Saturday, July 7, 2007

Swimming Tips

Take a Refresher Course
You may think you know how to swim the crawl because you learned many years ago, but are you doing it right? Do your hands trace an "S" pattern through the water? Do you kick from the hips, not the knees? Can you breathe on alternate sides? What about the other strokes? The point is, swimming is a skill that involves hand entry, catch, pull, exit and recovery, plus kicking and breathing! A few lessons can really make a big difference in how you benefit.

Stretch and Plan
Don't just dive in the pool and start swimming. First, take a few minutes to fully stretch your arms and shoulders, chest, lower back and legs. And have a plan for your workout. Just swimming lap and after lap, mile after mile, is not a smart way to build strength or endurance.

Interval Training Makes You Faster, Stronger
Try interval training to perk up your workouts and boost your fitness. You can choose from many plans and schemes, but basically, break down that mile you usually swim into a series of wind sprints, followed by brief rests. To get started, swim five lengths as fast as you can, then rest 15 seconds, then swim another five lengths ... Keep resting and repeating until you've done 10 sets. Make a game of it. Alternate easy lengths with fast lengths. Be aware of working your muscles against the resistance of the water. Be playful. Have fun.

Try a Deep-Water Workout
Swimming is only one way to get fit in the pool. More and more, people are doing deep-water workouts to build strength, boost endurance and rehabilitate after injury. The secret to success is a buoyancy vest that keeps you suspended in deep water as you run, walk, kick, twist, imitate cross-country skiing, etc. Exercising in water gives you 12 times the resistance of exercising on land, so be careful not to overdo it. But try it! It's a great workout.

Break Out the Toys
Swim fins, hand mitts, paddles, and kickboards are all ways to make your swim workouts more fun and challenging. You can even swim to music these days, with a specially designed radio that fits into a waterproof bag. The idea is to be creative, keep improving and enjoy your workout.

by Marilynn Preston, Tribune Media Services syndicated columnist.

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