Think beyond steady laps. Our dynamic way of swimming will transform your body and wake up your indoor workouts. Everybody in!
Many people assume swimming means just going back and forth. But that' only if you don't know all your options, says Sue Chen, swim coach at Nation's Capital Swim Club in the US. A pool workout can be dynamic and involve challenging intervals and muscle-sculpting strength exercises. Plus the environment offers a vibe in which you can decompress, says Gerry Rodrigues, the founder of California - based elite open - water training programme Tower 2. Here are all the reasons that will inspire you to finally take the plunge.
IT'S A TOTAL - BODY WORKOUT
Water is resistance, and to move through it (and not sink), every major muscle group in your body – especially your core – has to pitch in, says CeCe Marizu, a New York instructor who teaches in-pool classes that incorporate speed, power and strength.
To work more muscles from more angles, switch up your strokes during workouts, says Rachel Stratton-Mills, the head coach at Cleveland Swim Institute. Freestyle (the classic front crawl) tends to be the easiest stroke to ace, and it results in a big calorie burn (30 minutes of vigorous freestyle burns 322 calories; only the butterfly gives you a better burn, at 354 calories).
Back stroke (the flip side to freestyle with a windmill-like stroke) especially targets your core and hip flexors because it requires you to intensely tighten your torso and keep your hips in line with your upper body as you swim, Rachel says. For even more leg firming, do the breast stroke (where arms and legs sweep out in wide arcs), which requires bigger, more powerful kicks that, unlike other strokes, work muscles in your outer and inner thighs.
YOU'LL BECOME A PRO QUICKLY
Even the smallest form adjustments can have a huge impact on how your body moves through the water, says Maya Di Rado, a four time Olympic medallist on the US team. To stay streamlined and efficient – which will make you speedier – keep just three rules in mind, Gerry adds.
First, continuously engage your big muscles (including your shoulders, back, abs, butt and quads), and pull your ribs in almost as if you’re trying to close them together at the centre. Next, make sure your head, neck and belly button are aligned on one horizontal plane with hips, knees and feet.
Finally, keep your hands fully extended, close your fingers, and straighten your wrists.
Maintain this three-point form checklist no matter which stroke you do, and your body will remain one firm unit that moves with maximum fluidity, Gerry says.
NO, IT'S NOT BORING
Think of swimming as you would any fun interval workout. For a 30-minute routine, Gerry suggests spending five to eight minutes warming up at an easy pace and then doing intervals for 20 minutes.
Just as on dry land, you have many interval options. You could go by time: Perhaps alternating 10 90-second sprints with 30 seconds of rest between each. Or work by distance: You could sprint one length and recover on the way back. Or increase your effort on each set (called laddering up): Take the first interval at an easy pace, the second at a moderate effort, and the third at a hard effort. Repeat that pattern three times, then on your final push, give it all you’ve got before doing cool down laps.
Which ever plan you pick, you’ll constantly think about what comes next, and your pool time will fly.
LAPS AREN'T THE BE-ALL, END-ALL
You can use the pool itself in different ways to sculpt your body. For example, pushing yourself up on the edge of the pool deck to get out of the water deeply strengthens your anterior shoulders and triceps (and will help you pump up your push-ups on solid ground). Do that 20 times – you don’t actually have to get out of the pool each time – between intervals or at the end of your workout for a bonus firmup, Sue says.
For a twist on speedy intervals, swim to the deep end of the pool, cross your hands over your chest and kick vertically, keeping your head above water (similar to treading water but without the help of your arms). Aim to do that for two or three sets of five minutes. You can also do power moves, including squat jumps and running, in the shallow end, since the water’s resistance provides an extra challenge, Cece says.
YOU CAN'T OVERDO IT
“Swimming allows you to train everyday while letting your joints recover from the previous day’s workout,” Rachel says Ground-pounding activities like running can’t do that. So what might normally be a rest day can now be an active one without beating your body up too much. And there’s no such thing as a swim hangover – soreness is rare, and typically you’ll actually be able to perform better during your next workout because exercising in water loosens up your body, Gerry says.
THERE ARE ZERO DISTRACTIONS
When you’re in the pool, you’re detached from the outside world. You can’t e-mail, text or even talk. There’s also a sound that relaxes you when you’re underwater, even though you’re getting a killer workout, Maya says. “It’s very soothing, almost like being swaddled,” she explains.
And since more than 90 per cent of your body weight is displaced when you swim, you’ll feel completely supported by the water. “You can think about whatever you want… or not think at all,” Maya says. “It’s an amazing stress reliever.”