Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guest Post: A Pick-Your-Distance Swimming Workout

Once again, it's Workout Wednesday! Today's post comes at you from Megan at Outlaw on the Run. She's a NASM-certified personal trainer with plenty of swimming experience, which is why I asked her to put together a basic swimming workout for you—because, let's be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of swimming and therefore don't know much about putting together a pool workout. This needs to change, I know. Until then, I'll let Megan speak to it:

Hi, I'm Megan! Let me tell you a little about my swimming background: I started swimming in Summer and YMCA leagues when I was around 12 years old. I was never great (a few second place ribbons at swim meets), but it was the major sport I participated in throughout middle and high school. However, throughout college and for a few years after, I was drawn instead to the elliptical machine, weight lifting, and eventually running. 

Running and me, however, don’t always get along and I’ve had several running-related injuries over the past few years. When I'm injured, I always go back to my old friend swimming. So I’m very grateful to have the use of a lap pool and the ability to swim. It’s saved me a lot of workout-related (or lack thereof) stress, as I know I can still get in a great workout when I swim.

Why swim?
• Great cross-training exercise and it helps build endurance
• Low impact—easy on the joints
• Easy to modify if you're injured
• Limited equipment needed

Swimming countless freestyle laps, however, can get really boring really quickly. I find that I have to make up a new workout every few weeks to keep me motivated (and of course—switching up ANY workout is important to avoid fitness plateaus and overuse injuries).

Lately, I’ve been swimming either a mile when it's my only form of cardio that day. Or I swim half a mile when I’m doing another workout afterwards or if I’m short on time or energy. 

Believe it or not, there is some inconsistency regarding how many laps a mile is when swimming laps in a pool. After excessive Googling, I decided to go with 1600 meters (so 800 meters will equal half a mile).

Here's the workout:

Some terminology:

1) 50 Meters 
Usually two lengths of the pool, unless you’re swimming in an Olympic-sized pool where one length is 50 meters (another way to think of it is swimming to one side of the pool and back to where you started). 100 meters = 2 x 50; 200 = 4 X 50.

2) Freestyle Pull
Swim using only your upper body. When my knees were seriously inflamed, I would just pull and I still try to incorporate at least some of these laps in every workout. If your pool has a pull buoy available, I recommend using this so you are unable to kick your feet. You can also use a pull buoy to build upper body strength and endurance, as well as for developing correct body position.

3) Catch-Up Drill 
Pretty similar to a regular freestyle, except that one arm is extended out in front of you the entire time (and the other has to catch up). This drill works on alignment, timing, and extension. This guide from Tribesports explains it much better.

4) Sprint
Swim as fast as you can for the entire length of the pool

One more thing—Don't get discouraged if you can't swim the entire half mile (much less an entire mile) when you first start out. Just like you wouldn't expect to be able to run five miles the first time you go for a run, you may not be able to just jump in the pool and swim for an entire mile. Start slow, take breaks and keep trying!

I think I need to start trying. One of these days, all of this info about swimming that I've been getting from people in person and on the Internet will finally push me over the edge and into the water for a true swimming workout. Maybe I just need a chic swimming suit, who knows. Regardless, I'll be following Megan on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and you should, too.

Question: How did you start swimming, running and/or biking? What finally pushed you over the edge? Inspire me!

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