When you want to get rid of that unsightly flab around your arms, you're right in thinking that freestyle swimming is going to help you get rid of it. The key to burning calories and losing overall body fat is doing some type of aerobic exercise -- and you may be surprised to know that even more leg-focused exercises such as running or biking can help you do that. However, since freestyle swimming is a resistance exercise as well as an aerobic one, it's going to help you strengthen your arm muscles as well as burn fat. That means that as you continue to work out, you'll start to see some definition as the fat melts away.
Measure the circumference of your arms, just below the armpit, using a fabric tape measure. Write down the circumference in inches or centimeters in a training notebook, noting the date you took the measurement.
Set aside about one hour for swimming, at least four or five days per week. Add the hour to your personal calendar or scheduling app on your mobile device, setting aside time before or after work or on your lunch hour. You don't have to swim for that entire hour to start getting the calorie-burning benefits, but you'll need extra time to get into your suit, shower and get dressed again. Scheduling your exercise sessions is one way that you can stick to your routine; when you don't schedule them, you're more likely to forget or plan other activities during the time you should be working out.
Buy a pair of swim goggles, but opt for a lap swimming suit and a swim cap as well, if you want to really go all out. The swim goggles are essential since, without them, you'll likely keep your head above water or closer to the surface, which leads to an inefficient freestyle stroke.
Enter the water and swim a lap or two of side stroke, breast stroke or any stroke you like. Swim slowly for about five to 10 minutes. This warmup is essential, helping your heart to gradually beat faster and delivering more oxygen to your muscles.
Stand at the end of the pool, put on your goggles and push off the edge of the pool with both feet, extending your arms over your head with your hands in blade fashion. Your fingers can be a little relaxed but your hands should remain straight out from your wrists. Resist the urge to bend your wrists. Your head and chest should be in the water and your legs should float up behind you. Think of your chest as your center of buoyancy and allow your neck to relax, putting your head a little farther down in the water. Point your toes and allow yourself to glide, until you start to slow down.
Start kicking your legs, all the way from the hip. Using your entire leg instead of just the lower leg or the feet will help you burn more calories.
Keep one arm extended overhead and move the other one down to sweep near your hip. As it moves back, think of the hand as grabbing an armful of water and tossing it back, suggests U.S. Masters Swimming. As the hand sweeps the hip, bend your elbow, moving the elbow up and out of the water and pointed toward the sky. Keep that wrist straight. Reach the hand forward to come back to the position extended overhead, while at the same time moving the opposite arm in the sweeping motion.
Turn your chest toward the surface of the water as you move your arm forward to the extended position, instead of simply turning your head. Aim just to get your mouth above the surface of the water enough to take a replenishing breath, and make sure to turn your chest back toward the bottom of the pool before your arm is extended back overhead. Exhale when your face is in the water and stay calm. Ragged, nervous breathing is going to make it more difficult to continue swimming the freestyle stroke.
Continue your freestyle stroke all the way to the end of the pool, and then turn and kick off the side of the pool, or perform a kick turn by somersaulting toward the edge of the pool, turning your body to a face-down position underwater and then kicking off the side of the pool. Aim to swim for at least 30 minutes, taking brief breaks in the shallow end when you need to catch your breath. According to MayoClinic.com, a 160-pound person will burn about 423 calories per hour swimming laps.
Swim a few "recovery" laps if you need more than a few seconds to catch your breath. Burning the calories that lead to fat loss requires time and a certain level of effort; if you're continually taking long breaks in the shallow end, you're not going to burn as many calories in the time you have allotted. If you're out of breath or need a break from putting your head in the water, swim the breast or back stroke, or get a kickboard and swim a few laps with your head above water.
Keep track of your progress in your weight loss diary or journal. Write down the date, the amount of time you spent swimming and any notes you have about how you felt or things you did to help you make your stroke better. Use an online "calories burned" calculator to estimate the number of calories you burned during the workout, and then look over your diary from time to time to look for ways to improve. To lose a pound of fat, you have to burn 3,500 more calories than you're consuming, so by swimming four or five days a week, you should start to see fat loss within a matter of weeks.
Measure your arms again every four to six weeks to get another reading of how much progress you're making.
- While it's possible to get good at the freestyle on your own, a coach can help you get ever better, reminds U.S. Masters Swimming. Find a coach or expert at your local swim center or swim club, who can work with you one-on-one to improve your stroke and get more efficient -- which can lead to burning more calories during your swim sessions.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.