When it comes to a workout having it all, swimming tops the list. There’s no impact involved, making it easy on joints, and you can rev your heart rate and muscles all at once, thanks to the water’s resistance. It’s also a great way to work your entire body, and you can do it indoors, making it a fine option for when the mercury starts to dip.
Ready to dive in? Exercise physiologist and ironman athlete and coach Tom Holland, author of Swim, Run, Bike, Eat, offers up five ways to maximize your swim workouts.
Perfect Your Form
“It’s always a good idea to take some lessons at your local pool, to work on the basics; good form can make your swims more efficient,” Holland says. “That said, some pointers to keep in mind for the classic crawl:
Take fewer strokes: Slow your pace and focus on gliding through the water after each pull.
Swim quietly: Don’t slap the water with your hands, and try to take smaller kicks. It’s called the ‘flutter kick’ for a reason.
Keep your legs up: Think about using your core to keep your body straight and your legs from dipping too low below the surface.”
Grab Some Toys
They’re not just for kids. “Swim toys are great to use if your form isn’t perfect, and they can help you focus on certain muscles while giving others a break,” Holland says. “Use a kickboard to focus on your legs, or hand paddles to add more drag, to strengthen your arms.”
You can also use toys to break up your swims. “It can be tough to swim for 30 minutes straight right off the bat,” Holland says, “so mixing it up with toys can help get you there.” Try swimming for 10 minutes with a regular stroke, and then add tools over the course of the next 20 minutes.
Play with Speed
Adjust your intensity with intervals, to push yourself harder without petering out. “Start with a five-minute warm-up, which could be swimming a length or lap (down and back) at an easy pace,” Holland says. “Then swim another lap (or length, depending on your fitness level) as hard as you can. Rest for 30 seconds, and then repeat nine more times. When you finish, cool down for five minutes with an easy swim. Some people do the breaststroke as a recovery swim.”
Watch Your Workouts
Tracking your exercise sessions can be incredibly motivating, as it provides a window into your improvement over time. You can also see how many calories you burn during your water workouts, which can help with weight loss. Log your workouts in a journal, or wear the new Fitbit Flex 2, which can detect your swim workouts automatically with SmartTrack when enabled in the Fitbit app. You can also adjust the length of the pool in the app, and see extra stats like your pace and distance for each workout.
Find Your Zen
It is said life is about the journey, more than the destination. And the same goes for swimming: Take the opportunity to enjoy your workout, and the peace of mind it can offer. “I find swimming to be incredibly meditative,” Holland says. “Your face is in the water, and you’re just staring at a line at the bottom of the pool. The water provides quiet time that we just don’t get anymore.”