Whether you stumble upon it trying to get over a fear of the water, or you decided to try it after being sidelined by an injury, swimming is an incredible sport that can be enjoyed by men and women of all shapes and sizes. “It’s comparable in calorie burn and energy exertion to all other high-impact aerobic activity, like running, biking or Zumba dancing,” says Diana Freedman, Aquatics Department Head at Lifetime Athletics in Syosset, NCAA Division II Swim Coach and former Division I swimmer at Towson. “However, because it’s low-impact on the body thanks to the buoyancy of the water, it’s great for individuals with or recovering from an injury.”
Depending on your stroke and intensity, swimming can burn anywhere from 500 to 800 calories per hour, equivalent to hitting the pavement for the same amount of time.
For beginners, swimming can be a whole new animal. It adds the element of oxygen restriction to a workout that already has a large focus on form and technique. And for intermediate to advanced swimmers, the choice is yours. Pool workouts can come in the form of high-intensity intervals or a more mellow experience. Ignore the clock, and those laps can feel similar to “a yoga meditation, going back and forth, staying parallel to the black line, losing yourself in your thoughts,” Freedman says.
Though many swimmers will focus on freestyle, the three other competitive strokes — butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke — have their benefits, too. Butterfly is the most difficult and amps up the intensity. On the other hand, backstroke removes the breathing element and focuses on working the back (as its name suggests). When it’s time for recovery, the breaststroke is a great option, though it’s still a competitive stroke (just ask Brendan Hansen).
While hopping in the pool for a few laps is never a bad thing, here are three new ways to spice up your pool routine. Decide your skill level and dive into one of these workouts from Freedman.
Beginner Swimming Workout
Similar to running, swimming is a relatively inexpensive sport — all you need are a swimsuit, swim cap and goggles. But it can also help to have a few other pieces of equipment on hand. “If you get one tool, I recommend a kickboard as you can use it for so many different drills,” says Freedman. Try this workout, which kicks things off with the kickboard.
Intermediate Swimming Workout
In some race, participants use all four strokes — butterfly, back, breast, free — in that order, which is known as Individual Medley or IM (think 200 IM or 400 IM in the Olympics). “In a relay, it’s a little different,” says Freedman. “The order of the strokes is different — back, breast, butterfly, freestyle — and each person has a specialty and only swims one type of stroke.” Perfect your IM with the workout below.
Advanced Swimming Workout
For those well versed in IM and looking to improve their distance per stroke ratio, get ready to work. Using a kickboard, buoy, paddles and fins you’ll be able to isolate and focus on specific elements in your overall stroke — whether it be your pull, your kick, or your body roll — to make you a more efficient, faster fish. Give this swim a try.
For more workouts you can do on dry land, visit DailyBurn.com.
Originally published September 2014. Updated on July 2017.