Conditioning workouts require proper technique and the involvement of consistent, moderate and sprinting speeds. Swimmers should monitor intensity levels and adjust effort to keep the target heart rate and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) within a specified range. Measure your target heart rate and RPE during exercise to gauge the intensity of your workout, as opposed to after your workout when your heart rate has slowed. Combine dry-land, drill and freestyle lap-swim practice to target muscle groups and improve overall swimming technique. Talk with your primary care physician before starting an exercise regimen.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention recommend aerobic activity, such as swimming laps, at least 150 minutes weekly at a moderate intensity. According to the RPE, this moderate intensity level would translate to somewhat difficult from 12 to 14 on the RPE. The RPE ranges from 6 to 20 with 6 being no exertion and 20 being extremely vigorous exercise. You can also measure intensity by taking 220 minus your age. This is the ceiling for vigorously intense exercise. Counting beats manually can be difficult. If you want the most accurate rate, consider using a heart-rate monitor for an electronic reading.
Swimmers use strong core muscles to stay positioned correctly in the water during swimming. Stronger core muscles improve muscular endurance, which improves overall swimming conditioning. To improve conditioning, training should incorporate exercises to work core, leg, shoulder, and arm muscles such as bicep curls, overhead press, sit-ups, squats and lunges. Beginners should start with 10 repetitions, intermediate swimmers should do 20 repetitions, and advanced swimmers should do 30 repetitions. Complete two to three sets.
Swimming drills are meant to target specific muscle groups or improve swimming technique. Kicking drills target core and leg muscles and help to increase swimming speed and endurance. Other swimming drills include the six-count freestyle where the swimmer performs the stroke regularly, but glides on one side for six seconds and then switches to the other arm. The swimmer breathes each stroke. This requires the swimmer to tighten the core muscles and work on proper breathing technique to improve freestyle efficiency.
When you are working for overall conditioning purposes, swimmers should aim for the distance of the workout rather than time. Naturally, the higher your fitness level, the longer and further you will be able to swim. Freestyle, also called the crawl, is the most commonly swum stroke when aiming for overall conditioning, especially for triathletes. Some pools are meter-pools or yard-pools. These workouts suit either.
Beginners should start with a 100-freestyle swim warm up and complete a 200-drill practice of their choice, do a 200 freestyle, and finish with a 200 freestyle-swim cool down. Cool downs help to slow your heart rate, decrease blood pressure and help prevent injury.
Intermediate swimmers should start with a 200-freestyle warm up and complete a 400-drill practice of their choice, then do a 400 freestyle and finish with a 200-freestyle swim cool down.
Advanced swimmers should start with a 200-freestyle warm up and complete a 400-drill practice of their choice, then do a 1000 freestyle and finish with a 200-freestyle swim cool down. This workout is a little under or a little over one mile. The length depends on whether the pool is measured in meters or yards.
- Emmett Hines: Fitness Swimming
- Jim Stoppani: Cardio Corner: Swimming with Benefits
- American College of Sports Medicine: Perceived Exertion
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight
- Mountain View Masters: Swimming Drills
- MayoClinic.Com: Target Heart Rate Calculator
Madison Hawthorne holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing, a master's degree in social work and a master's degree in elementary education. She also holds a reading endorsement and two years experience working with ELD students. She has been a writer for more than five years, served as a magazine submission reviewer and secured funding for a federal grant for a nonprofit organization. Hawthorne also swam competitively for 10 years and taught for two years.