Insider's Guide to Swimming: Pool Workout
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Fitness

Insider's Guide to Swimming: Pool Workout

Swimming exercises for every level.

A Pool Routine for Every Level: Beginner

Why try it? You'll blast fat while sculpting your major muscles. Plus, little impact means no shin splints, sore feet, or knee pain.

It's not just about swimming laps. Try intervals or drills to increase your speed, endurance, and overall fitness, says Maria Mason, swim coach at Reebok Sports Club/NY in New York City.

It's a Zen way to get fit. No honking horns or pounding music to contend with -- it's just you and the water.

Beginner

The basics: Swim freestyle, using your rate of perceived exertion (RPE, or how hard the workout feels on a scale of 1 to 10) where indicated. Distances are based on a 25-yard pool (one length); to do these routines, you should feel comfortable swimming at least 100 yards without stopping.

You'll need a kickboard, fins, and a watch or clock with a second hand (available at most public pools).

100 yds.
(4 lengths)

Warm up (RPE 3)

50 yds.
(2 lengths)
Flutter kick on side (RPE 3). Lie on one side with lower arm extended, ear resting on arm, upper arm along body; hold on to a board with top hand if necessary. Kick from hips (not knees), looking up and keeping knees and side or back of head in water.
50 yds. Flutter kick with kickboard (keep head in water and breathe to both sides; (RPE 4)
5 x 50 yds.

Swim at a moderate to hard intensity (RPE 7) for 5 laps, taking a breath every 3 strokes. Take 50 to 60 seconds to swim each lap, resting at the wall if you have extra time.

2 x 50 yds. Swim easy (RPE 3) for 2 laps, taking 1 to 1:15 minutes to swim each lap.
100 yds. Swim at a moderate intensity (2 laps; RPE 6).
100 yds. Cool down, easy (RPE 3).

You just swam: 750 yards

 

 

Intermediate

Intermediate
200 yds.

Warm up, easy (RPE 3)

100 yds.
Pulling, freestyle (RPE 4). Squeeze a pull buoy between upper thighs and swim only with upper body (no kicking).
2 x 50 yds. Moderate/hard in 40 to 50 seconds (RPE 7).
1 x 100 yds.

Moderate in 2 to 2:15 minutes (RPE 6).

2 x 50 yds. Moderate/hard in 40 to 50 seconds (RPE 7).
1 x 50 yds. Easy in 1 minute (RPE 4).
2 x 100 yds. Moderate/hard in 2 to 2:15 minutes (RPE 7). For the first 25 yards, breathe every 3 strokes; second 25, breathe every 5; third 25, breathe every 7; fourth 25, breathe every 9. Repeat sequence.
1 x 50 yds. Easy in 1 minute (RPE 4).
2 x 50 yds. Sprints with fins.
4 x 25 yds. Cool down. Flutter kick with kickboard and fins (RPE 4–7). Do first 25 yds. slow, next medium, then fast and very fast.
100 yds.

Easy (RPE 3). Count arm strokes every 25 yards, trying to reduce stroke count with each lap.

You just swam: 1,200 yards

 

 

Advanced

Advanced

Minutes

Speed (mph)
100 yds.

Warm up: Flutter kick with fins (RPE 3) (25 yds. facedown, 25 yds. on left side, 25 yds. on back, 25 yds. on right side).

200 yds.
(RPE 3) Swim first 25 breathing to left every 4 strokes, next 25 breathing to right every 4 strokes, final 50 breathing to either side every 3 strokes. Repeat.
5 x 150 yds. (RPE 5–6): Swim 150 yds.; rest 15 seconds. Swim 125 yds., then swim 25 yds., breathing every 9 strokes; rest 15 seconds. Swim 100 yds., then swim 50 yds., breathing every 7 strokes; rest 15 seconds. Swim 75 yds., then swim 75 yds., breathing every 5 strokes; rest 15 seconds. Swim 50 yds., then swim 100 yds., breathing every 3 strokes; rest 15 seconds.
1 x 100 yds.

Swim at an easy pace (RPE 3).

5 x 50 yds. Swim 25 yds. fast (RPE 7), 25 yds. slow (RPE 3). Then swim 25 yds. slow, 25 yds. fast. Rest 15 seconds between sets.
1 x 50 yds. Easy in 1 minute (RPE 4).
8 x 25 yds. Sprint (RPE 8–9) 45 seconds.
4 x 25 yds. Flutter kick with kickboard and fins. Do first 25 yds. slow, next 25 medium, then fast and very fast (RPE 4–7).
100 yds.

Cool down: swim easy (RPE 3).

You just swam: 1,800 yards (1 mile)

 

 

3 Ways to Be a Better Swimmer

1. Focus on form: When swimming freestyle, look at the bottom of the pool, pressing chest down and keeping head, hips, and feet at the surface. If your head and chest are too high, your legs and hips will drop, creating drag. As you take a stroke, reach forward just under the surface, extending your arm from your shoulder when your hand enters the water. Pull the water toward you, then keep elbow high as you pull your arm back. Try to maintain a constant strong, fast, small kick. Begin by kicking from the hips (not the knees), keeping your ankles floppy and relaxed.

2. Breathe better: The smoothest swimmers practice "bilateral" breathing, or breathing alternately on right and left sides. To do it, turn your body to either side every time you take a breath.

3. Roll with it: Avoid lifting your whole head to breathe. Instead, roll your body on one side so your chest faces the side of the pool as your arm pushes down and leaves the water. Keep your ear in the water as you take a breath and the corner of your mouth at the surface.

Not a Fish? Start Here!

A Gallup Poll survey found that 46 percent of American adults are afraid in deep water in pools. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to conquer your fears. These drills will help make you a stronger swimmer and boost your confidence.

  1. Practice by kicking in the shallow end of the pool. Start out wearing fins for extra power. Keep your arms extended in front of you, holding a kickboard, and keep your face in the water, looking at the bottom. Turn your body to one side to breathe every few seconds.
  2. Once you feel comfortable, try rolling your body to either side every third kick.
  3. Take short, quick kicks, generating from the hip. Now add in a freestyle stroke, breathing every third stroke.

 
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