Year of Fitness - Swimming for Intense Water Workouts

Year of Fitness - Swimming for Intense Water Workouts

Did you know that over 27 million Americans choose swimming as their primary source of fitness?

With over 309,000 public swimming pools in America not including lakes and beaches, there are lots of opportunities to get in your workout by swimming. Whether you’re good enough to join a swim team or never really learned to swim properly, working out in the water can provide a serious, low-impact workout that's gentle on your joints. Discover the techniques, tips, and options you’ll have if you make swimming your passion for a full year.

Dipping Your Toe In - Swimming Advice for Beginners

If your swimming experience is minimal or you have a solid foundation but haven’t tried to swim in years, the idea of leaping into the pool and knocking out 20 laps may be intimidating. The fact is, swimming is a strenuous workout that can be challenging even for athletes of other sports. Not only does it require a unique form of fitness, but there are factors like stroke technique, breath control, and general understanding of how to be comfortable in the water that each play a role.

More than Just Swimming Laps - Other Exercises for the Pool

You may be surprised that there are many ways to get exercise in the water that don’t involve actually swimming. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, it’s worth learning about some of these techniques so you can incorporate them into your workouts. Before going out and swimming a bunch of laps, consider warming up with these techniques that are ideal for learning to swim.

  • Use a Kickboard to warm up your legs and practice proper kicking technique.

  • Do knee raises and other stretches in the water.

  • Warm up by walking quickly around the pool, with or without an aqua jogger.

  • Try holding the kickboard with one hand while swimming on your side

  • Join classes such as Water Aerobics to get more familiar with the pool.

The Four Competitive Swimming Strokes

Whether you’re in the Olympics or watching swimmers at your local pool, there are four main strokes that are quintessential to swimmers throughout the world. While some may come more naturally than others, any serious swimmer should know all of them, and train them regularly.

1. Freestyle

Also known as the front crawl, the freestyle stroke is the most common, fastest, and most efficient technique in swimming. Lunging forward or kicking off the wall to maintain a horizontal position, start kicking your legs while alternating long reaching strokes with one arm, then the other. As one arm reaches forward, your face can turn to the opposite side for a quick breath.

  • It’s also common to remain face down as you swim, breathing every few strokes.

  • The ideal kicking method known as fluttering is easy to practice with flippers.

2. Breaststroke

Another important and very popular swimming stroke to know is the breaststroke. As the slowest of the competitive swimming strokes, the breaststroke is great for beginners because it allows you to keep your head above the water the entire time. Rather than alternative leg and arm movements, you coordinate both, executing each stroke with your limbs in perfect symmetry.

  • The body alternates between horizontal and inclined positions with this stroke.

  • The ideal time to breathe is as your hands pass your chest underwater.

3. Backstroke

One of the most basic and crucial skills learned when you first start swimming is how to

float on your back. From a horizontal position on your back, your arms perform alternating wide arcs reaching backward, then pulling water as they submerge. Your legs perform fluttering kicks that combined with your arm motion, help to propel you through the water. As a swimmer of any level, this is arguably the most important stroke to know.

  • The backstroke uses different muscles than freestyle, so it’s good to include.

  • Consider switching from freestyle to backstroke to give muscles a rest.

4. Butterfly

Compared to the other swim strokes, the butterfly is the most demanding and exhausting of all. Once you have the technique down, you’ll find that the butterfly is the second fastest swim stroke with only freestyle being faster. To execute the butterfly stroke, your body is prone, and the legs will be doing a dolphin kick, moving in perfect unison. Likewise, your arms stay symmetrical as well, as they simultaneously reach forward, passing under your chest, and resurfacing past the hips as you come up for air. Your hips and chest will alternate coming up out of the water as you perform the butterfly stroke.

  • The three elements of the butterfly stroke make it the most difficult to learn.

  • Due to how exhausting the butterfly stroke is, it’s mostly seen in competition.

The Advanced Swimmer - New Goals and Challenges

If you’ve committed to swimming for a year for your health and fitness, it won’t be long before you have the competitive strokes down and are getting faster and stronger with each session.  

Being a skilled swimmer opens many doors for you. If you love swimming more every day, you could take on a water-related job that relies on your skills. If you want to test your skills against other swimmers, there are numerous ways to compete. Discover more options that are available for highly competent swimmers.

Join a Swim Team

Most city pools and sports facilities such as the YMCA regularly host swim teams which are divided into groups by age or ability. Upon joining a swim team, you’ll be responsible for attending practices and races, which may be individual or relay oriented.

The best way to get involved in joining a swim team is to check your local resources. Local pools and fitness facilities often have signs posted detailing their swim schedules and availability for swim teams.

Benefits of Joining a Swim Team

Not only will joining a swim team make you a faster swimmer, but it’ll introduce you to a lot of likeminded people who love swimming as much as you do.

Make Money With Your Swimming Skills

If you love swimming so much you could do it for a full-time or part-time job, there are lots of ways to make it happen. From lifeguards to swim instructors, there is always a demand for strong swimmers to fill a variety of unique positions. Swimming jobs include:

  • Coach of a swim team

  • Lifeguard at a pool or beach

  • Waterpark attendant

  • Dolphin trainer

  • Rescue swimmer in the Navy

  • Teaching other swim classes, such as water aerobics

What to Expect After Committing to Swimming for a Year

After relying on swimming for your primary workout for a full year, any fears you had of handling yourself in the water will have dissipated. With your confidence in the water at an all-time high, you’ll feel comfortable spreading your strong swimming skills to younger family members.

But the most obvious benefits will be in yourself - swimming is essentially a form of active meditation in the water, and regularly practicing means that your body will be slender and strong and your mind more tranquil than ever before.

Ready to Take the Plunge This Year?

Swimming regularly is a phenomenal way to stay fit. It’s low impact on your joints and works muscles in ways that aren’t possible outside the water. Lakes, pools, and some oceans can be ideal for working on your swim strokes, making it widely available for just about everyone. The look of a swimmer is unique and instantly recognizable - slim and lean, yet muscular. Ultimately, swimming will lead you to a level of fitness you never thought possible, and all you have to do to start is jump in.