Health Matters | Swim Your Way Slim

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Swim Your Way Slim

Looking for a great workout without getting sweaty? Swimming provides a low impact workout that will keep your heart rate up and get you in shape. Swimming builds endurance, muscle strength, and also improves cardiovascular fitness. Simply by swimming freestyle you are working your triceps, biceps, deltoid, abdominal, gluteal, ribcage intercostal, chest pectoral and hip stabilizer muscles. Jumping into a pool and swimming the 200 meter off the bat is pretty daunting, but there is no reason to not start small! Here are some tips for beginning swimmers:

Where do I start?
While freestyle isn’t the most calorie crushing stroke, it is the easiest and most efficient way to swim. An average sized person can burn around 500 calories by swimming freestyle at a moderate pace for an hour. Beginners should not worry about perfecting all four strokes, but should focus first on learning freestyle:

  • If you are not moving in a pool, you will sink, so stay in constant motion.
  • Kicking your feet at a moderate speed will keep your lower body from sinking, while a slow pull will advance you forward in the water.
  • The knees should be straight, but not locked, to allow the feet to move rapidly just under the surface of the water. This lets you kick from your hips rather than the knees for a more efficient way to swim and stay afloat.
  • The torso should rotate naturally with the arms, allowing you to get more distance out of every stroke.

Start with 10 minutes of lap swimming and build time from there. Swimming is a tiring activity, but to get an efficient workout, only 10 percent of the time spent in the water should be resting on the wall. You don’t need to swim fast every lap, but try to at least swim laps consecutively without stopping. Consistent swimming will keep your heart rate where it needs to be to benefit your body. Focus on counting your breaths and strokes per lap. Try to aim for the same amount of strokes every lap, focusing on stretching out the stroke to get the most distance. You should breathe every third stroke on alternating sides of the body.

Focus on breathing in through the mouth, and out through the nose in the water. This will also keep water from going up your nose. Any time your head is under the water you should be breathing out and then rotating the head to breathe in again. Your body will adapt to use oxygen more efficiently.

What do I need?
For most, a bathing suit, goggles and a swim cap is all the gear you will need to get started. There is, however, equipment designed to target different parts of your stroke and improve efficiency. More experienced swimmers may want to use equipment designed for water resistance and training. Basic swimming equipment includes:

  • Goggles: Goggles protect the eyes from chlorine as well as allow swimmers to see under water.

    Fogging Tip: So how do you keep your goggles from fogging up? The easiest and most common way is to lick the inside lenses. Yes, lick them. Your saliva acts as a barrier against humidity and will prevent fogging. While this is only a temporary fix and may need to be repeated a few times during your workout, it is an alternative to buying an anti-fog solution. Another free option is allowing a small drop of water inside the goggles before suctioning them to your face. This will act as a wiper as your head rotates to breathe.
  • Swim cap: Swim caps are mandatory at some pools. Swim caps are designed to keep hair out of the face and help fight water resistance by eliminating drag. Caps should be worn with the seam running the length of the head, not the width.

    Cap Tip: Caps are most commonly made out of latex, but may also be made out of silicone or nylon. Latex caps are the cheapest, but often rip easily. Silicone caps are thicker, and are more comfortable to wear for a long period of time as they tend to pull hair less.

  • Kick board: Kick boards are designed to isolate a swimmer’s kick. Kicking with a kick board develops a swimmer’s legs, hips, and stomach muscles. Swimmers may kick on their stomach or back, with the kick board extended above their head. Elbows should be straight with hands gripped at the top of the kickboard. Swimmers may kick with their heads in or out of the water.

Now that you have the basic feel for the water and a few laps under your belt, you may want additional equipment to correct and perfect your strokes:

  • Fins: Fins are useful for a swimmer that has a weak kick, or poor leg muscles. For swimmers that have a poor kick, flippers train the body’s position, improve ankle flexibility, and create resistance that should feel the same after the swimmer removes the fins. The point of fins is to train the body to replicate the quick and powerful kicking motion.

    There are two types of basic fins: long blade and short blade. Longer fins are better for beginning swimmers. They help to raise the hips and propel the swimmer forward easily. Short blade fins, or zoomers, work like long blade fins, but allow the swimmer’s legs to cycle fast enough to replicate a regular swimming kick. Short blade fins allow the swimmer to build swimming specific leg muscles.
  • Hand Paddles: Paddles are designed to create resistance against the water. Paddles are used to correct technical issues like dropped elbows, but should not be used for more than 25 percent of your workout.
  • Pull Buoys: Held between the knees, buoys allow for swimmers stay afloat without kicking. This allows the swimmer to focus on their pull and build upper body strength. Swimmers should focus on body rotation while using a buoy as this will improve stroke when the buoy is removed.
  • Snorkel: Snorkels help swimmers maintain proper head position on the surface of the water and also improve a swimmer’s breath control. Correct head positioning is to look straight down at the black line on the bottom of the pool. Keeping the head out of the water while swimming causes the hips and legs to sink, making it harder to keep your body afloat. Lap swimming snorkels differ from recreational snorkels in that they are fastened to the front of the head rather than the side, allowing for the arm to pass by the ear without out interference.

Swimming offers a solid and relaxing full body workout that is great for cardiovascular improvement. Grab a towel and a buddy and head to your local pool for a quick dip! For more information about healthy swimming and health benefits visit the CDC's website

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