers

Focus on improving your technique and increasing stamina.
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Whether you are a novice swimmer or are returning after a hiatus, lap swimming may feel like a challenge when you first return to the water. Interval-based workouts that incorporate a mix of technique-building drills, kicking, pulling and stamina-focused swimming without equipment will develop your overall swim fitness and keep your mind engaged in your workout, which will help you become more efficient as your stamina improves.

Interval vs. Continuous

Even if you’ve swam laps before, you may feel winded after just a few consecutive laps when you start back up again. Interval swimming, or swimming several short segments interspersed with recovery, will help you to swim farther and more efficiently than trying to swim continuously. For your first several workouts, keep the swim segments short — 25 to 100 yards — and allow yourself enough recovery so that you feel almost completely rested. As you improve your fitness, decrease your recovery time and/or increase the length of the swims.


Including stroke drills, such as single-arm swimming, fist swimming, or catch-up drill, will reinforce good technique as you get back into swimming shape. After five to 10 minutes of warm up swimming, do four to eight 25- to 50-yard segments of one or more stroke drills, focusing on proper body position and coordinated arm and leg movement with torso rotation. Rest for 10 to 15 seconds between each segment.


Kicking sets strengthen your leg muscles and increase your ankle flexibility. Using fins during your kick sets propels you through the water faster and gets your feet on the water surface, which also helps with body position. Kick on your right side with your right arm extended for the first 25 yards, then switch to your left side with your left arm extended for the next 25 yards. Repeat this set six to eight times. As your kicking improves, do some or all of your kick sets without fins.


Pulling with a pull buoy between your legs strengthens your arms and since it helps keep your hips on the water surface, you’ll be able to focus on the coordination between your arm pull through the water and torso rotation. Swim four to six 50- to 100-yard segments with a pull buoy between your legs. As you improve arm and shoulder strength, add hand paddles to some of your pull sets to further increase strength and get you through the water faster.

Equipment-Free Swimming

Swimming without equipment will build your speed and stamina. It will also reinforce the kicking, pulling, and stroke technique that you worked on earlier in the workout. Swim six to eight 100-yard swims, resting for 15 to 20 seconds between each swim, at a pace that you can maintain throughout the workout. As your fitness improves, decrease the rest between each swim to focus on your endurance, or keep the recovery the same and swim the segments faster to develop speed.

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