Beginner Swim Tips to Make That Pool Workout More Enjoyable

Sure, swimming may look easy, but get in the pool, and your muscles may beg to differ.

June 19, 2015
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Swimming may very well be one of the best workouts there is. Not only does the fluidity of movement provide a total-body workout, but hitting the pool also helps boost mobility. A 2011 study found that adults with hip and knee arthritis received similar boosts in mobility, function, and other health outcomes as they did from land-based rehabilitation. Added bonus? It rarely makes you sore. 

The only thing? Swimming, being the total-body workout that it is, can get pretty tiring pretty quickly. While newbies may think that slipping into a bathing suit and jumping in the pool will be a total breeze, they're often surprised with just how tired they are after that first 5 minutes. "Swimming is a skill that you can develop and refine," said Dr. Jordan Metzl, author of The Exercise Cure and Dr. Jordan Metzl's Running Strong. "Beginners who take a few lessons from a qualified coach often improve their endurance, speed, and efficiency very quickly."

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More: The Pool Workout You Need to Do This Summer

Not quite ready to pull the trigger on a coach, but itching to jump into the pool? With summer officially starting, we don't blame you. We caught up with Jason Sanchez, former swim instructor and Master Trainer at Midtown Manhattan's 24-Hour Fitness Ultra Sport, to get his better swimming tips for beginners.

1. Focus on swimming technique and not speed. "If you focus on speed, you forget the mechanics of the swim," says Sanchez. "You're going to be using a lot more energy than what's needed to do the exercise or complete the distance." Similar to running and biking, technique is a major component to a successful swim. The better the technique, the more efficient you'll be for a longer period of time. 

2. Make sure you learn freestyle and breast stroke. It's tempting to dive on in and do lap after lap of freestyle. The reality? After a while, especially as a beginner, this can get tiring. "Breast stroke is one of those go-to strokes that a lot of people go back to when you can't constantly do that front crawl," says Sanchez. "If you get tired from doing front crawl, you can revert to breast stroke to get your energy back until you feel good to go again."

3. Don't forget strength training. Whether you're training for a specific event or just interested in getting your feet wet, it's easy to forget other important aspects of a workout routine when your mind is elsewhere. Swimming, just like other endurance activities, requires a great deal of strength, especially in the back, shoulders, core and arms. "One of the key goals in swimming is keeping a nice flat position and be horizontal to the water, not letting your legs or arms drag," says Sanchez. "You need strength for that, and you definitely need strength to get through the duration of your workout. Skipping strength training is just doing your body a disservice."

4. Tackle intervals. "Break up your experience into intervals," suggests Sanchez. "Not that you have to swim straight for an hour, but if your goal is to be swimming for that amount of time, do yourself a favor and really learn what that kind of distance feels like. Go to a more energy-saving stroke where you're starting to get tired, give yourself a recovery and get back into a crawl." 

Looking for some interval workouts to give this whole swimming thing a go? We caught up with professional triathlete, IronMan extraordinaire, and Clif Bar athlete Linsey Corbin, for her go-to interval workout for beginners.

Note: This workout takes place in a 50-meter, Olympic size pool.

Warm-up
10 laps easy, 400 meters

Main set
1 lap easy, 50 meters
2 laps moderate intensity, 100 meters
1 lap easy, 50 meters
2 laps hard, 100 meters 
Rest for 30 seconds

Cool-down
5 laps easy, 250 meters

Tags: Swimming