I started swimming a year ago at the recommendation of my orthopedic surgeon as part of a knee rehab program. I hated the pool when I first started swimming, and even to this day I don’t love it. But I do appreciate what the pool offers in terms of cross training, since it’s an amazing cardio workout without the stress on your joints.
Whenever I talk to people about swimming, I frequently hear people say that they either:
1.) are awful at swimming
2.) have no endurance to swim a long distance.
I completely understand those sentiments because I used to feel the exact same way. I think my time in the pool has been a blessing in disguise, because I am SUCH a better swimmer now than I was at this time last year. When I first started swimming, I could not swim more than 25m at a time. 1 length of the pool. I was that bad. And I would have to mentally tell myself to keep going the whole time.
I have always wanted to do a triathlon but pictured myself quitting (or drowning) during the swimming portion. Not anymore I could easily swim the 750m portion of a sprint tri without even thinking about it <—even saying that blows my mind a little bit.
Here are some tips that have helped me build speed, distance and endurance
1.) Get the right gear.
You don’t need to buy a ton of expensive stuff but it is important to have a swimsuit that will not irritate/rub your skin and some quality goggles. My favorite items are :
- Speedo Women’s Pro LT Super Pro swimsuit: I purchased this swim suit from amazing mostly because it’s the same style that I always used when I was on the swim team. I had to size up one size. I have been using the suit for a year and it has held up really well (esp considering I accidentally put it in the dryer all the time!). I got the plan black suit. In the future, I’d like to get a patterned suit as well since I think those are a bit more flattering
- Speedo vanquisher goggles: I have loved these goggles since my swim team days. I bought the navy blue and pink ones last year. They are cool, but I prefer my older light pink pair better. The navy ones are too dark in the pool area! It’s almost like wearing sunglasses.
- Speedo silicone swim cap for long hair: I have used this weekly for the past year and it has been awesome for my long hair. I’m notorious for ripping swim caps and the long hair one has been great.
P.S. I don’t have an obsession with speedo… it’s just a coincidence that all of these are the same brand
2.) Swim when the pool isn’t busy.
I was mortified when I first started swimming and had to share a lane with someone. I realize there was no reason for me to be embarrassed but I found that I stayed in the water longer and felt more confident when I wasn’t surrounded by a ton of people passing me all the time. My pool is the least busy in the evenings after 7pm so that’s when I usually go. I avoid the pool like the plague on a Saturday afternoon.
3.) Focus on endurance, not speed.
This has been a game changer for me. When I hop in the pool and go balls to the wall, I feel burnt out after a couple of lengths. Once I started to swim at a nice, slow pace, I was able to build my distance. Now that I’m a much better swimmer, I push myself with speed, but that was not my focus starting out.
4.) Watch YouTube videos to improve your stroke.
If there is one thing I have learned in life it is that you can figure out how to do anything with the help of YouTube I found a lot of helpful tips about improving my stroke and form on there.
5.) Use a kickboard and pull buoy.
You will learn a lot about the way you swim when you use these. For example, I realized by using a pull buoy that my stroke was incredibly strong… I swam at almost the same pace as when I was swimming normally. On the flip side of that, I realized that my kick was almost non-existent when I used the kickboard. How did I realize this? Because I was hardly moving My gym has both kickboards and pull buoys for swimmers so I never had to purchase my own.
6.) Don’t swim on 2 consecutive days.
Your body needs time to rest and recover. It took me several months to realize this, but I have much better swims when I space them out a few days. Swimming 2x per week is ideal for me but I’ve been able to become a much stronger swimmer even when just swimming once per week.
7.) Strength train.
Strength training should for real be part of any workout regimen, not just swimming. But I feel especially strong when I do resistance exercises outside of the pool.
8.) Remember the Rome was not built in a day.
I have been swimming on a regular basis for a full year and only recently got to a point where I was like, “dang, I’m not so awful at this anymore”. It takes a long time to build strength and endurance, especially for an activity that uses your entire body.
If you are looking for another form of cardio to use as cross training but are kind of scared of the pool, then don’t be! If I can go from thinking I might die while swimming 1 lap to being able to swim over 1,000 m at a time then I think anyone can. And I really cannot stress how awesome swimming is. I’m currently in an orthopedic boot with crutches and I can STILL get in an awesome cardio session with the pool.
Do you like to swim?
Does anyone else have any tips for becoming a better swimmer?
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Jess @hellotofit says
Oh I strongly dislike to swim…simply because I’m horrible at it haha. I did it once a week for a month, and completely got out of the routine. Great tips!!
Aw I bet you’re not horrible :)
Dietitian Jess says
Love swimming! But definitely something I have to be in the mood for… My best tip is to have someone who knows what they are doing watch you or tape you and critique you… elbows up was the best thing I learned about swimming!
That’s a good idea! Although I’m not sure if I want a real swimmer watching me, hahaha
Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious says
I swim 4-5 days a week for an hour, but it took me a long time to build up the endurance and strength to get to it. I used to hate swimming but was forced to start when I got injured last year. It’s now my favorite cardio.
Wow, that is awesome!! Very inspiring, Megan :) I have a feeling the pool is going to be my best friend for the next few months.
Kristen @ Glitter and Dust says
I am “trying” to learn to like swimming. It’s part of triathlon so I really wish I could enjoy it more and get excited about it. I just like running and cycling so much more…
I think my tip for swimming would be… get into the right mindset. It’s hard to enjoy or get better at something when you go into it with a negative attitude. More than anything I have been trying to think more positively about swimming. It makes me perform a lot better!
Great post and tips!
A positive attitude is everything. Thanks for the reminder, Kristen! :)
Sivakumar Monish says
Thank you for these tips they really helped to improve my swimming performance. Especially doing strength training outside of the pool. Didn’t know that I would this would help me. I have an article on do’s and dont’s in a pool while swimming. You can check it out @https://privateswimminglesson.sg/blog/7-do-and-don-while-swimming