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Saturday, July 13, 2024

So You Want to Start… Swimming

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Swimming is an incredible sport, and a great fitness activity, and for those of us who have done it long enough, the water can feel like a second home.

There are so many benefits to swimming it’s hard to list them all, but the highlights include its low-impact nature, making it easy on the joints; it works all of your muscle groups; it burns calories quickly relative to other activities; and it’s possible to swim year-round at an indoor pool or outdoors in warm-weather regions. Here’s how to get started!

1. Get the 411 Whether you’re training for a race, getting back in shape, or diving in for the first time, it’s likely you have questions about how to start a swim program. Check in at your local neighborhood swim club, stop by a nearby YMCA program, or visit the U.S. Masters Swimming website to learn about adult programs in your area.

2. Gear up Ready to dive in? There are three essential items you’ll want to have before you get started.

  • A good suit Look for one made with high-performance fabric that will stand up to frequent wear, and be sure it feels comfortable when you move
  • Goggles Don’t be afraid to try on several to find the best fit for your face.
  • A swim cap Latex and silicone caps are the most common. Opt for a durable one with a snug fit.

3. Jump in! Get in the water and start moving. If you haven’t been swimming for a while, simply doing a couple of easy laps will help ease you back into the sport. Once you begin to build your endurance for longer workouts and faster intervals, adding in swim gear such as a pull buoy, kickboard, or paddles will also be beneficial. After a few sessions in the pool, you’ll see your workouts start to improve—your times will get faster and your stroke will become more efficient.

4. Take it up a notch When you’ve found your sea legs, it’s time to make the most out of your swim session. Here is an easy beginner’s workout to get you started.

Warm Up:

  • 200 yards/meters (whatever stroke you prefer)

Warming up is crucial for your swim workout. It gives your body and muscles the chance to prepare for the remaining laps ahead.

Main Set:

  • 10 X 50 yards/meters (descending each 50, getting faster each one)

Start with an interval you know you can easily make for this set. You’ll begin to get more rest as you descend.

Stroke (I.M.) Set:

  • Individual Medley, I.M., is the term for all four strokes in one swim. Do 3 X 100 yards/meters in I.M. order (1. butterfly, 2. backstroke, 3. breaststroke, 4. freestyle)

This set will help you to train other strokes in addition to freestyle. Start with an interval that feels comfortable while maintaining correct form for each lap.

Warm Down:

  • 100 yards/meters easy freestyle or backstroke

After your swim workouts, you want to make sure to let your muscles unwind after using them. (One of my personal favorites of a workout!)

Total Yardage: 1,100

Note, if you don’t regularly do exercise like running, cycling or other sports, you might want to cut all of the distances in this workout in half, for a total of about 500 to 600 yards/meters of swimming.

Although this is a basic beginner’s workout, remember that it will still be tough for first-time swimmers. Workouts like this will become easier each time you practice. Watching your growth and swimming ability improve is one of the most rewarding parts of being in the water!

Do you swim for fitness? Think you’ll start now? Share in the comments!


Megan Mills headshotMegan Mills is the content director at She has been swimming since she was six years old and was a four-year member and captain of San Jose State University’s swim team. She now works out with the Santa Clara Swim Club Masters in Santa Clara, CA.

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