Swimming is promoted as one of the best full body workouts. And there are many good reasons for that. Swim workouts are a great way to work out as we get older since the support of the water means less stress on our joints.
That’s all well and good but if you go online and look for fitness tips relating to swimming, they all tend to be for the more elite athlete with competitive aims. If you just want to go to the pool to get fitter, what’s the best way to start?
Before you can build up any distance in swimming you need to breathe. That’s obvious but not as easy as it sounds. If your favored stroke is breaststroke with your head high out of the water that’s fine, but if you can make the move to put your face in the water, the improved posture really helps to tone your trunk. And it puts less stress on your neck.
What you need to learn is how to breathe out comfortably underwater before coming up to take a breath in. Practice by putting just your mouth under, blow out then come up. As you’ve already breathed out, instinctively you’ll take a breath in. Then repeat. If you’re in the pool with the kids or grandkids make a game of it – they’ll love seeing you blowing bubbles at them.
When you’re happy to put your face in the water, it’s time to invest in a good pair of goggles. It’s best to stick with the leading brands. And they’re not that expensive. Make sure you get a good fit with the strap round the middle of you head just above your ears.
Aegend Swim Goggles, $12.99
No Leaking Anti Fog UV Protection
U-FIT Swim Goggles, $14.96
Non Leaking Anti-Fog UV Protection Clear Vision
Ready to take the plunge? Start with slow swim workouts depending on your fitness. Swim one or two lengths then rest but only for a count of ten. Then repeat. Set yourself a reasonable target of say five lengths to start with. Hit your target then always swim one more length – just to prove to yourself you can.
As well as that initial target, set a longer-term goal. If you started with five, aim to increase this to twenty over a four-week period. It’s a good idea to keep a record too so you can track your progress. The Speedo On app is a good one for this. And it’s free. Some fitness trackers are also waterproof but make sure you check for certain!
Once you’ve built up to a reasonable distance, start to mix it up a little. Switch strokes and use pull buoys – a foam shape that you put between your legs so your arms work harder – and floats so you can focus on your legs. Backstroke is a very effective way to tone up your upper arms and ward of the dreaded bingo wings. Just remember when doing back stroke to keep your breathing well regulated.
Start to think about your form. What position are your arms? Are you making best use of your legs? What about your torso? Yoga and Pilates are particularly good workouts to support swimming. If you get it right and you swim for twenty minutes, effectively you’re planking for that time! Simply remembering to pull your belly button towards your spine really helps and improves your posture in the water.
One of the key elements to master is the rhythm of swimming. Coordinating your breathing with arm strokes and leg kicks takes practice and once you get going at a pace that suits you, you should find that you can really start to increase the distance that you swim.
The other option though is to build in speed. Swimming can be a great way to get a HIIT workout. A slow length, followed by a quick one, then a ten second break, repeated ten or twenty times can be completed really quickly. If you’re short of time or at the pool with friends but still want to get a good workout in between catching up on everyone’s news, completing a quick HIIT session is a great way to build up your water fitness.
Swimming with friends is great. Swimming alone is great “me time”. As well as improving your physical fitness, it’s a great way just to clear your mind. Focus on your form and on counting your lengths. Empty your mind and just think about the water around your body. Concentrate on your breathing and your pace. Before you know it, you’ll have completed your session and that extra length that you know you can do.
Give swimming a try. You’ll find it’s one of the best workouts there is and perhaps, a new found joy.
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