The Swimmers Exercise Regimen

The Swimmers Exercise Regimen

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  1. So you’d like to add swimming to your regular exercise regimen.  You already know that swimming is a low impact sport that helps build flexibility, strength and cardiovascular health.  You may have also heard that swimming is a great counterpoint to running, weight training and other land-based sports.  Best of all, swimming just feels downright good, releasing endorphins and circulating oxygen through the bloodstream.  Ready to get started?  Here are a few ways to create your own swimming regimen.

    Learn proper stroke technique

    If you are new to swimming and unsure of your stroke technique, it can help to enroll in swimming lessons or a stroke clinic at your local pool.  Knowing proper technique helps prevent muscle strain and injury, and may help you to swim more efficiently.  Even veteran swimmers pick up bad habits from time to time.  These bad habits can lead to repetitive stress injury over time.  Even if you think you are swimming properly, it can help immensely to have a trained swimmer or instructor watch you. 

    Make an Eight Week Plan

    Once you are comfortable with your technique, it’s time to practice. As with any new exercise routine, consult with your physician first.  Adjusting to what works for your schedule and your body, start with shorter, easier workouts and grow to longer, more intense workouts over time.  For example, you can try swimming 30 minutes each week for the first three weeks.  Increase the duration to either one hour, or two half-hour sessions per week for the next three weeks.  In the last two weeks, try swimming two one-hour sessions per week.  However you choose to do it, the key is to ramp up your regimen over several weeks to allow your body to build strength.

    Straight Lap Swimming

    You can start by simply swimming laps back and forth, taking it easy until you are warmed up, then swimming harder until you reach a desired target heart rate for your age and fitness level.  Stop at the wall to rest when needed.  If you have access to a kickboard and/or fins, you can break up your swim with kicking or swimming your full stroke with fins (to ease shoulder strain).

    Creating Swim Workouts

    Once you have been swimming regularly for a while, you may start to get bored with straight lap swimming.  Congratulations!  You are ready to take your training to the next level by following a planned workout.  Workouts tend to make swimming much more fun and challenging as it engages both mind and body.  Each workout is typically comprised of a warmup, sets of swims on a time interval, and a warmdown.  Workouts can be as simple or complex as you want them to be and there are hundreds of free workouts available on the Internet for all level of swimmers.  Here is just one example of a beginner workout:

    • 200yds warm up easy: swim 200yds (or eight lengths of a 25yd pool)
    • 6 x 50s free on 1:30min: swim 50yds freestyle (front crawl) within one minute and 30 seconds (expecting that it will take you around one minute to swim and 30 seconds rest before you go again).  Repeat six times.
    • 4 x 100s fast, choice; 30 seconds rest:  swim 100yds of your choice of stroke (freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, or butterfly) as fast as you can.  Instead of a set time interval, take 30 seconds rest from the time you finish.  Repeat four times.
    • 200yds easy warm down- swim 200yds easy

    Helpful Hints

    The terminology and intervals may be intimidating and downright confusing at first.  Take your time and know that you will learn as you go.  The greatest challenge might be reading the pace clock, which comes with practice (and clear goggles).  Typically, a lap pool will have a stopwatch-type pace clock at each end of the pool with just a second hand and markings in seconds (ie- 15, 30, 45 and 60).  If there is no clock, you can use a waterproof wristwatch.  Most often, sets are started “at the top” or “on the 60.”  Right when you finish, you must look up at the clock and locate the second hand.  If each interval is on one minute, for instance, you might finish in 45 seconds and then you must prepare to go again when the second hand hits the 60 second mark.  Eventually you’ll come to recognize that any interval ending in ":00" means you’ll always go at the the top and inervals ending in ":30" means you’ll go at either the bottom or the top.  Any interval ending in 15sec means you’ll go at the 15, 30, 45, 60 and so on. 

    Just keep in mind that you must be courteous and follow proper pool etiquette if you are sharing a lane with others who are not swimming intervals.  If you like swimming workouts but hate the counting, you might enjoy swimming with a club or Masters swim team where you can share a lane with others of similar speed.  Swimming with a team challenges you to keep your pace but allows you to slack on counting (unless you are leading the lane).

    Cross Training

    If you are using swimming as a cross training exercise to your primary sport, consider swimming once or twice a week on your off-sport days.  If swimming becomes your primary form of exercise, you may benefit from cross training with other activities such as weight training, running, aerobics or yoga.  For example, if you are swimming three times a week, alternate with cross-training activities on alternate days.  Always make sure to take rest days when you need them to allow muscle groups to heal.

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