Swimming

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Harvard Medical School

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Swimming

Fitness
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Training Tips
Swimming
Swimming
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Improve your performance.
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InteliHealth
2009-07-01
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2011-07-01

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Swimming

Swimming lets you tone your muscles and get a good aerobic workout. And it doesn't punish your joints the way running and some other sports can do. Swimming can help you lose weight, too. The average swimmer can burn nearly 600 calories per hour.

Here's how to improve your workouts even more.

  • Vary your stroke
    The best swimmers practice their worst strokes, not just their best one. So in each of your swim workouts, use each type of stroke. If you don't know the crawl, breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke or butterfly, learn how to do them. Because some of your "weaker" strokes are harder for you, you'll challenge yourself more and get a better aerobic workout.
  • Do drills, not just laps
    Many swimmers swim lap after lap at the same pace. That provides an OK workout, but to improve your form and endurance, do what competitive swimmers do -- intervals. Break your laps into shorter, faster drills laps. Maybe you can do two laps at full speed, followed by three laps at your regular pace. Don't rest too long between drills. You want to keep your heart rate up.
  • Target specific muscles
    If you're already a strong swimmer, you can become a stronger one. Cross your ankles so that you have to swim using only your arms and shoulders. Or strengthen your leg muscles by using a kickboard. This gives your arms a break, but makes your legs work harder. By targeting specific muscle areas, you can get a better workout.
  • Use the pool in other ways
    Swimming isn't the only workout you can get in the water. You can "run" in place in the deep end. Keep your legs straight, toes pointed downward, hands below your elbows and hips in line with your shoulders. Water aerobic classes can complement swimming.

 

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Last updated June 10, 2014


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