The pool might seem like a kid’s playground but there is more to a dip in the pool than summertime fun. Swimming laps can give you a killer workout because it both tones your muscles and increases your heart rate. Few other workouts provide both a cardio and resistance workout simultaneously. As you swim, you strengthen your heart and lungs and build lean muscle mass.
While other sports usually only focus on one body part or area of fitness, swimming is the ultimate multitasker. When you swim, there is no need to design workouts around upper or lower body strengthening, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility or core strength. With a properly designed swim plan, you can achieve all of these goals in the same workout. As a cardio workout, swimming can help you keep excess pounds at bay, reduce your risk of certain diseases, increase your stamina and boost your mood.
Regardless if you grew up swimming every day or you are new to the pool, swimming is a workout that you can master at any fitness level. When strokes are performed correctly, they work all the major muscles in your body by lengthening them and increasing their flexibility. Over time, this builds muscular endurance. As you kick and pull, you engage your arms, shoulders, upper back and leg muscles. Your core engages to keep you stable and moving forward, strengthening your hip, lower back and abdominal muscles.
There are four official strokes in swimming: Freestyle or front crawl, breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke. When trying to determine which stroke to use, first decide your fitness goals. If you are aiming to swim for a long period of time and want to build your endurance, then go with freestyle. If you want to push your body and burn more calories, then swim breaststroke or butterfly. Be aware that regardless of which stroke you pick, your intensity needs to be at a moderate level or higher to get all the cardio benefits. To ensure you are swimming at the right level, pay attention to your breathing. It should quicken but you shouldn’t be out of breath.
For a swimming workout that improves both your endurance and speed in the pool, do both sprints and long, steady intervals in your routine. An example of this could be a workout where you start swimming 20 25-meter sprints with 20 seconds rest between each one. Next, swim 10 50-meter sprints with 30 seconds rest. Finally, swim a long 1,000-meter pyramid where you swim at a moderate pace for 100 meters and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat 10 times until your reach 1,000 meters.
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.