By Patricia B. Dwyer
Between doggy paddling for survival and Michael Phelps-ing it in the fast lane lie realistic workouts beginning swimmers can follow to get in great shape this summer.
"Swimming is truly a total-body workout without the strain or stress that high-impact exercises such as running may have on the body," says Loren Glasson, a personal trainer at Wave House in Mission Beach. "A regular swimmer will see improvements in their whole body, specifically core, back and hips."
Working with fellow Wave House trainer Giovanna L'Abbate, Glasson crafted a month-long exercise plan to help even the most buoyancy- challenged individuals feel proficient in the water. With three varied workouts each week, the plan targets different areas of the body to keep the muscles guessing, the calorie-burn high and the mind untroubled by monotony.
Get In Gear
Suit up and dive in
Swimsuit: Pick up a one-piece or a Speedo at a sporting goods store, or just wear something comfortable that won't fall off.
Swim Cap: Swim caps keep hair out of your face and protect it from chlorine. For additional protection, wet longer hair in the shower, and then tie it into a bun before donning a cap.
Goggles: To avoid swimming into a wall, lane line (plastic floats-on-a-rope that create lanes) or another swimmer, invest in a pair of goggles. Any pair will do to get started.
Pull Buoy: A small flotation device in the shape of a giant peanut that you hold between your thighs, a pull buoy helps create resistance and keeps your legs afloat during arm drills.
Kickboard: A kickboard looks like a toddler's boogie board that you hold in front of yourself to stay afloat during kicking drills.
Check yo'self before you wreck yo'self
Pace Yourself: With the goal of swimming the last lap at the same pace as the first, maintain a comfortable, sustainable rhythm.
Best Stroke: Maintaining proper form is crucial for maximizing the efficiency and benefits of a swim workout. Practice keeping your stroke narrow and close to your body. Your elbow should be the first part of your body to leave the water to begin each stroke; the fingers should be first to reenter. Once your hand is submerged, pull it through the water in an s shape that follows the contours of your body, and then let your body rotate naturally as it glides through the water.
Air Time: Take a breath every three strokes if you're comfortable breathing on both sides. If you favor one side, breathe every two or four strokes.
A four-week plan to swimming success
(M) Meters: An average swimming pool is 25 meters long. One lap (two lengths, or one Olympic-size length) is 50 meters. One mile is 1,600 meters.
Rest: Take 10 to 30 seconds to breathe between sets. If you need more than that, slow down and swim at a pace that allows you to recover more quickly.
Ladder and pyramid: These exercises involve taking breaks after swimming short distances. Distances in Pyramid start short, get longer, and then decrease again. Ladder drills invovle alternating between longer distances and shorter ones.
Catch up: This is a modified freestyle stroke that incorporates a pull buoy. With the buoy between your legs, start with both arms in front of you. Next, do a freestyle stroke with your right arm, leaving the left one extended until the right-arm stroke is complete. Then, leave the right arm extended while stroking with your left, and repeat. This will help you focus on your stroke form, while the buoy keeps you afloat.
Fist: Swimming freestyle with your fists closed forces you to focus on pulling your arms through the water properly.
Kick: Using a kickboard to focus on your kicking form. Your hips and thighs are stronger than your knees, so let them do most of the work.
Side kick: Kicking with a kickboard while lying on one side.
Pull: Swimming freestyle with your arms while holding a pull buoy between your legs. Focus on lengthening your strokes and letting your body glide through the water.
SPL (strokes per length): Count your strokes per pool length. Focus on form, with the goal of decreasing the amount of strokes you need to span the distance.
Right arm/left arm: Swim with one arm remaining extending above your head the entire time, like the "catch up" drill, but without switching arms. Feel free to add fins or a pull buoy to this workout to avoid sinking.
Scull: Lying on your front or back, move your hands underwater in a sculling motion (side-to-side, like treading water) to propel yourself across the pool.
SKPS (Swim-kick-pull-swim): Swim freestyle, then kick, then swim with the pull buoy, and then swim freestyle again. Do so in 50-meter segments for a full circuit of 200 meters. Using fins and a kickboard will make this one easier.