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Smart Start - Swimming

Getting Started

For an easy exercise plan, just add water!

Swimming is an ideal activity for almost anyone who wants to get more exercise. It is a good overall workout that provides aerobic benefits (improving your heart and lung capacity). Because more than two-thirds of the body's muscles are used for swimming, it also improves the strength and flexibility of the muscles in your shoulders, arms, neck and legs. You won't need any special equipment - just a bathing suit and maybe some goggles - and you can swim year-round.

You will need to know how to swim at a reasonable skill level in order to achieve aerobic benefits. Even if you have some swimming experience it is always a good idea to take a refresher class, like Stroke Improvement, to start you in the right direction. If you are new to swimming, there are many adult learn-to-swim programs that can teach you the basics. Taking these classes will make it easier to get your feet wet and make swimming a regular part of your routine.

Another great thing about swimming is the risk of injury is low. Swimming is a gentle, fluid motion and the added support of the water is particularly good for people who are overweight, have bone or joint problems or find other forms of aerobic exercise too jarring. For people with asthma, swimming is often the most comfortable of all aerobic activities. Best of all, swimming is fun to do as a family or with friends.

Tips For Getting Started

  • Choose a place where you will be able to swim on a regular basis, as then you will get to know the other patrons.
  • Learn new strokes or have your stroke technique assessed by a qualified swim instructor.
  • Use a flotation device to focus your exercise on arms or legs.
  • Wear a bathing cap to prevent chlorine damage to your hair, and keep water out of your ears.
  • Chart you swim progress - pick up a swimming progress chart at your pool.

Design a Plan

Keep in mind that the very nature of starting an exercise program means making some adjustments to your lifestyle, but the results will be well worth the effort. To make things easier, try to determine the best times for you to 'get away' and schedule your swims accordingly. Start small and don't worry about your long-term goals. Just do what you can given your daily commitments to family, work and community. And be patient - it takes time for a lifestyle change to become a habit, but it will happen.

Start by making a commitment to swim 2 to 3 times per week. Once you have maintained this goal, set a new goal for yourself.

Five Steps To A Great Swim

  • Warm up for 5 minutes by swimming slowly, treading water or walking through the water to prepare the body for exercise.
  • Stretch after warming up to prevent injury (follow the stretches posted at your local pool).
  • Swim in lengths using proper swimming technique.  The pace you swim at should be enough to make your heart beat faster and increase your breathing rate.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes while swimming slowly or while floating and kicking to ease the body back to a normal, relaxed state.
  • Stretch afterwards to help prevent stiffness.

Remember

  • It is O.K. to take a break or rest during your workout.
  • Progress your swimming workouts slowly. Don't do too much too soon.
  • It is more important to exercise longer rather than harder.
  • If you have not been very active, it takes time for your body to adjust to a new exercise routine. You may have some stiffness for the first couple of days, but this will soon go away.

Tips For Increasing Difficulty

  • Alternate your slow easy swimming with lengths of moderate-fast pace swimming.
  • For a portion of your workout, use either front crawl or back crawl (more strenuous strokes).
  • Incorporate 'kick-only' or 'arms-only' lengths.
  • Concentrate on stroke technique.
  • Swim more lengths continuously with fewer breaks.
  • Talk to a lifeguard or swimming instructor if you need help advancing to the next level.