Taking your workout to the pool is one of the best ways to get involved with a workout that you can continue for many years to come. The cardiovascular benefits of swimming compare pretty evenly with running or jogging, but without the pounding to your joints. As well, because swimming forces you to keep yourself level in the water, you engage core muscles you wouldn’t normally use during running or biking. Lastly, for those that find outdoor running difficult to stick with in hot weather – a pool is a welcome break. And when the weather turns cool, you can either crosstrain with a jog outside or seek out an indoor/heated pool.
If you’ve never actually used swimming as a workout, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:
Get a properly fitting swimsuit.
Boardshorts will weigh you down in the water and impede your ability to swim efficiently. Sporting goods stores and specialty swim shops carry men’s swimwear in a variety of coverages; not just the typical “speedo.”
Be sure to stretch well before getting into the pool. May people assume that just because there is less impact in the water that there is less chance of injury. Remember that swimming is a resistance-based activity and tight muscles and cramps are dangerous in the pool.
Learn proper stroke motions.
If you’ve never learned a proper freestyle, breast stroke and backstroke, it’s time to learn. Instructional videos and diagrams can be found in abundance online. Butterfly is often difficult for beginners and best saved for after you’ve mastered other strokes.
Know the basics.
One length of the pool is 50 meters (when dealing with an Olympic-sized pool). A lap is two lengths (100 meters). A mile is 1500 meters. If lane markers (ropes) are not in use, use the marked lines on the bottom of the pool to guide you. Crossing into another person’s lane is considered bad form.
When starting out, a good policy is to breathe on every other stroke of a freestyle. In other words, every time your left arm is stretched out, turn your head to your right side and inhale. Exhale in the water as you stroke with your right arm. Repeat. On other strokes, simply breathe when your head is elevated above water.
Even experienced runners find that swimming taxes their fitness more than they expected. Again, this is because swimming is a resistance exercise. You’ll get more benefit from swimming slowly for greater lengths of time than you will from maxing out your ability in a short period. Don’t worry – distance and stamina will come with time.