Health & Wellness

How To Get Into Swimming For Beginners

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Everyone loves a dip in the pool on a hot summer’s day, right? And if you have easy access to a home pool or a pool at your local gym or fitness center, or even a neighborhood pool, you may have wondered how you can incorporate swimming into your fitness routine. 

Swimming for fitness isn’t something that should be left up to the experts and the experts alone. There’s no need to be an Olympian in order to get a good workout in the pool. But sometimes it can seem that way, especially if you’re more accustomed to just hanging out in the shallow end or by the swim-up bar.

Luckily, getting into swimming just takes a bit of hard work, perseverance and the right gear. Here’s a complete guide to get you started.

Is a Swim Routine Right for You? The Benefits of Swimming

Swimming is a good exercise option for many people because it’s low impact and an aerobic/cardio full-body workout. It’s ideal for those who can’t run or cycle due to joint issues. It’s a form of exercise that most anyone can do, regardless of fitness level, and it requires few up-front costs in terms of equipment and gear. The most expensive part of getting started with swimming will usually be the cost of a fitness club membership if you need access to a pool.

The one instance where swimming might not be an ideal option? If you’re trying to lose weight fast. In these cases, swimming is an excellent accompaniment to other exercises, but you may not want to rely on it for your only form of exercise to meet your weight loss goals. 

The Basics for Getting into Swimming

You’re going to need a few things before you can start swimming. The most important thing you’ll need? The ability to swim. 

If you like the idea of doing a few laps around the pool every day, but the thought both thrills and terrifies you, you’re not alone. A lot of adults either are poor swimmers or they simply can’t swim at all. So don’t be ashamed to sign up for a swim class or hire a private instructor if you really want to learn how to swim or level up your swim skills. You can find instructors and classes at local fitness centers, YMCAs and other venues. 

Consider enhancing existing swim skills, too 

If you’re already fairly confident in your swim skills, you may find that you might benefit from perfecting your technique. In these cases, why not find a swimming club or group? Swimming with your peers on occasion can push you to improve your swim technique. 

If you don’t like the thought of swimming with a group, you can simply hire a private coach if you want to invest in honing your technique. But don’t feel like this is a necessity; coaching can get expensive, and if you’re not as worried about technique as much as you are simply getting in some exercise and having a good time, you probably don’t even need one. 

Finding the right fit 

Beyond instruction and coaching, the other crucial component for developing a swimming habit is a place to swim, and most swimmers find that open water won’t cut it for a regular swim routine. 

If you don’t have a suitable pool in the backyard or a local neighborhood pool, shop around for a fitness center before committing to a membership. You want to ensure that a center’s swim policies will meet your needs. Some fitness centers reserve the pool for classes and events throughout the day, and if the senior water aerobics class is always taking place during your one free hour from work, you won’t exactly be able to get in much swim time there. 

Get geared up

And, lastly, after you’re confident in your swim skills and have a place to swim, you’ll need the right gear. You may already own some swim gear, but if not, consider purchasing a functional swimsuit that will keep you covered and allow for a broad range of movement, a swim cap and some swim goggles. That’s right — functional; that means not necessarily fashionable.

If you want to change up your swim routine and work on specific muscle groups or challenge yourself, you can also purchase fins, a kickboard, pull buoy or hand paddles. 

Related: How To Safely Prepare Your Toddler (And Yourself) For The Swimming Pool

A Beginner’s Swim Workout

While you could just jump in the pool and swim, swim, swim, with no rhyme or reason, many swimmers like to develop a routine to help track their progress, challenge themselves and maintain a consistent swim pattern.

As a beginner, you may want to aim to visit the pool two to three times per week and try a simple on-off pattern of swimming for 30 seconds and then resting for 30 seconds. Then, you can repeat the set nine times for a total of 10 sets. Then, see how you feel. 

If that’s challenging enough for you, keep at it until the routine feels easy. If you want a little extra challenge, you can always add paddles or fins to your practice, or you can try to lengthen the amount of time you spend swimming while keeping the 30-second rest. 

Of course, you don’t want to do the same type of set every single time you swim. Changing things up keeps your swim routine from becoming boring. Other workouts you can try?

Try a set of alternating laps, where you swim one lap at a leisurely pace, and then you swim one lap at your fastest. Repeat the set four times, for a total of 10 laps, then rest before beginning another set. 

You can also do a similar set of alternating laps, where you do one lap freestyle and one lap backstroke, repeating the set four times for another total of 10 laps before a rest break.

If you want to find even more sets and full swimming workouts, including warm-ups and cool-downs, check out the #Slappers blog that lists quite a few options. Just don’t expect to know all the swimming lingo right away — that’s where this swimming glossary comes in handy. 

Common Swimming Injuries 

Like every form of exercise, don’t try to push yourself too far, too fast. Even though swimming is pretty low-impact, you can still injure yourself if you push yourself too hard. 

The most common injuries that swimmers experience are injuries dealing with the upper body, neck and shoulders. You may experience pain or soreness in your neck, shoulders, shoulder sockets, biceps or even low back. 

To prevent injuries, it’s advised that you not push yourself too hard, too fast. Instead, take the time to learn proper swim techniques — which is where a class or coaching can help, even for experienced swimmers. Then, rest often and work on increasing core strength outside of your swim routine.

Many swimmers compliment their swim routines with a strength-training practice that they can do at home for the latter. 

Common Swimming Complaints

So you found a spot to swim, you bought all the necessary gear — but you didn’t enjoy your first few trips to the pool. Why not?

A few of the most common swimming complaints include that swimming is more challenging than people initially thought, it’s not as fun as their other workout routine or they don’t really like the environment they’re swimming in.

If you’re finding that swimming is much more demanding than you initially thought, you’re not alone. Swimming is hard, and if you thought swimming for fitness would be similar to the few leisurely strokes you put in, you probably found out otherwise pretty quickly. Swimming works out your whole body and likely engages some muscles you don’t use regularly.

But the key to enjoying the process is not to push yourself too hard. You don’t need to be the fastest swimmer or the swimmer that can put in the most laps in the morning right away. Instead, go at your own pace, just like you would if you were just getting into running, cycling or even hiking.

If you feel like your swim routine is boring, it’s just an effort to make it more exciting. Swim in a new spot. Swim with a friend. Join a club. Challenge yourself with a new goal, like participating in a triathlon. Buy some swim-safe earbuds so you can listen to your favorite tunes or podcasts while you swim. Sure, swimming can get repetitive, but so can jogging the same loop around your neighborhood time and time again. You have to mix things up to keep them interesting. 

And, if you don’t like the environment you’re swimming in (which is why it’s so important to thoroughly vet any fitness center or club where you plan to swim ahead of purchasing a membership), try to shake things up there, too. Can you go at a different time, when things aren’t crowded or when certain crowds aren’t there? Is there a free alternative pool option available to you that you could use some days? 

Essential Tips for Starting a Swim Routine

Ready to get out there and discover your new favorite way to work out? Take a few tips with you as you go. 

Don’t overcomplicate things

When you’re just beginning, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. Don’t feel like you need to get your form 100% right from the start. Don’t feel like you need to know all of the different strokes. Don’t feel like you need to start some complicated swim set the first time you dip your toes in the pool.

For a little while, at least, keep things simple and fun — Swim freestyle rather than focusing on your breaststroke. Get accustomed to the pool and swimming regularly in general. Then move on to the more complicated stuff. Professional swimmers have often been swimming longer than they’ve been walking, and it takes decades to mimic their form and style — don’t feel like you need to do it on your first day.

Find your support and motivation

Even if you don’t care for swimming in a club or with friends, you can still find your own version of support and motivation elsewhere. Join a swimming group on Facebook. Follow swimming-related hashtags on Twitter or Instagram. Follow some swimming blogs. Even if you don’t actively engage, seeing that content regularly can give you a sense of community and inspire you to get out in the pool more. 

Practice consistency 

If you want to see results from your swim routine, you’ll need to practice consistency. That means consistently working out the same number of times per week, consistently working toward identified and concrete goals, and always challenging yourself to meet those goals. 

If you don’t have any hard and fast results you want to see, then sure — go ahead and just swim for the fun of it. But if you want to improve your time, speed, form, endurance, aerobic ability or anything else, you’ll need to set identifiable and achievable goals for yourself. Then, develop a routine that will get you there with some consistent, hard work.

Check out the available tech options  

Just like you can use apps and other tech to maintain a running routine, you can do the same for your swim routine. The MySwimPro app is a popular pick, with its smartwatch syncing capabilities, in-depth data and analytics on things like heart rate and speed, and more. 

Start a Swimming Routine Today

So, what are you waiting for, swimmer? There’s nothing complicated about starting a swim routine — you just have to get started. Whether you’re a long-time triathlete or a beginner swimmer, adding a swim routine to your life can make you healthier, happier and that much closer to your overall fitness goals. 

You might also be interested in: Essential Tips For Buying An Above Ground Pool

Holly Riddle

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