Make swimming your summer workout

Swimming is a total body workout, and with just 30 minutes and a few tricks, it can become serious exercise. (Photos: NYTimes)
Summer is near, and you have decided this is the year to trade your running shoes for swim goggles. Maybe you have tweaked a knee and need a lower-impact form of cardio; maybe you just cannot face your outdoor boot camp class when it’s 90 degrees.اضافة اعلان

Whatever your reason for taking to the water, swimming is one of the best exercises you can do for your health. It’s a total body workout, taxing your arms and legs, as well as your cardiovascular system, yet it puts less stress on your joints than most other exercises. And on a hot summer day, the cool water is a good place to get sweaty.

But where to begin? Facing down a lap lane can be intimidating as a novice. Here are some tips from professional coaches on how to turn 30 minutes at the pool into an effective workout.

Start slow
“You wouldn’t go right out and say, ‘I’m going to run 10 miles,’ ” said Cokie Lepinski, a US masters swimming coach in Surprise, Arizona. “Same thing with swimming.”

Buy a good pair of goggles (a swim cap and kickboard can be helpful but are not necessary), and start by swimming one lap — down and back the length of the pool — without stopping. Typically, people swim freestyle when they exercise because it’s the most efficient stroke, but you can switch it up if you want some variety.

Most American recreational pools are 25 yards long, so one lap is 50 yards, two laps is 100 yards and so on. Olympic pools are twice as long, while home pools vary, so make sure you know the length. Also, many serious swimmers count one lap as one length of the pool, so make sure to clarify if you are working with a trainer.

If one lap feels easy, do two with a short break (10 to 20 seconds) in between. Gradually build up, increasing the number of laps and decreasing the frequency of breaks, but do not overdo it on your first day — no more than 10 laps total.

“When it comes to swimming, it’s about consistency, so start from where you are,” said Cullen Jones, a four-time Olympic medalist who coaches youth swimming. “Make sure that what you’re doing is manageable. Have the mindset that you can do it again the next day or two days from now.”

Focus on form
If your last swim lesson was in grade school, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind. First, you want your body to be on top of the water as much as possible. The easiest way to do that is to keep your head down and look at the bottom of the pool.

“If you lift your head up and you look at the wall,” said Fares Ksebati, a founder and CEO of the app MySwimPro, “your legs are going to sink, and that’s going to create a lot of resistance.”

Your kick also helps you stay balanced on top of the water. In fact, unless you’re sprinting, kicking is more important for body position than for propulsion. Kick just enough to keep your hips and legs on top of the water so they don’t drag you down. “The biggest mistake beginner swimmers make is they kick too much,” Ksebati said. “The legs use the most blood, so if you kick a lot, you’re going to fatigue a lot more quickly.”

If you are racing, then you can kick your legs into high gear, as Jones did in the 50m freestyle sprint at the 2012 Olympics. But when swimming for endurance or general fitness, imitate someone such as distance swimmer Katie Ledecky, whose legs barely make waves, to conserve energy and focus on balance and alignment.

Another beginner’s mistake is staying too flat in the water. Instead, you want to rock subtly from side to side. As your fingertips touch the surface, extend your arm as far as you can while rotating your hips and shoulders slightly. Try this on dry land: stand on your tiptoes with one arm stretched overhead. If you shift your hip and shoulder up and forward, you can probably reach a few inches higher. Now do that in the water.

Get into intervals
Once you can do eight laps easily, try some interval training. For serious swimmers, workouts are structured like weight training, broken into sets rather than going for 30 minutes straight.

To do this, you need to understand an interval formula used in almost all swim workouts. Intervals are usually described by two numbers: the number of repetitions and the distance in yards of each rep as a multiple of 25 (the length of the pool). Short rests are built in after every rep. For example, a 2x50 means swimming 50 yards (down and back), taking a 10-second break, and then swimming another lap. For a 4x25, swim the same distance, but rest every time you touch a side. A 1x100 means swimming two laps continuously and resting after. All three intervals are 100 yards total, but they’re swum at different rates.
When it comes to swimming, it’s about consistency, so start from where you are.
Tailor your intervals to your goals. If you want a higher-intensity workout, swim shorter intervals at a faster pace. If you want to work on endurance, swim longer distances at a slower pace with fewer breaks. For example, a 4x25 would typically be swum at a sprint, while a 1x100 is usually a slower, endurance-focused interval.

“If you swim the same pace every day,” Lepinski said, “you won’t get as much benefit.” For one, she added, interval training is more fun. “And two, it just challenges your heart a little bit better.”

Most of all, enjoy the process. For many swimmers, the water is not only a place to work out. It’s also a sanctuary. “It’s hard to be thinking about the stresses of the world when you are thinking about: ‘When’s my next breath? Where’s the end of the pool? What set am I on?’” Lepinski said.

“When we slip under the water, the world goes away.”

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