Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a swimmer, there are two times of year in particular when swimming can look pretty darn appealing. One is when the weather has chased you indoors to the point where you’re starting to get batty and the other is when warmer pool weather arrives. That second one is where a lot of us are right now.
Yes, splashing around and playing casually in the pool is good exercise, but it doesn’t compare to the fitness benefits swimming laps. Swimming for distance is, hands down, one of the best ways to cross-train and build fitness. If you’ve never tried swimming as a serious training tool, here are a few tips to get started.
Learn (or refresh) the basics. Lots of us took swimming lessons back in the day and, like riding a bike, most of that will come back to you in no time. If you’re feeling a little rusty, splashing around a little informally to regain your bearings is probably a good idea. If you never did learn proper swimming technique, there are lots of adult-oriented classes out there, not to mention some good information online.
Find a lap pool. A good lap pool is pretty much essential if you’re going to do any serious distance work in the water. Whether your gym has a dedicated pool just for the back-and-forth crowd or you belong to a pool that has a lane or two marked off, it’s important you have your own space to work without having to dodge a crowd as you work. Ask the lifeguard about any rules or just generally accepted lap etiquette that may be in place at that particular pool.
Check the schedule. Especially as you’re just getting started swimming laps, getting to the pool where there aren’t a lot of people competing for lap space can make things a lot less stressful. Ask around or check the pool schedule to see if there is downtime when you’ll be most likely to have some room to yourself. Again, lifeguards or pool staff can clue you in about whether there’s a big morning rush or a convenient lull in the afternoon that you should know about.
Team up. If you weren’t exactly on the swim team when you were younger, there’s a good chance you have a friend or two who was. Having a knowledgeable person take a look at your stroke and offer some basic tips can be hugely helpful. See if you can find a swimming buddy to get you up and running. You might even end up with a training partner both in the water and out.