Swimming is a type of activity that reminds us of what it feels like to play because it is fun, and almost everyone, including older adults and people with disabilities can benefit from joining some type of water sport, exercise, or aqua aerobics.

It is also a low impact total body exercise, joint friendly, relieves stress, has numerous therapeutic benefits, increases muscle strength and flexibility, improves cardio vascular fitness, and helps with weight loss.

Unlike some sports, swimming requires a certain level of skill in order to participate in laps or at least a minimum ability to get started and learning to breathe properly is critical.

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Although many of us take swimming lessons as children, there are people who never gain confidence, who never overcome their fear of water, or who do not become competent enough to consider swimming as an excellent part of their fitness program.

If you are worried about your abilities, take a few lessons. The instructor will teach you basic strokes as well as how to breathe correctly.

Similar to other types of cardio vascular activities, the best way to get started is to slowly build confidence and endurance, and then gradually add more time, more laps, or increase difficulty using tougher strokes.

At first, many struggle with just one length of the pool without feeling winded or tired. Remember that this is normal and will improve quickly so do not worry about how fast you are swimming.

Equipment

The latest bathing suits are a technological wonder, but also a personal preference. Using a pair of goggles makes swimming more comfortable, which allows the swimmer to keep their eyes open and see the advancing pool side, and prescription goggles are available too. Some swimmers require nose and ear plugs.

Types of Strokes

Freestyle or the front crawl is the most recognized stroke but also one of the hardest, but builds endurance quickly. Breathing rhythm is important and so is learning to breathe bilaterally (alternating to both sides), which helps the body roll with each arm stroke.

The breaststroke is an excellent stroke for beginners and great for building confidence.

The backstroke may be hard for some people to maintain their legs in a buoyant position, you cannot see the upcoming pool wall, and the ears are slightly below the surface of the water

The butterfly is the hardest to learn since it requires body undulation timed with the double arm lifts above the head and is extremely cardio vascular

Flutter board swimming uses the legs only and is a great way to build strength and endurance

beginner swim workout_2

Schedule

Beginners should aim for 2-3 swims per week every other day. Warm up by walking back and forth in the shallow end for at least 5 minutes. Do some high knee lifts, form circles with your arms in the water, and some arm swings in and out of the water and as you improve swim a lap or two at a slow pace.

Start with your strongest stroke and the longest distance you can complete comfortably, maybe 25 yards or meters depending on the pool.  Stop and rest for 30 seconds and repeat this pattern for 20 minutes. As your endurance improves, first double the distance with the same rest and then cut the rest time to 15 seconds.

Next triple the distance and keep the 15 second rest time. Keep adding distance between rests until you can swim 20 minutes without stopping which should equate to around a half mile or 32 lengths. Aim to vary the strokes you are using even if your skill level is low to avoid overuse of any muscle or muscle group.

Example:

– 25 yards with 30 second rest
– 50 yards with 30 second rest
– 50 yards with 15 second rest
– 75 yards with 15 second rest adding 25 yards/1 length until 20 minutes of time or approximately ½ mile without rest

Be sure to cool down when you are finished and stretch the upper and lower body muscles. At any time STOP if you have a cramp, feel any discomfort, fatigue, or lightheaded.

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