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Aqua fitness: Swim into shape

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Get fit in the water

Want to look hot on the beach this summer? Jump in the pool and swim some laps! The workout you get from just 30 to 45 minutes of swimming pool time can shape, tone and energize your body.

Two female swimmers.

Warmer weather means cooler clothes and more skin. If baring more of your body has you worried, pencil in some swimming pool time. The water provides multi-directional resistance (great for toning) and swimming is an awesome aerobic workout (effective in shredding calories). If you are ready to take the swimming pool plunge, follow this swimming fitness plan. Then, get ready to paddle your way to amazing shape—just in time for the summer!

FITNESS BENEFITS OF SWIMMING

There is no doubt that swimming does your body good. Besides overall muscle toning, strengthening and aerobic fitness, you will get more flexible and fight fat with each lap. A 150-pound woman will burn about 320 calories after one 45-minute session of light swimming. Plus, as a low-impact activity, swimming is an ideal option for those with bad backs, knees or feet, as well as expecting moms who are avoiding weight-bearing exercise like running.

SWIMMING ESSENTIALS

For starters, you will need a pool, natch. If you are lucky enough to have one in your (or your neighbor's) backyard, then it's a no-brainer. Otherwise, check out when your local YMCA or community pool is open for lap swimming – avoid peak hours when it will be hard to maneuver around recreational splish-splashers.

Next, be sure to have a proper-fitting swimsuit. Leave your skimpy bikini at home – the swimming suit you don to do your laps should stay on and support you as you cut through the water. Try the bestselling Speedo Ultraback. Also, pick up a pair of swimming goggles to keep chlorine from burning your eyes and a latex swimming cap, a requirement at most pools, so you are not fussing with your hair while you should be focusing on your stroke. As for other swimming accessories or gear, most recreational or public swimming pools offer kickboards, pull buoys, paddles and other equipment on deck.

LEARN FROM THE PROS

Who says swimming lessons are just for kids? Whether you are a beginner or a more skilled swimmer, consider a few swimming classes with a trained swimming instructor. You will have your form and technique observed and critiqued and will learn to be a more efficient – and faster – swimmer. Ask about swimming lessons at your local pool. Most adults swimming sessions are private and can range anywhere from $40 to $100 an hour, depending on the swimming facility.

To really amp up your stroke, check out some swimming-focused books or DVDs, like Complete Conditioning for Swimming by swimming gurus Dave Clark Salo and Scott Riewald as they take you through more than 125 swimming-centric exercises and drills to enhance your endurance, flexibility, core strength and power. Bonus: It comes with a companion DVD with footage of swimming drills you can do in the pool.

GET A SWIMMING START

Ready to take the plunge? Grab your goggles, swimming suit, and cap and take on this 45-minute beginner's workout, sticking to freestyle as it works the most muscles. Note that in most pools, one lap equals 25 meters, so 150 meters = six lengths; 100 meters = four lengths, etc.

  • Beginner's swimming workout
  • 150 meters easy swim (any stroke but preferably freestyle)
  • 100 meters easy kick (use a kickboard)
  • 50 meters easy swim
  • 12 x 25 meters swim with 5 to 10 seconds rest between each
  • 150 meters swim down very easy

Do this swimming workout two to three times a week and gradually increase your distance and speed. For more workouts, check out those at Tri-Newbies.

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