I walk to the little beach at the end of my street, put my towel down, and wade into the water. Even in July, the ocean in Vineyard Sound, in Massachusetts, is so chilly I catch my breath. I kick hard and breathe harder, stopping after about a half mile to just dangle in the water. Light dapples the surface; I am delighted — with my body, my self, my time in the sun.

I’ve been swimming for most of my life, but not always for the reasons I do now. When I was young, I swam because my mother wanted to have time with her friends at the pool while lifeguards or coaches watched me and my brothers. In middle school, I swam to win trophies. In high school, I swam because I thought it would look good on a college application, then stopped when I had better things to do. In college, I’d return to the pool when I felt like something was missing in my life. I met a new best friend doing the same thing in the next lane.

In my 20s, I swam intermittently, but usually for fun. I made a point to swim wherever I traveled: at dawn in a lagoon in Bora Bora; in a cold lake in New Zealand on Christmas one year; in a friendly competition in a pool in Jakarta, while bells from nearby mosques called the faithful to prayer and hundreds of swallows crisscrossed the dusky sky.

As I got older, I was drawn to the water during tough times — divorce, single parenthood, challenging jobs, sick parents. I swam to escape, to get out of my head, to stop talking to myself and hear instead the rhythm of my stroke. I swam because I thought swimming would bring me solace, and it always did.

I swim now not because I might win a trophy or because I need relief. I do it because I like how it feels to be both grounded and weightless, to be connected to my body in a way I can’t be when I’m thinking too much. When I swim regularly, my whole life seems to work. I remember that I am a person who deserves an hour by herself. It’s a perfect combination of solitude and the companionship of other swimmers gliding nearby.

The metronome of my breath, the monotony of lap after turn after lap, is like meditation to me. I swim because even when I’m tired or dragging, I always end up feeling strong and swift, and I finish my swim pleasantly depleted and fulfilled. —Jamie Kageleiry

Contents

Trust Us — You’re a Swimmer, Too

If you only think of the pool as the place your kids go to burn off energy, you’re missing out. Swimming is the LBD of workouts: It makes everyone, at any age, feel and look amazing. “Being in water reduces the stress on your joints, so it’s kind to your body,” says Crystal Coleman of Penn Charter Aquatic Club in Philadelphia, who also coaches young swimmers on the national team. Don’t confuse kind with undemanding, though: Swimming strengthens your core, and because water is much denser than air, each kick and stroke is like a mini resistance workout, raising your heart rate as you build muscle. In fact, research shows that swimmers have slimmer waists and hips at any age than those who don’t swim, and their hearts appear much younger. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, or that you don’t have Michael Phelps’s speed or his wingspan — you’ll still exit the pool stronger.

Find the Right Suit

You’re not just splashing around anymore, so you’ll need a swimsuit that’s fuss- free. “The best lap suits have cross backs for support and high necks so you don’t have to worry about spilling out mid-lap,” says Lisa Butler, vice president of innovation design and aquatics at Active Spirit. One-piece, two-piece — it doesn’t matter. Just leave your bandeau top for the beach chair.

Perfect Your Strokes

Most of us haven’t been to swim class since we were kids, so there are a few techniques you may have forgotten (if you ever learned them at all!). Brush up to make your workout more efficient, Coleman says.

Backstroke: It may seem like the lazy river of strokes, but you can move quickly if you gain momentum with your arms. Done right, the backstroke is great for your core.

Kagan McLeod

A. Enter the water with your pinky finger rather than slapping your hand down behind you.

B. Bend your elbow and throw the water toward your feet like a softball. Your hand should exit the water with your thumb up.

Freestyle: This classic stroke — the one you learned when you were still in floaties — can burn as much as 300 calories in a half hour. Think of it as the foundation of your workout.

Kagan McLeod

A. No scooping or slapping here: Your fingertips should slice the water, barely making a splash.

B. Kick from your hips, not your knees. Bending your legs creates drag, which can slow you down.

Breaststroke: The froglike kicks in this stroke help strengthen your legs so they’re lean and more powerful in the water.

Kagan McLeod

A. Your arms and legs shouldn’t move at the same time. Sweep your arms in a circular motion first as you come up for air.

B. Then, as you push your arms back out in front of you, bring your feet up to your butt and do the same circular pattern with your legs.

Pool Troubles, Solved

Not feeling a summer with split ends? Try these strategies from Olympic synchronized swim duo Mariya Koroleva and Anita Alvarez.

Frizzy hair: A swim cap will keep your hair out of your face and limit damage, but putting one on can be a pain. Try pulling your hair back in a bun or ponytail, even wetting it in the shower first if you want to help the cap glide on. Stretch the cap wide, gently pulling it over your forehead and then back over your hair.

Kagan McLeod

Red eyes: No getting around this one: You need to wear goggles to shield your eyes from chemicals that can cause irritation. Look for a pair with rubber padding — they may leave less of a mark than foam. And be sure to try them on: The fit can vary, and finding the right pair for you will prevent pesky leaks.

Dry skin: Pool chemicals also sap the moisture from your skin, leaving it dry and chapped. Apply an ointment like Aquaphor to flake-prone areas before you get in (it acts as a barrier for your skin), then rinse off immediately after swimming to cleanse your skin of any chlorine. Moisturize again before you head home.

Drink Up

You might not notice when you’re already soaked, but swimming makes you sweat — and that means you’ll need to rehydrate. Start drinking water about two hours before a swim, says David A. Wang, M.D., of Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Then keep water at the edge of the pool so you can take a sip every 15 minutes or so.

Don’t Forget to Stretch!

Kagan McLeod

Hips: Stand on one leg and bend your knee so you’re in a seated position; rest your other leg across it. Sit in the stretch for 10 seconds, moving your hands in small figure eights for balance. Repeat 2 to 3 times per side.

Calves: Hold on to the edge of the pool with both hands and place your feet on the wall between them. Stretch your legs out as straight as possible; hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

Shoulders and back: Step into a lunge with your front leg bent and your back leg straight; raise your arms overhead, palms facing in. Sink lower and reach upward, lifting your chest. (You may even lean back slightly.) Hold for 10 seconds; switch sides.

Open Water Tips

Make no mistake: Swimming is a serious workout. Shield yourself from injury with these underwater moves from Sydney Cassida, a swim instructor at Chelsea Piers in New York City — they target the muscles that are most likely to feel cramped and fatigued.

In a lake or an ocean, you won’t have walls or lane lines to guide you — so before you wade in, identify a few landmarks (like a lifeguard stand) that will keep you from venturing too far, says Mike Barrows, D.O., a world champion lifeguard. Then, when you’re swimming, lift your eyes just above the waterline to sight them. “If you lift your head too high, your hips drop, which will make you lose momentum,” he says.

Ready, Set, Swim

First, try some laps — swimming from one end of the pool to the other (that’s one!), at your own pace, roughly eight times to start, says Allison Beebe, high-performance coach at Santa Clara Swim Club in California. Add a lap or two with every trip to the pool and, once you can swim for 5 minutes without a break, step up to this exclusive plan. There’s a timed workout for days when you only have 30 minutes, and an interval session that’ll take longer but burn more calories. Aim for three to four swims a week, alternating plans.

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8 Reasons to Start Swimming

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Yes, the treadmill is fun and so are those dumbbells, but it can be easy to get stuck in a workout rut. If you’re looking for a total-body routine that burns a ton of calories (and doesn’t involve having to brave the frigid cold in any way), give swimming a try. From toning your core to speeding up your metabolism, here are eight reasons why it’ll be your new go-to form of exercise-all year long.

1. It’s a total-body workout. Swimming tackles everything from sculpting your back to toning your arms-all without having to pick up a weight. Rather than needing a plan to work specific muscles, all four strokes work to strengthen your entire body.

2. It’s joint-friendly. If you’re recovering from an injury and are eager to build strength, then look into starting a swimming routine to stay fit. If running is your passion, then swimming is a great way to work out on recovery days, granting knees a rest from the pavement.

RELATED: 10 New Outdoor Workout Ideas

3. It doesn’t require fancy equipment. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to swim. All you need is a swimsuit, cap, and goggles. Even if you do decide to add more equipment (e.g. a kickboard), they are rather inexpensive, and chances are your local pool has a few handy.

4. It’s a great way to burn calories. Those rumors about swimmers and calorie intake aren’t false: An hour of moderate swimming can burn around 500 calories. This revs up your metabolism, continuing the burn well after you’ve stepped off the deck.

5. There are several variations. The workouts are endless when it comes to the pool. Beyond all four strokes, you can kick, pull, or even use the wall for pushups. Grab a friend and try this interval workout.

6. It’s optimal for cross-training. Avoid an elliptical or gym class burnout by trading your normal workout for the pool. A swim session will actually improve overall performance at the gym (and vice versa). And when you’re training for a marathon or any other competition, jumping in the pool can offer you an extra edge over your competitors.

RELATED: Total-Body Sculpting: The Resistance Band Workout

7. It maximizes your cardio. Swimming is the ultimate aerobic activity. There is more breath control compared to running, thus an increased demand for oxygen, causing your muscles to work harder. Because of this, you can get more bang for you buck in a short amount of time.

8. It’s refreshing. C’mon-jumping into a pool is fun, and you certainly don’t need to be a professional to reap the benefits and enjoy yourself. If anything, you’ll walk away with a nice endorphin kick.

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How to Get a Swim Workout Without Swimming

It’s no secret that swimmers usually have nice bodies, burn lots of calories during their workouts, and possess superior cardiovascular fitness.

But sometimes it’s either A) inconvenient to get to the pool or B) you’re just not the swimming type.

Luckily, you can still get a good swim workout without swimming. Here’s a circuit I do when I’m traveling and can’t get to a pool:

Warm up for 2-5 minutes. I prefer jumping jacks, which require a similar shoulder movement as swimming. Then do:

  • 20 Squat Jumps. Bonus points if you keep your arms extended over your head “streamline” style.
  • 10 Lunge Jumps per side to get the heart rate up even more.
  • 10 Dive Bomber pushups (aka Hindu pushups)
  • 20 Regular Squats. Bonus points if you keep your arms extended over your head “streamline” style.
  • 10 Lunge with twists per side, which work the same twisting core muscles you use while swimming. No weights required.
  • 20 Front plank taps per side.
  • 20 Side plank rotations per side.
  • 20 Supermans
  • 20 Flutterkicks per side.

Complete the entire routine 1-3 times through!

If you enjoyed this workout, you may also like my Baby It’s Too Cold Outside to Drive to the Pool swim workout and my article on How to Get Shoulders Like Ryan Lochte’s

Do you have your own tips to add, or questions about how to get a swim workout without swimming? Leave your feedback over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:

If you are looking for a great aerobic and total body-strengthening workout, then look no further. Swimming can provide all that and more.

If the water is warm, swimming can even have a soothing effect on achy joints and muscles. If the weather is hot, swimming can keep you cool while you burn calories, shed extra pounds, and get in shape.

Of course, you need a safe place to swim. Pools are ideal. If you are going to swim in lakes or oceans, you have to be very careful of currents, water temperature, and other obstacles. And never swim alone — either inside or out.

Swimming can be a solo or a group adventure. You may prefer to swim laps, if you like to work out by yourself. But if you like being in a group, many pools and Y’s have aquatic exercise classes for all levels. If you are older, pregnant, or disabled, there is likely a specialized class just for you.

Is It Good for Me If I Have a Health Condition?

Swimming is just about as good as it gets for a total workout.

If you are pregnant, the buoyancy of the water will take stress off your joints. If you swam before you became pregnant, you will likely be able to continue swimming unless you have a problem with your pregnancy. There are just a couple of things to consider. Make sure that the water is not too hot or too cold. And if the breast stroke worsens any existing pelvic discomfort, choose another stroke and talk to your doctor or midwife.

Swimming is a great aerobic workout for people with most types of arthritis. It can take the load off your joints and help prevent injuries. It is also a good choice if you have low back pain. Warm water can be very soothing. Check with your doctor first if you are having joint pain, have had a recent injury, joint replacement, or are having an arthritis flare.

If you have diabetes, an aerobic activity like swimming can be a very important part of your diabetes treatment plan. It will help you burn calories, lose weight, and keep your blood sugars under control. If you have high cholesterol, you will also benefit from swimming. It will help you lower your ”bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your ”good” HDL cholesterol.

If you have been a couch potato, or you have heart disease or other medical problems, check with your doctor first to see what kind of swimming program is right for you.

8 benefits of swimming whatever your fitness level

No matter what your fitness level, the general benefits of swimming are yours to go out and grab and make your own.

It has the power to give your muscles a makeover, transform you into a cardio king, turn back the clock, and calm you quicker than a secluded beach in the Bahamas.

But if this isn’t enough to get you reaching for your cossie, here are our top benefits of swimming to show you there is no such thing as being too cool for the pool.

The top 8 benefits of swimming

  1. Full body workout. Swimming uses all the muscles in the body so whether you swim a gentle breaststroke or hammer butterfly, you will get a full body workout. Plus, exercising in water makes your body work harder so 30 minutes in a pool is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land.
  2. Great for general wellbeing. Just 30 minutes of swimming three times a week alongside a balanced, healthy diet and lifestyle is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy and maintain a positive mental outlook. Do it with friends, and it’s even more fun!
  3. De-stresses and relaxes. Whether it’s work stressing you out, the kids being a nightmare, or just life in general, we all get times we just want to SCREAM. Well, help is at hand. Swimming regularly can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve your sleep patterns. Feeling the mental benefits of swimming takes just a light swim. No lane pounding needed.
  4. Burns those calories. Swimming is one of the most effective ways to burn calories. A gentle swim can burn over 200 calories in just half an hour, more than double that of walking. And a faster swim would see that chocolate bar gone quicker than if you went running or cycling.
  5. Lowers the risk of diseases. As well as being a great form of cardiovascular exercise, swimming just 30 minutes a week can help to guard against heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
  6. Supports the body. Water supports up to 90 per cent of the body’s weight. So if you sprained an ankle at Monday night football or have a long term injury or illness, swimming is a brilliant way to stay active.
  7. Increases your energy levels. Inactivity and not ageing is often responsible for people’s lack of energy. Just 30 minutes of swimming three times per week can boost your energy levels through increased metabolic rate.
  8. Exercising without the sweat. If sweating puts you off other forms of exercise, fear not! As a swimmer, you’ll never feel sweaty no matter how hard you work because the water around you is constantly cooling you down.

Burn calories swimming with the FREE Just Swim App.Click the image above to download.

Swimming As A Total Body Workout

February 1, 2006 Share Tweet Flip 0 Shares Page 1 of 3

Most men have a tendency to turn to the treadmill or the bike for their cardiovascular workout if they aren’t already getting it from sports such as football or basketball. Since these machines are readily available in most gyms, it seems like an easy solution. However, if you take a trip to your local pool, you may find a workout that challenges you in a whole new way.

You’ve probably heard that swimming is great exercise, but you may have never really taken the time to learn how to use it to your advantage. Here’s what you need to know.

types of strokes

The main types of swimming strokes are freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke, with the butterfly being considered the most difficult by far.

Freestyle swimming, also known as the front crawl or Australian crawl, is basically what the name implies. There are no specific limitations on how your arms and legs must move; you just have to be sure to keep one body part above the water at all times (except for the first 15 meters at the beginning and after each turn). This is probably the most suitable style to use if you are just beginning and until you feel comfortable in the water. A 150- to 180-pound male swimming freestyle will burn between 500 calories an hour at a moderate intensity to 700 calories an hour at a high intensity.

The breaststroke, on the other hand, has a more defined pattern of movement. Your shoulders should be kept in line with the water, and your arm and leg movements should be coordinated to push together, performing the same actions. Your arms move out from your chest and around the sides of your body, and then back up along the center again to return to the start position (while your legs mimic the same movement). During the first stroke as well as after a turn, you are allowed one arm stroke and leg kick with your head in the water, but the remainder of the time, your head must stay above it. Swimming for an hour using this stroke will burn about 750 calories.

During the butterfly stroke, your arms move together from behind you, up and out of the water, ending above your head before once again entering the water, while your legs do a dolphin kick. This stroke particularly calls your shoulder muscles into play, so it is recommended for those who are quite developed in this area. Since this is probably the most difficult stroke, it demands the most energy output, and you will expend approximately 800 calories an hour performing it.

Finally, for the backstroke, perform the movement with your back facing the water, moving your arms and legs as you would if you were performing the freestyle stroke, and you will burn around 500 calories an hour. Keep in mind that you must have a fairly good awareness of the position of your body in the pool, as you will not be able to clearly see the wall approaching.

Mastering the technique of each stroke and the health benefits of swimming…

6-Week Swim Training Plan To Get Fit

Swimming without a training plan is a bit like trying to drive in a foreign country without a map: you’ll always get somewhere, but the place you arrive may not be where you actually want to be.

Without a proper swim plan, your workouts might not lead you towards your goal.

That’s why we created the 6-Week Get Fit Training Plan. This collection of swim workouts is perfect for a beginner to intermediate swimmer, looking to get stronger, and feel more confident in the water.

This 6-week calendar of workouts is available exclusively in the MySwimPro app, and is personalized to your unique goals and skill level. Download the app on iPhone or Android and start your free 7-day trial to get a head start on this great training plan!

Related: How To Swim Freestyle With Perfect Technique

Get Fit Training Plan:

  • Duration: 6 Weeks
  • Workouts: 18
  • Average Workout: 1,200 meters = 30 minutes
  • Goal: Swim a continuous 1,500 at the end of six weeks

Who is it for? You know how to swim, but you are looking for a structured plan to improve your swimming efficiency and endurance.

How does it work? Try to complete 3 workouts per week for 6 weeks resting every other day. The workouts in this plan average 30 minutes. Each workout builds off the one before it. Similarly, every week builds off the prior week, so being consistent will play a large part in how successful you are!

The workouts: This plan is available only in the MySwimPro app. Get all the workouts on your iPhone, Android or a compatible smartwatch.

Related: How to Follow a Training Plan in MySwimPro

A training plan is a critical component to the success of reaching your goals in swimming! Here are some additional ways this plan is designed to help you get there.

  1. Time: During the week, you may feel stretched on time. This plan sets all your workouts ahead of time for you; therefore, you are more able to fit them into your hectic schedule than you thought. You’ll know exactly what you’re doing for the week and how long each workout is.
  2. Setting Goals: Having a chart makes makes your goal much easier and attainable Having a goal gives you something to work towards and a plan helps get you there!
  3. Staying Focused: By having a plan ahead of time, you know exactly what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. One of the worst things that can happen is to only swim when the mood hits you (or not at all). A plan will keep you focused on where you’re going.
  4. Staying Motivated: By adhering to a weekly schedule, you may find that you are staying motivated between and during every session more so than if you didn’t have a plan. Seeing the entire plan laid out in front of you will help visualize success and keep you on track.
  5. Accountability: If you can’t swim with a team or coach, this plan is for you! We are your accountability partners in this journey. A structured plan will keep your schedule in check and accountable to each and every workout.

Featured Training Plans

The MySwimPro App offers training plans designed to get in the best swimming shape of your life. Download the app for free on iPhone and Android to subscribe to a training plan that’s right for you! Here are a few options:

  • Beginner Freestyle Fundamentals (4 weeks)
  • Get Fit – Freestyle (6 weeks)
  • Enhance Speed (8 weeks)
  • Improve Endurance (8 weeks)
  • Get Fit – IM (8 weeks)
  • IMX Pro Challenge (10 weeks)
  • 10k Challenge (10 weeks)
  • 5k Open Water (12 weeks)
  • Open Water Plan (12 weeks)

What Are the Top 12 Benefits of Swimming?

1. Works your whole body

One of the biggest benefits of swimming is that it truly works your entire body, head to toe. Swimming:

  • increases your heart rate without stressing your body
  • tones muscles
  • builds strength
  • builds endurance

There are various strokes you can use to add variety to your swimming workout, including:

  • breaststroke
  • backstroke
  • sidestroke
  • butterfly
  • freestyle

Each focuses on different muscle groups, and the water provides a gentle resistance. No matter what stroke you swim, you’re using most of your muscle groups to move your body through the water.

2. Works your insides, too

While your muscles are getting a good workout, your cardiovascular system is, too. Swimming makes your heart and lungs strong. Swimming is so good for you that researchers share it may even reduce your risk of death. Compared with inactive people, swimmers have about half the risk of death. Some other studies have shown that swimming may help lower blood pressure and control blood sugar.

3. Is appropriate for people with injuries, arthritis, and other conditions

Swimming can be a safe exercise option for people with:

  • arthritis
  • injury
  • disability
  • other issues that make high-impact exercises difficult

Swimming may even help reduce some of your pain or improve your recovery from an injury. One study showed that people with osteoarthritis reported significant reductions in joint pain and stiffness, and experienced less physical limitation after engaging in activities like swimming and cycling.

Even more interesting, there was little to no difference in the benefits between the two groups. So, swimming seems to have many of the same benefits as frequently prescribed land exercises. If you want non-swimming water activities, try these water excises for people with arthritis.

4. Good option for people with asthma

The humid environment of indoor pools makes swimming a great activity for people with asthma. Not only that, but breathing exercises associated with the sport, like holding your breath, may help you expand your lung capacity and gain control over your breathing.

Some studies suggest that swimming may increase your risk for asthma because of the chemicals used to treat pools. Talk to your doctor about the potential risks of swimming if you have asthma, and, if possible, look for a pool that uses salt water instead of chlorine.

5. Beneficial for people with MS, too

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may also find swimming beneficial. Water makes the limbs buoyant, helping to support them during exercise. Water also provides a gentle resistance.

In one study, a 20-week swimming program resulted in significant reduction of pain for people with MS. These people also showed improvements with symptoms like fatigue, depression, and disability. Learn more about water therapy for MS.

6. Torches calories

Swimming is an efficient way to burn calories. A 160-pound person burns approximately 423 calories an hour while swimming laps at a low or moderate pace. That same person may burn up to 715 calories an hour swimming at a more vigorous pace. A 200-pound person doing the same activities would burn between 528 and 892 calories an hour. A 240-pound person might burn between 632 and 1,068.

To compare these numbers to other popular low-impact activities, that same 160-pound person would only burn around 314 calories walking at 3.5 miles per hour for 60 minutes. Yoga might burn just 183 calories per hour. And the elliptical trainer might burn just 365 calories in that hour.

7. Improves your sleep

Swimming may have the power to help you sleep better at night. In a study on older adults with insomnia, participants reported both a boost in quality of life and sleep after engaging in regular aerobic exercise.

Nearly 50 percent of older persons experience some level of insomnia, so this is excellent news. The study focused on all types of aerobic exercise, including the elliptical, Stairmaster, bicycle, pool, and exercise videos.

Swimming is accessible to a wide range of people who deal with physical issues that make other exercises, like running, less appealing. That can make swimming a good choice for older adults looking to improve their sleep.

8. Boosts your mood

Researchers evaluated a small group of people with dementia, and saw an improvement in mood after participating in a 12-week aquatic program. Swimming and aquatic workouts aren’t just psychologically beneficial for people with dementia. Exercise has been shown to boost mood in other people, as well.

9. Helps manage stress

Researchers surveyed a group of swimmers immediately before and after swimming at a YMCA in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Of the 101 people surveyed, 44 reported being mildly depressed and feeling stress related to fast-paced life. After swimming, the number of people who still reported feeling stressed decreased to just eight.

While more research needs to be done in this area, the researchers conclude that swimming is a potentially powerful way to relieve stress quickly.

10. Safe during pregnancy

Pregnant women and their babies can also reap some wonderful rewards from swimming. In one study in animals, a mother rat’s swimming was shown to alter the brain development in her offspring. It may even protect babies against a type of neurological issue called hypoxia-ischemia, but more research is needed. Aside from potential benefits to the child, swimming is an activity that can be performed in all three trimesters.

Another study shows no adverse effects of swimming in chlorinated pools while pregnant. In fact, pregnant women who swam during their early to mid-pregnancy had a lower risk of preterm labor and congenital defects.

Keep in mind that while swimming is generally considered safe during pregnancy, some women may have activity restrictions due to complications in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise programs during pregnancy, and if you have complications, ask about activities that are safe.

11. Great for kids, too

Kids need a minimum of 60 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. It doesn’t need to feel like a chore either. Swimming is a fun activity and doesn’t necessarily feel like formal working out.

Your child can do either structured swimming lessons or be part of a swim team. Unstructured swim time is another solid option to get kids moving.

12. Affordable

Swimming may also be an affordable exercise option compared to some others, like cycling. Many pools offer reasonable rates to join. Some public schools and other centers offer swim hours for free, or for a sliding scale according to your income.

If you’re still concerned about the costs of joining a pool, check with your employer or your health insurance. Some offer reimbursements for joining a fitness program.

Swimming is a form of exercise that works all the body’s major muscles and the cardiovascular system better than most others – and Britons love it. Statistics from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport suggest that 12 million Britons are regular swimmers with 22% of adults and 50% of children frequently taking a dip in their local pool. Yet, despite its popularity, many who enjoy the exercise aren’t swimming efficiently.

Physiotherapists generally rate swimming as the best exercise for those with vulnerable joints and injury problems. “Water acts as a giant cushion and is much kinder to the joints and tendons than terra firma because it supports your body weight,” says Sammy Margo, a physiotherapist who has worked with many elite swimmers. “But bad technique can aggravate existing problems.”

Poor habits can make swimming harder than it needs to be. “If your technique is bad, then each swim will be tough and you won’t swim as far as you could,” says Olympic medalist David Davies. “The best thing you can do before starting to take swimming more seriously is to perfect the way you do it.”

Benefits of even small tweaks to technique can be huge. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that improving the technique of a group of swimmers resulted in them expending less energy per length and also completing a set distance more speedily.

Where to learn

If you’re keen to kick bad habits and gain confidence in the pool, there are plenty of places to start. The Amateur Swimming Association (britishswimming.org) runs nationwide schemes to help people improve their technique. For instance, Everyday Swim (run in conjunction with Sport England), aims to increase participation in the sport by 2% a year. Likewise, the ASA Kellogg’s Swim Active programme offers free instruction at selected pools to families with young children. Alternatively, private tuition at schools like Karen Pickering SWIM (karenpickering.co.uk), held at pools around the country, is worth the small investment.

The importance of warming up

• “Before you get in the water, it’s important to make sure your body is warmed up,” says Olympic swimming coach Bill Furniss. “Do some jogging on the spot or hop on an exercise bike before attempting to stretch.”

• To stretch your shoulders, stand with your back straight and feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Lifting from your rib cage, raise both arms as far above your head as you can.

• Just before you get in, jump in the shower to make sure you are really warm. Do a few more stretches poolside, but don’t allow yourself to get cold.

• “The first few lengths of any swimming session should be a continuation of the warm-up,” Bill adds. “Never get in and go hell for leather. Gradually increase your pace, and use kickboards and pull-buoys to get your arms and legs ready for the more intense effort to come.”

17 Apr Here’s Why Swimming Is The Best Workout (And Why You Should Start)

Posted at 15:16h in Blog by Oleksiy Melnyk

It’s hard to find a single workout almost everyone in the fitness industry can agree on. But if there is any one thing, it’s that swimming is the best workout (or one of the very best). Few exercises out there can claim as many benefits as swimming can.

Other cardio exercises, such as running, biking, calisthenics, and hiking, are great for the body. They burn calories and fat and can build endurance. Still, swimming beats these activities for “best in the show” every time. Swimming is great for any age or body type. It’s low cost, requires little time to see results, and is something many people love to do. A swim workout is also a great way to get a summer body.

Why We Think Swimming is the Best Workout

What makes swimming truly the best workout, and why are people everywhere flocking to gym pools to swim some laps every day? Here are five reasons swimming is the best workout and what fitness experts and swimmers everywhere have to say about it.

1. Swimming builds endurance and improves the lungs.

This is arguably the number one reason to add swimming to your workout routines every week. You build endurance in your lungs and muscles by swimming more often. In fact, you can use swimming as a way to increase your endurance for activities that require it, like marathons. Swimming helps you use oxygen more efficiently and effectively.

The other good news? When you get more of your breathing and use oxygen better, you are less tired, as oxygen is an important source of energy in the body. So, you could say that swimming gives you more energy and keeps you more alert. That is definitely something to shout about.

2. You get a workout without the sweat.

If you’re one of those people who wants the benefit of a workout without getting hot and sweaty, swimming is your best bet. For some people, this is a game changer. It’s really hard to find a better workout than swimming if you don’t like sweating. You get a full, total body workout that includes cardio and resistance training. You get to stay cool, in the pool, while still burning calories and making your trainer happy.

It’s okay if you are the kind of person that stays away from working out because you don’t like to sweat. You’re not alone by any means. The truth is that a lot of people are in the same boat: they’d rather not work out than sweat. It makes you smell and if you have to run to work after the gym, you might not have time to shower.

With swimming, you can get a great workout and not have to deal with the heat and sweat issues that come with any other cardio workout.

3. Swimming is another form of strength training.

Did you know that when you move through a swimming pool, your body is doing a bit of resistance training? That’s the same thing as weight lifting, in case you were wondering! Water is denser than air, and it takes more work to move through it. This is important because while there are similarities in the benefits of running and hiking to swimming, you will experience much more resistance training with swimming than you would with those activities.

Here’s the thing: swimming is solid resistance training. Only a regular swimmer can tell you that two days after swimming several laps in a pool, you will absolutely feel like you do two days after leg day. The only other exercise that might give you more benefit in this way would be swimming through jello. Which would definitely be fun?

For those of you looking to get stronger without getting bulky, try swimming twice a week instead of the normal toning exercises you do with light weights. The benefit is that you won’t have to come up with several different exercises to tone your whole body. Instead, simply do a breaststroke up and down the length of the pool for thirty minutes (taking breaks as needed).

4. Swimming builds bone mass.

How’s your bone density these days? We all know that resistance training fights osteoporosis, among other benefits. Walking does the same thing. One hour of walking per day has been proven to actually reverse the signs of osteoporosis or bone loss.

Well, now bone mass support is being considered a benefit of swimming, too, according to this article. No, swimming doesn’t build up bone mass as well as running or walking, but it does improve it.

Bone loss leads to injury, osteoporosis, and difficulty walking or keeping yourself up. When you don’t exercise for long periods of time, you can lose bone mass and put yourself at risk. Swimming may help stop bone loss while helping you get back to an active lifestyle after an injury. Also, if you have arthritis, you can swim regularly to get some cardio in without causing injury to your joints.

5. Swimming burns tons of calories.

Usually when people hear that an exercise is “low impact,” they think it means the exercise isn’t as effective at burning calories or losing weight as others. That’s just not true. Yes, swimming is low impact and is easier on the joints than other exercises. Many people swim to get an aerobic activity without further irritating their arthritis or to get a workout while healing from a leg injury. That doesn’t mean that swimming is easy, though, or that it’s not effective.

Swimming for an hour burns at least 500 calories and even more if your swim is intense. It’s an awesome choice if you do need something low impact for physical reasons. But it’s an equally awesome choice if you are mixing up your daily workouts and need something that burns many calories but gives your body a break.

Regardless of your reasons for choosing swimming, it’s a great choice for cardio. A good, long swim burns calories and fat and is easier on the joints and muscles. You can probably last longer in the pool than you could be pounding the pavement. Additionally, if you have a difficult time running, you can substitute swimming as a weight loss exercise.

Conclusion

“The water doesn’t know your age.” – Dara Torres (Olympic swimmer)

Clearly, swimming is one of the best workouts you can get. Swimming makes working out accessible for people who can’t or isn’t interested in running, biking, or other forms of cardio. To be clear, though, you will feel the burn. If you swim for exercise and not just fun, you’ll get your heart rate going and get the same benefits as cardio and resistance training. You just won’t get all sweaty while you’re doing it! And you’ll probably be able to swim for a longer period of time than you could run.

For a great body all year round, swim regularly. Find a gym with a pool so that you can incorporate swimming into your workout routines regularly.

Need a place to swim in New York City? We’ve got a gym for that.

CompleteBody in Manhattan’s 57th street location has an incredible pool with a sun deck and solarium roof (check it out on Facebook here). You’ll get an amazing workout while enjoying it, too, in a covered, rooftop pool.

Get Into Shape With These Basics of Swim Training

It’s not easy to design a generic training program, given that everyone has different capabilities and strengths, but there are universal guidelines anyone can follow to make sure they’re on the right track.

What follows are a few ideas and suggestions for those of you who are interested in staying in swimming shape on a consistent, injury-free basis.

Swimming is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise available to us. Of course I will say that, given that I’ve been swimming all my life, but there is no denying the fact that it is one of the only exercises that utilizes all muscle groups while constantly stimulating the heart rate.

It is also the least likely sport to result in injury due to its low-impact nature, and is even practiced as a form of physical therapy by athletes suffering from ailments in other, less forgiving sports.

Like any cardiovascular exercise, it is necessary to swim consistently for maximum results. Most people who yearn to stay in shape make an effort to do some form of cardiovascular training three to five times a week for 20 minutes or more per session. With that in mind, anyone looking to swim for fitness should be able to swim at least 20 minutes at a time, several times a week.

Suppose you can swim for 20 minutes, with generous breaks at each end of the pool. You should plan on swimming for 30 minutes, then, so that your actual exercise time (as opposed to rest time) ends up around 20 minutes.

To begin, commit yourself to three times a week, 30 minutes per workout. Try swimming for as much of that time as you can, and count your laps. You should be able to cover anywhere from 20 to 30 laps, at least. If you are capable of doing more, you should be swimming for longer periods of time, perhaps 45 minutes or even an hour.

Sample: Basic Training Swim Workout

Warmup:
2 laps (100 meters)
Rest

1 lap easy
1 lap fast
(repeat five times, with no rest if possible: 500 meters)
Rest

2 laps KICK
(100 meters)

1 lap backstroke
1 lap freestyle
1 lap breaststroke
1 lap freestyle
(200 meters)
Rest

Swim down
2 laps
(100 meters)

Total: 1,000 meters

The above workout is an outline for someone wanting to achieve basic conditioning while maintaining muscle tone and flexibility. If it is too much of a challenge, you may need a few swimming lessons to correct your technique before tackling the sets above.

If the workout is too easy, then you ought to increase the distance and create intervals to challenge yourself. As you get in shape (and you will notice your conditioning improve with every week, if you stay committed), you can modify the routine to your needs, adding ladder sets, pulling and kicking drills, and pace or sprint sets to spice things up.

Eventually, you will be able to swim up to an hour, or up to 3,000 meters (two miles). That should be your goal. Anyone who can swim two miles several times a week is in no danger of being out of shape!

Being the proponent of cross-training that I am, I would urge any diehard swim fanatics to work a few other activities into their routine. If you are swimming three times a week, the best advice I can give you on the off days is to do some light weight training.

Weights done in moderation provide toning and build muscle mass that would otherwise be lost in a swimming-only regimen. In addition, weights done properly can strengthen specific tendons and muscles that have a tendency to flare up with frequent swimming; rotator cuff / shoulder injuries being the most common of these.

Running has always been a favorite break from the pool for me, and if you are fortunate enough to have good knees and feet, it can be a terrific supplement to your swimming. Also one of the most effective forms of cardiovascular training, running can challenge you in respiratory ways that swimming cannot: Try running up a steep hill, or sprinting short distances around a track. These drills will increase your heart rate a lot faster than swimming can, if you have been doing it a while.

Although I have only taken a few yoga classes as a form of recreation and research, swimmers everywhere have told me about the benefits of this latest fitness trend. At the very least, I know that it helps develop flexibility, which is important if you are on a weight-training regimen.

With a swimming routine like the example above, you should gradually mix, match, and build other activities into your regimen to achieve your fitness goals. Throwing a different sport or physical endeavor (such as weightlifting, running or yoga) into your swimming schedule offers a jolt to your routine and a respite from the workout rut that sends many people back to the couch.

By swimming several times a week and complementing your training with other forms of activity, you can achieve an overall level of fitness that will keep you happy, healthy and injury-free.

A former swimmer at Stanford University, Alex Kostich has stayed strong in the sport at the elite level even while maintaining a day job. The three-time Pan-American Games gold medalist still competes in—and wins—numerous open-water races around the world each year, as well as competing in the occasional triathlon and running race.

Swimming is something that I love. I love everything about it. I always have. As a kid I was a total water baby. I excelled at swimming lessons, I was briefly on a swim team at the local pool. I even did synchronized swimming.


As a kid some of my fondest memories have been in the water: swimming in Blue Lake in Eastern Washington…the cool lake water, feeling the seaweed on my feet and the sand between my toes.

North Santiam River

Or swimming in the North Santiam River every summer at my aunt’s house. The trek from her farmhouse down the several mile trail through the woods to get to the river…being hot and sweaty and ready to jump in feet first; the feel of the river rocks under my feet…Most of my happy memories are around water, come to think of it.

At “The River”

Swimming is something I recommend to everyone who asks me how to lose weight. I understand it’s not for everyone. Some people are just not natural swimmers, and some people simply do not like the water. I understand that. But if there’s any part of you that ever enjoyed swimming I really suggest trying it for fitness. It’s something FUN that doesn’t necessarily feel like a workout.

Swimming is full of good things and maybe some not so great things. A few things you should be prepared for.

It’s Addicting.

Be prepared! Once you start swimming and get good at it, you’ll love it. There is something relaxing and meditative about swimming laps. For me it’s time to get in a workout at the same time as I relax and think about things that are going on. Once you get to a point when swimming isn’t a struggle, you can lose yourself in the silence of the water, lose yourself in the repetition of the down and back pattern.

It’s Great Fitness

Swimming works your whole body. It increases your stamina, breath, builds muscle, burns fat, improves the way your heart and cardiovascular system works and relaxes you at the same time. It’s a great exercise for people with joint pain, back problems, injuries, and people who are too obese to do other activities. At 250 pounds the idea of starting a running program never crossed my mind–swimming, on the other hand, was the first thing I thought of. Not only is it healthy and fun, I’m weightless in the water! I’ve also read that it’s a great activity for pregnant women but that’s not something I know much about.

Swimming is the perfect form of exercise. Period.

Weight Loss Will Happen

The weight started melting off my body as I started my swimming program. It was only 2-3 days a week for less than 45 minutes at a time and I was losing about 6-10 pounds a month because of it.

50 Pounds Gone

If I had to break it down, I’d say that I lost 60 pounds solely from swimming. It wasn’t until I lost that weight that I started doing other things: the elliptical, the treadmill, etc.

Body Changes Will Happen

I wasn’t prepared for the changes that my body would go through when I started swimming to lose weight. Sure I started to see progress, 10 pounds gone, then 20 pounds…and so on. It wasn’t until I got closer to my goal weight that my body truly transformed. What I noticed the most were my shoulders. Who knew I even had such broad shoulders? I never did before. But swimming laps transformed my body into a V shape. It’s very common for swimmers to develop this shape: the broad shoulders, the really narrow waist.


The reason behind this is because when it comes to swimming the part of your body that does the most work is your shoulders, arms and back. Yes I kick my feet as I swim but it’s not much. The act of your shoulders and arms pulling your body through the water will develop muscles you never knew you had.


That’s not the best picture to illustrate how my body changed but it gives you a good idea.

And Now the Not Great Stuff to Consider:

Itchy Skin

The one drawback to swimming is the chlorine. I always smell like chlorine. 🙂 In fact if I run the day after I swim I sweat chlorine. Chlorine is a necessary evil. Sure it smells bad to some people (I love the smell) but it really is a good thing. I’d much rather have the pool chlorinated and killing icky germs than not. If you can find a salt water pool I recommend that. It’s a different experience in salt water–not only is it less drying on the skin and hair, plus it’s easier to swim in salt water! Salt water is denser and more buoyant so less of your energy is expended keeping afloat and more is used to propel you along. The good thing about swimming in a chlorine pool though is that you get a better workout as a result of having to work harder.

Chlorine is very drying. My skin is pretty itchy as a result of it. There are lots of tricks to get over this.

I live by Vitamin E Oil.


First, I shower immediately after swimming and I use a body wash that will alleviate itchy, dry skin. Oatmeal and Shea Butter are good options, Vitamin E Body Wash, and Aveeno are excellent. After I dry off I slather myself with Vitamin E oil and often use additional dry skin lotions or body butters.

Drinking a lot of water also helps replenish my body. At the end of the day I also use lotion again. As you can see I obviously buy my moisturizer at Costco.

Dry Hair

Chlorinated pools can dry out your hair too. I have a few tricks up my sleeve for that. First, I often work in Vitamin E oil or Conditioner into my hair, or at the very least the ends of my hair, before I put on my swimming cap. This helps a lot. You can also get your hair wet before putting on the swim cap. The hair follicles soak up the water and expand and they don’t soak up as much chlorine. Noticing a theme? Swimming Caps! My hair always gets wet even if I wear a cap but it helps a lot.

Another tip is to use special swimmer’s shampoo and conditioner. I used Ultra Swimmer. It runs about $5 a bottle at Fred Meyer. I don’t use it anymore because I switched to a salt water pool and didn’t have the same issues with my hair drying out. The gym changed from salt water back to chlorine but it’s not as strong as the community pool I used before.

Avoid blow drying your hair. I’ve never been much for blow-drying. I prefer to let my hair dry naturally. Not only is my hair curly and it tends to frizz if I do, it’s just healthier than blow-drying.

Now for the links!

Swimming Tips for Beginners

Lap Swimming Etiquette

How to Swim Breastroke

How to Swim Freestyle

Benefits of Swimming

QUESTION: Have any of my posts inspired anyone to try swimming? What are your favorite childhood memories?

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A swimming workout may not cross your mind when you’re looking for a new way to challenge your body. After all, it requires finding a pool, then grabbing a swimsuit, cap, and goggles—so it takes a little extra planning. Plus, you can’t really tell if you’re sweating when you swim, so…is it even doing anything?

“Swimming is an amazing full-body workout with minimal impact on joints,” says Helen Lin, a Master swim team coach based in Boston. “It also builds muscular endurance and is a great cardiovascular workout.” So yeah, it’s effective.

Swimming is definitely something to consider if you tend to get injured from high-impact exercises like running, says Albert Matheny, CSCS, co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab.

Besides, have you seen what Olympic swimmers look like? They’re sculpted in all the right places, so clearly swimming is effective.

Swimming burns more calories than you’d think.

Total caveat here: There are a lot of factors that go into how many calories you burn doing anything, including swimming. I’m talkin’ things like how much you weigh, your personal metabolism, and how hard you push yourself. But in general, Matheny says you can expect to burn about 300 calories for a half hour of swimming freestyle laps at a moderate pace.

Your experience level matters, too. It’s totally unfair, but Lin says that swimming newbies are more likely to burn more calories than veteran swimmers, which may help with goals like weight loss or strength building. “It takes an impressive amount of coordination with body position and breathing to put it all together,” she says. Once you know what you’re doing, you learn to move through the water with as little resistance as possible—which inevitably means you’ll burn fewer calories.

But hey, that means you can probably swim faster. If you’re more experienced, add a few sprints to the mix to kick your calorie burn up a notch, Matheny says.

Prefer to stay on land today? Try this total-body strength workout:

Yes, swimming can sculpt your muscles.

The cool thing about swimming is that it works pretty much all of your muscle groups, Lin says. But, obviously, some get more of a workout than others. That include your latissimus dorsi (back) and deltoids (shoulders), since there’s a lot of pulling to get your body through the water. Your pecs, glutes (butt), and quads (thighs) also see some solid action thanks to kicking. “All strokes will engage your core muscles to support your limbs as you propel through the water,” Lin says.

The strokes you use matter, too. In general, Matheny says you’re going to work the following muscle groups (in addition to your deltoids and latissimus dorsi) with these strokes:

  • Freestyle: chest, triceps, biceps, forearms, quads, middle and upper back, and neck
  • Breast stroke: chest, back of your shoulders, quads, and calves
  • Butterfly: chest, shoulders, neck, abs, upper back, lower back, calves, quads, lateral hamstring, and trapezoids
  • Backstroke: middle and upper back, trapezoids, quads, and glutes

In general, Matheny says it’s great to shoot for 30 minutes in the pool. But if you don’t have time to go that long, just try to get your heart rate up for as long as you can.

Try these swimming workouts and exercises.

Sure, you can get in the pool and just go, but it may also help to have some structure in place for your workout. If you prefer to just swim laps, Matheny recommends aiming to swim 1,000 yards in 30 minutes. (For the record, most swimming pools you’ll find at your gym or community center are 25 yards long.) But if you want more specific swimming exercises, Lin suggests trying these:

If you’re just starting out…

  • 4 x 25 yard warm up
  • 2 x 25 yard freestyle with 40 seconds rest in between each 25
  • 2 x 25 yard kick of your choice with one minute rest between each 25
  • 2 x 25 yard backstroke with 50 seconds rest in between each 25
  • 2 x 25 yard breast stroke kick with one minute rest in between each 25
  • 2 x 25 yard kick of your choice
  • 2 x 25 yard cool down

If you’re more advanced…

(Heads up: you’ll want to grab a kickboard for this and, when you use it, hold it in front of you and kick with your legs straight out behind you.)

  • 4 x 50 yard warm up
  • 2 x 50 yard freestyle in two minutes. (If you finish the 50 yards in one minute, then you get one min of rest. If you finish the 50 yards in 1:30, then you get 30 seconds rest)
  • 4 x 75 yard freestyle in 2 minutes and 15 seconds
  • 2 x 100 yard alternating freestyle and using a kickboard with 30 seconds rest after each 100
  • 2 x 50 yard freestyle in two minutes
  • 2 x 50 yard kickboard in two minutes
  • 4 x 50 yard freestyle in one minute

Matheny says you should start to see results pretty quickly once you make swimming exercises a regular part of your routine.

Korin Miller Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more.

How Does Swimming Transform Your Body?

When it comes to full-body workout that’s both easy to do and easy on the joints, nothing beats swimming. And with summer fast approaching, it’s time to seek out your nearest pool, put on your swimsuit and dive in.

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Not only is swimming a great cardio workout, but it tones and strengthens your entire body from head to toe, and improves flexibility as well.

Here’s how swimming shapes your figure, giving you that enviable “swimmer’s body.”

Sculpted Arms And Shoulders

Nothing sculpts your arms quite like swimming – especially if you’re struggling to tone your shoulders and triceps. All swimming strokes work to target your upper arms, forearms and shoulders, including breast stroke, the butterfly, and front and back crawl. There’s a reason why swimmers have such large, chiseled shoulders, and its because these are worked for every stroke in the water.

Crunch-Free Abs

You can almost feel the fat melt away when you’re swimming. There’s constant core tightening happening as your body tries to stabilize itself in the water, which means that you’re constricting and working our abs without having to do a single crunch. Many people finish a swimming workout with sore abs.

Strong, Shapely Back

Swimming often recommended to people who have back pain or other joint issues, because it both allows you to strengthen and tone while being gentle on the area. Strengthening your back and the muscles along your spine can help correct several postural problems and give you a leaner and shapelier look – the perfect “swimmer’s body.” The breast stroke and butterfly are especially good for this.

Gorgeous Glutes

All forms of swimming engage all the major glute muscles – as well as several minor ones. Every time you kick, your glutes power your legs, bringing you a step closer to the perfectly rounded derriere that you can proudly flaunt in your bathing suit. If you want to up the ante, try holding on to a kick board, and utilize just your legs to propel you forward using the breast stroke. You’ll find it’s a lot harder when you don’t have your arms to help.

Shapely Legs

All that kicking really burns the fat and builds up the muscles in your thighs and calves. Your legs can still get a good workout even if you haven’t mastered the basic swimming strokes. Tread water for several minutes or kick vigorously in the pool as you hold on to the sides. To increase the intensity, throw in a kick board: grip it firmly with your hands and travel as many lengths as you can comfortably handle, kicking vigorously all the while.

Final Thoughts

While swimming shapes and tones your muscles, it is not very effective when it comes to adding bulk or strengthening your bones. For that, you will need to add some form of weight training or pylometrics into your exercise routine.

The goal is to have a balanced workout regime that incorporates cardio, strength training and balance, for a well-rounded fitness program that never leaves you feeling bored.

Is swimming a good exercise?

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