Whether you’re an advanced swimmer looking to brush up on technique, or truly a beginner – this is our Ultimate Guide on How to Swim. Make sure you bookmark this guide so you can come back to reread certain parts if you don’t have time.
How to Swim (Summer 2019)
- How to Swim (Summer 2019)
- Why People Don’t Learn to Swim
- There Are Great Benefits to Swimming
- Here’s How To Master Basics of Swimming
- Preparing for Your Time in the Water
- Getting in the Water
- Moving to the Next Level
- Here Are Basic Swimming Styles You Should Know
- How to Perfect Your Swimming Technique
- Swimming in a Pool Versus a Lake
- Swimming in the Ocean Versus a Lake
- Tips for Swimming in a Pool
- Tips for Swimming in Natural Bodies of Water
- Don’t Forget to Make Swimming FUN!
- Swimming for Overall Health
It’s a common misconception that if you don’t go to the pool or beach, you don’t need to know how to swim. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were over 3,500 non-boating related unintentional drownings between 2005 to 2014. About 20 percent were children less than 14.
There are other factors to consider when drilling down to the numbers of how many people drown a year. For example, 72 percent of boating fatalities occurred because of drowning, explains the CDC. Nearly 80 percent of victims were not wearing a life jacket at the time. These figures show that knowing how to swim is critical no matter what the setting.
While it’s vital for your own swimming safety, it’s also important for those around you. One of the major risk factors is a lack of close supervision. A child can easily get into a dangerous situation in a matter of moments. Your ability to swim can mean the difference between a life saved and one that is lost. Swimming is an essential skill anytime you’re near water no matter what the location.
Why People Don’t Learn to Swim
Other things may influence a person’s decision to learn how to swim. Fear of water is a common theme. A survey by the American Red Cross found that 46 percent experienced a situation where they feared drowning. About 20 percent knew someone who had died as a result. It’s no wonder then that 54 percent can’t swim. It creates a formidable psychological barrier.
Access To a Body of Water
A lack of access to lessons or water often stands in the way. Others might not see the need to take the plunge. But don’t think only about today. Also, consider the future. Beach vacations, for example, are the most popular vacation type for over 50 percent of Americans. Just because you don’t see the need now doesn’t mean it won’t come in handy later.
Some may not learn simply because of where they live. If you live in the heart of an urban area, you may not think it’s important. But you may be closer to water than you think. Over 50 percent of the global population lives less than two miles from a freshwater body. Less than 10 percent are less than seven miles away.
Do you Have Aquaphobia?
Often, a traumatic experience with water creates a barrier that prevents someone from learning how to swim. It can also exist as part of the groupthink in a family or culture. Others may feel embarrassed to admit their fears because they think they’ll be ridiculed.
It’s important to understand that if you have aquaphobia you’re not the only one!
Over 12 percent of the American population has experienced similar feelings at some point in their lives. The good news is that up to 90 percent can overcome it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of shedding light on a known-unknown to make it less scary.
Here’s How to Overcome your Fear of Swimming!
Acknowledging your fears is a major step forward toward overcoming them. It’s something worthy of congratulations. Many people don’t make it this far because of embarrassment or shame about not being able to swim. Perhaps you know the reason behind it. Other times, it’s just instinct taking over and deciding your course. Recognition paves a path toward change.
Before you think about freestyle or breathing, let’s just focus on getting used to being in the water at all. That’s what the shallow end of the pool is for when it comes to getting a handle on your fears. You might find it helpful to articulate what exactly bothers you about the water. Is it something that you are afraid lurks below the surface? Did you have a bad experience?
Finding a supportive friend to guide you through this journey can be helpful. It’s important to be able to speak freely, and don’t fear speaking freely about your fear of swimming if you have one.
Most of the time it will feel good to let someone else know your fear, and a good friend can relate to those fears too.
Other unpleasant feelings often accompany a fear of swimming. They can add to the obstacles of getting over it. You might even find talking to a therapist helpful especially if it interferes with your everyday life.
Begin by just sitting in the water at the steps at the entrance. Feel the motion of the water. Hold onto the rail or edge of the pool if it makes you more comfortable. Remember that we’re talking baby steps. When it feels right, go down another step to immerse more of your body in the water. From there, you can move to standing in the water while still anchoring yourself.
Then, let yourself experience the water. Splash it on your face and notice how it cools you. Enjoy the sensation. The next step is submerging your head. A good way to being is by dunking the back of your head into the water without getting your face wet.
Feel the free movement of your hair in the water. When you’re ready, put your whole head in the water. Take baby steps.
Feel free to hold your nose and keep your eyes closed. Listen to the water and the sounds of the movements. Come to the surface and compare it with the world above the surface. The quiet of the underwater environment is very alluring. Let the peaceful surroundings help you work through your fears.
Swimming offers a lot of benefits that go well beyond being an excellent form of exercise. Perhaps your acclimation to it brought them to the surface for you. Feel free to repeat these steps until the water starts to work its magic. Let’s start with some reasons to consider swimming lessons.
There Are Great Benefits to Swimming
We’ve already touched on the importance of swimming as a life skill. You can put it in the same category as knowing CPR. You may not use it frequently, but when you do, you’ll be grateful. That alone makes it priceless. But it’s not just about having the ability to save someone else’s life. It’s also about you.
It’s crucial to know how to handle yourself and feel comfortable if you participate in other water sports. For example, stand-up paddling (SUP) has taken off as a popular form of outdoor recreation with a 26-percent growth between 2012 to 2015. The trends are similar with kayaking.
And don’t forget about recreational boating. Over 87 million adult Americans or about one in four take to the water. The fact remains that being near water can have a calming effect. A study published in the journal, Health & Place, found an association between blue space visibility, i.e., water, and lower psychological stress. That may help explain the popularity of SUP yoga.
You may have heard of a type of workout called water aerobics. Exercising in water has other health benefits that make it an excellent option for individuals with knee problems or arthritis. The buoyancy of the water takes the pressure off of their joints, allowing them to work out without the risk of further injury or pain.
It’s worth noting that physical activity is crucial for a good quality of life. Whether it’s walking the trails or swimming laps, it offers an excellent way to maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of chronic disease and early mortality. The recommended guidelines for exercise are 150 minutes a week for moderately intense exercise or 75 with intense. Swimming offers both.
It’s hard to overstate the benefits of regular physical activity. It improves your everyday life on so many levels. Often, there are cascading effects. For example, it can reduce stress which, in turn, can help you sleep better at night. Some feed themselves. When you’re active, it’s easier to keep exercising because you’ll maintain a healthy weight and better joint health.
Being outdoors helps us be one with the world around us. It’s one thing that connects all life on the planet. Perhaps that’s one reason that time in nature helps calm people and improve their mental well-being. Swimming also offers a unique opportunity to tune out from everyday hassles.
The quiet of being underwater provides an experience that is hard to replicate with any other form of exercise. It is literally a gateway to silence that few activities can provide. That feeling alone is often enough to make swimming an irresistible activity. No matter what the location, it’s just you and the water.
The benefits don’t end there. Swimming lessons for kids save lives. A study published by researchers from the American Medical Association found that lessons for children age 1 to 4 were associated with an 88-percent reduction in drownings. It is vital even if they’re just playing around in the family pool. The sobering fact is that most of these deaths occur at home.
Are you ready to find out what’s involved when you learn to swim? We’ll discuss both the safety and exercise aspects of the sports. We’ll guide you through the process of getting your toes wet to powering it through laps for speed. Let’s start with what skills you need to have and what you should know about swimming lessons for adults.
Here’s How To Master Basics of Swimming
Swimming is an essential skill even if you don’t plan on surfing or getting into a boat. Most drownings occurred when there wasn’t an intention to enter the water. Think of it like knowing what to do in case of a fire or when someone has stopped breathing. It’s a form of insurance. But it’s to take the right path from non-swimmer to one who is comfortable in the water.
The first step is being comfortable in the water before you think about open water swimming. You may be surprised to learn that simple things like floating and not having something to hold on to are major hurdles for some people. With the proper instruction, anyone can overcome their fears. You decide your pace of learning. Don’t rush the process especially if you’re afraid.
The American Red Cross recommends that you learn five critical skills for what the organization considers water competency.
These things provide a bridge toward how to prevent drowning. They all make sense because they empower you to act. They teach you not to panic so that you can find a safe way out and be able to get to it. Unfortunately, only 40 percent of parents with children younger than 17 have mastered these basics.
Our advice is to make water competency a goal even if you don’t plan on doing laps every day. If you have a fear of water, they will go a long way to making the experience less scary. Often these feelings occur simply because someone doesn’t know how to act in a serious situation. Learning them can remove a major obstacle to your enjoyment of water.
Even if you don’t move beyond them, you’ll be in a much better position than a lot of folks who eschew this basic skill. Pat yourself on the back for making the right choice. Let’s go on to those first steps for getting your feet wet.
Preparing for Your Time in the Water
The most important rule about swimming in any location is to never go out alone.
Always have a buddy with you even if there is a lifeguard on duty. It’s more critical if you have a seizure disorder. A fatal accident can occur in seconds. Instinct takes over so that the signs of someone struggling are often subtle. That’s what makes having someone with you so crucial.
It’s best to begin in still water or a pool in these early stages. Currents and waves are more powerful than you may expect even for advanced swimmers. You can bring along some things to help you get used to the experience such as:
- Swim Goggles
- Pool Floaties or a Kickboard
- Nose Plug
- Swimming Cap
You don’t have to have all these items, save the towel. Water temperatures under 70 degrees Fahrenheit will get your attention if you’re going to a lake. There’s no shame in dangling your feet over the side of a dock for several moments to get used to it. Just make sure your towel is nearby for when you get back on land.
Getting in the Water
The first step to learn how to swim by yourself is to start by getting used to the feelings of being in there before venturing into deeper waters.
Jumping into the deep end for the first time is a frightening thing. You should begin in shallower waters at first. Try walking around a bit. That can give you an idea of the effort it’ll take to move around in it.
Don’t rush the process. That’s especially crucial if you’ve had an unpleasant experience that has prevented you from learning how to swim. Now is the time replace those bad memories with something good.
Enjoy the feel of the water as it caresses your legs. Pay attention to the sights, smells and sounds to make positive associations with this time. It’s an excellent way to overcome lingering fears about the water. And it won’t be long before you begin to understand its allure.
How Do You Float on Water?
The sensation of floating may feel odd at first but is quite relaxing once you get used to it. That’s where your floaties or kickboard will come in handy. You can hold onto them for support as you as you lift your feet off of the bottom. Alternatively, you can grasp the pool’s edge. Do only what feels comfortable to you. Place your feet down again if you want.
That may seem like no big deal, but the reality is it’s a HUGE step. It marks the beginning of a wonderful relationship between you and the water. The next step is to float freely without the aids. That’s where having a swimming buddy will help. You can lie flat on your back with your friend beside you. You’ll love the view of the sky from this vantage point.
You’re not going to sink to the bottom. The human body is buoyant, albeit, some more than others. Just immerse yourself in the sensation. Your buddy can pull you along gently. You can also try moving yourself around by kicking your feet slowly and moving your arms. Once you’ve mastered this part, you’re ready to put your face in the water and lie on your tummy.
Begin by taking a deep breath and holding it. Dunk your head in the water and come up again. Don’t exhale underwater at this point. Let’s make sure that you can manage just having it below the surface for now. Then, repeat the act of floating. It’s best to master it in shallow water so that you can put your feet down when you need to come up for air.
The most important thing is not to panic. Stay within your limits before moving onto something else. There are no rules when it comes to the learning process. Everyone has their own timetable.
Here’s How To Breathe Properly While You Swim!
The next thing you need to learn is how to breathe when you swim. It’s another of the essential skills you need to move onto the different swim styles. When you get the technique down, it’ll help you incorporate a rhythm into your action that can take to the next level. It’s also an effective way to cope with other fears you may have of being in the water.
It’ll allay your qualms about not being able to breathe below the surface. The trick is how you do it. You’ll begin the same way with a deep breath. Instead of holding it, you’ll slowly release it through your nose. Take care not to inhale. You should only exhale. When you’re done, come up to the surface again. It may seem unnatural at first, but don’t worry. You’ll get it in no time.
Some people have trouble with it perhaps because of a mental barrier. That’s okay. You can use a nose plug instead if you have trouble with it. The word, plug, is a bit of a misnomer. It is a rubber clip that pinches your nostrils closed to prevent you from inhaling underwater. It typically has a short band that fits over your head so that you don’t lose it.
Swimming Goggles – Do You Need Them?
Many people like to wear goggles while swimming. They provide an excellent option if you’re not comfortable opening your eyes underwater. Others may find the experience more comfortable if they can ground themselves by seeing the area around them.
The choice is up to you. Make sure that they fit snugly around your head but not so tight that they pinch your skin.
You’ll find that they fit better if you get them wet first. That will create more of a seal to keep the water from seeping under them. An old diver’s tale recommends spitting into your goggles or mask before putting them on to prevent them from fogging.
It turns out that there is some truth to it. Saliva acts like a surfactant that keeps moisture from clinging to the lens. We’ll leave it up to you to decide for yourself if it works. Some types may cover your nose too so that you won’t need to breathe underwater. For safety reasons, we’d recommend learning how to keep you from panicking if you fall in the water accidentally.
Moving to the Next Level
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve mastered the first of the five water competency skills. Congratulations! You’re learning how to swim! Let’s keep going!
Now, we’ll kick it up a notch to add more tasks. If you haven’t swum before, you may find swimming a bit harder than you thought. That’s because it’s such an effective form of exercise with significant calorie burn.
It engages both your upper and lower body. These are large muscle groups that need a lot of fuel. An hour of light to moderate swimming will burn about 423 calories for a 160-pound person. There’s a good reason that taking to the water for fitness is in the top 10 of activities favored by all participants of all ages. Let’s build on what you’ve learned to make you a better swimmer.
How to Kick Your Legs While Swimming
Kicking provides the bulk of the power behind your propulsion through the water. Learning the technique will allow you to maximize the force behind it while optimizing the amount of energy you need to put into it.
You’re using the large muscles of your lower body which will tap your fuel reserves quickly. That’s why it makes sense to minimize drag and inefficient movements.
Proper technique involves coordination and synchronization. That’s where your breath can help to set the pace. You must learn how to kick right before you can to the different swimming strokes. You’ll find it helpful to begin in a pool where the environment is controlled. We’ll describe the action and then move on to doing it. Let’s start with the flutter kick.
That’s the one you’ll use for freestyle swimming. It’s deceptively simple. It involves a fluid movement where you’ll pull each leg down alternating between your left and right legs. The force comes from your hips, not your thighs. Stand facing the wall. Grab hold of the edge and let your body float parallel to the surface.
Point your toes and begin kicking one leg after the other. Allow your knees to bend freely in the water. The action is small. Don’t engage your thighs in the motion. Your feet, ankles, knees and hips are doing the work. You shouldn’t be moving like you’re riding a bicycle. You’ll also want to make sure that your feet don’t break the surface of the water.
Once you’re comfortable with it, move on to your kickboard. Pay attention to the distance that you’re moving. Keep your focus on your legs. You might even don a mask and snorkel to put your face underwater too. It’s not uncommon for people to have ankle flexibility issues in the beginning. You may find it helpful to add standing calf raises to your exercise routine.
Eggbeater Kick and and How To Tread Water
Treading water is a critical skill to keep you afloat should you fall into the water accidentally. It’ll help you stay vertical with your head above the surface. It’s a move you can use to pause while you’re swimming or just to catch your breath in between laps. The eggbeater kick is ideal for this purpose. It takes some practice at first just to get the movement down. Then, there’s the time.
It’s appropriately named. Basically, you’ll move each of your legs in circles, going in the opposite direction. Keep that eggbeater image in your mind. The trick is to keep them moving while not banging each other. It works best if you can coordinate your movement so that one leg is close to the center of your body while the other is farthest away from it.
You’ll find it helpful to practice this kick in water that’s deep enough for you to float but in which you can stand up if you need to take a break. Begin slow and gradually increase the speed of the movement to find the optimal rhythm. Remember the point is to stay afloat while wasting as little energy as possible. You shouldn’t just flay around and tap your fuel stores.
The key to the kicks and swimming styles is fluid movements. The water all around you provides a constant reminder. The eggbeater is a very active move. It’ll take some time to build your strength and work up to that one-minute goal for water competency.
The whip kick, also called the frog kick, is a movement you’ll do when learning how to breaststroke. Like the others we’ve discussed, coordination is a key factor to maximize thrust while minimizing drag. It combines features of the two. You’ll begin with your legs straight out behind you as if doing the flutter kick.
Then, you’ll bend your knees and push them out to your sides simultaneously and draw them quickly back together while straightening them. The kick alternates from the initial slow movement to the faster motion to propel you forward. The beauty of it comes when it’s combined with the arm action.
Here Are Basic Swimming Styles You Should Know
As you’ve probably discovered by now, swimming requires good lower body strength. You may find it helpful to incorporate strength training into your workouts along with some stretching exercises to improve your flexibility. The same advice applies to your upper body too. The resistance of the water is a formidable force which is why swimming is such a great workout.
There are five main swimming strokes you can learn to become an all-around athlete. You don’t have to learn all of them at once! We recommend just starting with the freestyle, and the breaststroke.
Each one will challenge your body differently and rely on some muscles more than others. We’d recommend mastering all of them if swimming is your preferred strength training exercise. You’ll get a much better workout when you target more parts of your body. Let’s review each of the strokes and their proper technique.
The freestyle stroke is the essence of swimming. It’s typically the first one you’ll learn and the one that many will use the most frequently. The arms are the driving force behind it. Proper technique, therefore, is essential to avoid shoulder strain, a common occurrence for beginners. At this point, you should be well-versed in how to breathe underwater and kick right.
It consists of a series of movements or phases with a recommended positioning of the arms and hands. They will maximize the force behind the stroke and minimize the drag that can slow you down. You’ll begin by floating on your belly with your arms out in front of you. Use the flutter kick technique.
Then, you’ll begin the so-called crawling motion by drawing your arm out of the water and reaching forward as far as you can. That will give you the longest distance. You’ll cup your hand with your wrist higher than your fingertips. Reach back into the water in front of your shoulder. Your hand will pull through the water with your fingers toward the bottom and your elbow pointed up.
Freestyle breathing happens at the same time. You’ll turn your head in the direction of the moving arm far enough to take a quick breath. It’s essential that you don’t hold it but rather use it to create the rhythm of the stroke. Once your arm is underwater, straighten it close to your side to avoid creating drag. Alternate sides while only taking breaths on one.
Your upper and lower body should act in concert to reduce strain on your shoulders. Don’t keep your knees and ankles rigid. Remember the idea is fluid movement. The same applies to your hands. Don’t tense them either but make sure your fingers are close together. Maintain a relaxed pace to your breathing too.
That tension is what can lead to shoulder strain. Keep your neck in a neutral position so that it’s aligned with your torso. Don’t be tempted to lift it too high which can also cause muscle strain. Your body should stay in a horizontal position all through the stroke. Otherwise, you’ll make it harder to propel yourself forward.
The backstroke is similar to the previous one in that horizontal positioning is important. It also uses the flutter kick technique. And, again, the arms are the workhorses for this one too. Some people find this stroke easier because you can breathe freely. Remember, holding your breath is not an option for good form.
You’ll begin the same way only floating on your back instead of stomach. You may want to float without doing the stroke so that you can feel comfortable in this position. Keep your chin up to avoid swallowing water. Then, you’ll begin the pull. As you reach your arm over your head into the water, your palm should face your feet. Keep your hand cupped but relaxed.
You should lead the side movement of your body with your hips. Your shoulders will follow which will give you greater power behind your pull through the water. It’s important that you keep your wrist flexible. A good way to remember this positioning is to imagine tossing an armful of water toward your feet. That will remind you to engage your forearms for the best leverage.
You’ll rotate your arm so that your pinkie will enter the water first with your thumb out. Keep the arm that is underwater straight at your side to avoid creating drag. Again, don’t tense your muscles but rather focus on their position in relationship to your trunk. You can begin the movement with the opposite arm when the other is underwater.
The sidestroke is another easy move that beginners are sure to enjoy. It allows you to keep your head above the water if you don’t like underwater breathing. It is a good stroke to learn as a potentially life-saving skill. It can help you pull another person through the water whether or not they’re unconscious.
The leg technique differs from the other two we’ve discussed so far. You’ll begin on either side. Then, you’ll use a scissor motion by drawing them out and back toward the center of your body. The arm movement is simple too. Imagine grabbing a handful of water with the arm on the side as you’re swimming and passing it to the hand.
You should practice on both sides to build overall body strength. We’re willing to bet that the sidestroke will be one of your favorites for a relaxing swim or to wind down after doing laps.
The butterfly is both a beautiful yet more difficult stroke. Proper rhythm is the key to mastering it. It is a powerful move that will propel you quickly through the water. That said, it is also more physically demanding than the others we’ve considered. We’re talking some major calorie burn with this one. It requires great strength and spot-on synchrony between the arms and legs.
Good form is essential. You can think of it as the sprinting of swimming. It’s excellent for short bursts of speed but less so for long distance swims. We’ll break it down into two parts since it is more complicated. The kick gives the stroke its elegance. It uses the dolphin or butterfly kick with an undulating motion like a mermaid that adds to its power.
The pool is the second part where the arms come into play as they go down into the water to your hips to their recovery. You use both arms and legs together versus the alternating movement of the other strokes we discussed. Because everything is happening at once, it’s not a forgiving move. It’s the first thing you’ll learn about how to do the butterfly.
Practice the kick first. Your legs should stay together with the action coming from the hips and traveling through your legs. Think of the movement that a dolphin makes. Keep your arms in front of you as you glide through the water. That is how you’ll begin the stroke after pushing off the wall of the pool with your feet.
Next comes the stroke with the arm movement. You’ll reach out to your sides with your palms facing outward. Then, pull down into the water to about waist level. That’s when you can take a breath by lifting your chest out of the water. It’s a short window to be sure which adds to its difficulty. That marks the power move of this stroke. That’s why upper body strength matters.
In some ways, the breaststroke and butterfly are similar. In fact, the latter used the same frog kick as the former. That adds a lot of propulsion with the snapping of the legs together. The former doesn’t have the surface movement as the latter. More of it occurs underwater. The pull begins with pushing the water to your sides and bringing your arms close to your torso.
That’s the point when you can take a breath. Then, you bring them together in front of you and glide during the recovery phase. That motion tames the intensity a bit from the butterfly stroke. You can save some additional energy by not lifting your entire upper body out of the water. However, both strokes require coordination and a strong upper body for faster speeds.
How to Perfect Your Swimming Technique
As you can see, swimming places great demands on your physical strength. Cross-training is an excellent way to build up your muscles to power through those more difficult swim strokes. Focus on total body workouts since your entire body is engaged with swimming. Don’t forget your core which will support your other muscles.
Don’t be deceived by the fact that the water provides buoyancy. However, you still need to pull yourself through the water. It’s only by swimming that you get to realize the density of water and the barrier it imposes. As they say, knowledge is power. You now have the correct perspective.
We’ve discussed the importance of the fluidity of movement. It optimizes the power of your swim strokes. One way you can improve it is with stretching exercises that work on your flexibility. That will do several things for you. It will encourage better form and technique. It will also reduce your risk of injury from muscles strains and sprains.
Swimming often requires continuous motion if just to stay afloat. A flexible body can do that easier than one with muscles that have grown stiff from disuse. Stretching is something you can do every day. Your knees and shoulders are the most vulnerable. Pay attention to how you feel after a swimming workout to target the areas that are giving you the most pain.
How to Hold Your Breath Longer Underwater
Mastering swimming makes it more enjoyable, but being able to enjoy it for a longer period of time is another accomplishment all on it’s own that will keep you coming back for more.
One question beginning swimmers often ask is how to hold your breath longer. Your body uses several ways to produce energy to fuel activities. Some require oxygen whereas others can occur in its absence. Your body strives to strike the optimal balance based on your fitness, blood glucose levels and the intensity of your activity.
Mitochondria are structures that exist within your cells to produce energy or adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Some methods are more efficient than other and result in a bigger yield. That’s where breathing comes into play. First, it’s a vital part of your swimming technique. That’s why you’ll read about it as a component of a stroke and when it should happen.
When your body has adequate oxygen, it can produce the most ATP. That’s a good thing if you’re doing laps using the butterfly stroke. It’s all about balance. You’re not out of luck if you’re not breathing fast or deep enough. It just means that energy production is less efficient. On the flip side, it is faster.
You need to focus on your lung capacity to hold your breath longer. The human body has an amazing ability to adapt. If you start an exercise regime, your muscles become stronger and more efficient the longer and the more regular your practice. That same thing holds true with your lungs. To improve the capacity, you need to ramp up your cardiovascular fitness.
Swimming, of course, is a great start. It challenges your body in so many ways that encourage adaptation. But that’s also where cross-training comes into the mix. Other activities such as bicycling and running place similar demands for energy and oxygen uptake. If you add those to your workout program, you’re taking a big step toward holding your breath longer.
You can begin by adding some cardio workouts to your exercise schedule. Aim to get into your target heart zone by using a wearable device that can measure its rate. Remember that your heart is a muscle. One of its functions is to deliver oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your body. The more you work it, the stronger it will be.
Your muscles will get oxygen quicker and have the necessary fuel to keep you swimming longer. Don’t forget that your diaphragm is a muscle too. Practicing deep breathing will help it do a better job of taking in more air for holding your breath longer. Practicing good technique is another way to make improvements.
A lot of this discussion centers on reducing drag. Part of the reason other than speed is to limit the amount of oxygen your body needs for unnecessary activities. Efficiency underscores the entire process of swimming from proper breathing to technique to form. It also reduces fatigue which can lead to other movements that can compromise energy usage.
Swimming in a Pool Versus a Lake
Learning to swim in a pool is easier than a lake for several reasons with the main one being that it’s a controlled environment. It lacks the hazards that a lake might contain such as currents, wave action, inclement weather and motorized traffic. All introduce a lot of potential risks to swimmers, especially those new to the sport.
All of this boils down to the fact that you’ll have to pay closer attention to your surroundings while swimming in a lake. Waves can come up suddenly and forcefully. Rip currents present another major hazard. They are fast-moving streams of water under the surface. Several factors make them especially dangerous.
They often occur near beaches where beginners are likely practicing. And they’re sometimes hard to spot, making it difficult to know they’re near you. Their force is strong which can easily cause an inexperienced swimmer to panic. Instinct will tell you to swim to shore, but that’s the worst thing you can do. The safest option is to swim parallel to it. They’re narrow, so you’ll soon be free.
We don’t want to discourage you from swimming at the lake cabin. Rather, be aware of the fact that there are additional hazards that warrant your attention.
Swimming in the Ocean Versus a Lake
Swimming in the sea presents the same challenges as a lake but more so. Waves and currents are stronger. The same risks of motorized traffic and environmental factors exist too. On the positive side, the salt in the water will make you even more buoyant. You may find it easier to stay afloat in the ocean over a lake. It may boost your confidence if you’re still a beginner.
When learning how to swim in the ocean, the most valuable lesson you can learn is to respect the water. It can challenge even the most experienced swimmers. Tragically, swimmers make up about 25 percent of drownings. That’s why it’s essential to use common sense when swimming in any natural body of water.
Observe your surroundings. Stay close to shore and within sight of a lifeguard if one is present. According to the International Life Saving Federation, lifeguards and lifesavers rescue over 1 million people worldwide each year.
Tips for Swimming in a Pool
Learning how to swim in a pool brings some different things to the mix. It’s essential to be aware of the etiquette. These unspoken rules are mainly common sense. It’s a no-brainer that you shouldn’t jump into the water near someone else. Likewise, don’t grab anyone especially if they’re not expecting it or, heaven forbid, try to dunk them.
When it comes to how to swim laps, there are some basics to keep in mind. For example, you should give the swimmer in front of you adequate space. Waiting a few seconds to follow is a good rule of thumb. It’s also a smart practice to stick to the right side of a lane so that faster individuals can pass if they want. And if you’re in a lane, keep moving or take it to the wall.
Play It Safe
Going to the pool should be an enjoyable experience. To make sure everyone stays safe, remember the dos and don’ts.
It’s also vital to remember that pool toys are not the same thing as a certified personal floatation device (PFD). Make sure that a PFD or lifesaver is available and within easy reach before anyone enters the water.
Tips for Swimming in Natural Bodies of Water
Much of the same advice for swimming in pools applies to lakes and oceans. Many public areas will have signage about potential hazards and site-specific rules. Obey them. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye to the sky. The unpredictable nature of surface water sources adds to the risks.
It’s crucial to keep an eye out for motorized traffic on the water. According to the US Coast Guard, there were 4,463 recreational boating accidents in 2016. The top causes were operator inattention and inexperience. Stay aware and be proactive.
Don’t Forget to Make Swimming FUN!
We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about other ways to make your swimming experience more fun. It’s not all about laps. Exploring the underwater realm with a pair of the best swimming goggles will open up a whole new world to you especially if you are in a natural body of water. You can learn a lot about aquatic life by observing them in their habitat.
Seeing a sunfish dart around the submergent vegetation is a great learning opportunity for your children. How many times will they get a chance to see a mussel move through the water? Or how often can they touch a fish as it swims by? Our ancestors saw the value in it too. After all, why do you think it’s called a frog kick?
Swimming for Overall Health
Swimming laps is an effective way to practice your form and technique. The dimensions of a public pool will vary. A short-course pool is about 25 meters or 82 feet long. An Olympic one is 164 feet. That’s a hefty distance for making laps an effective workout. But we’ll admit that it may get a bit boring after a while.
You might want to consider investing in a pair of underwater headphones to make those workouts fly by quickly. There’s no reason why you can’t have your favorite tunes playing while you freestyle the afternoon away. You may find that it improves your concentration and keeps you focused on what you’re doing. Besides, they’re a great distraction if the pool is busy.
Swimming is more than just an essential life skill. It’s an enjoyable form of exercise that offers many health benefits. It’s no wonder that over 26 million Americans swim for fitness. Whether you take to the pool or the lake, it provides an aerobic workout with a significant calorie burn. Beyond that, it’s a relaxing activity that can boost your mental well-being too.
You can find an instructor who specializes in teaching adults how to swim with the US Master Swimmers search tool. They can help you get over your fear of water and help you gain this invaluable skill. But it’s essential to remember both the benefits and power of swimming.
The foremost rule of this sport is to respect the power of the water. Learn the vital skills to overcome the barrier. Become water competent so that you can enjoy swimming again and again with the knowledge that you have what it takes to be safe.