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How to Build Endurance to Swim a Mile

Kick-Start: Work Up to Swimming a Mile!

If you've been wanting to swim a mile, rock a triathlon, or have your very own Diana Nyad moment, we're here to help. Although getting your heart rate up on land is completely different than sweating it out in the pool, a combination of the two will have you in the best shape of your life. If you're ready to jump in — after all, Fall is the perfect time for swimming — then keep these tips in mind to complete your first mile. Like with any exercise, it takes time and endurance. Below, you'll find tips and the first workout that will put those intimidating rumors to rest.

Start Slow

Like any new fitness routine, the key is to start slow. Easing into the pool will not only prevent injury, but also allow you to explore your technique. If you're a swimming newbie, then start by getting comfortable in the water — even splashing around can be a good workout! Then, try swimming three times a week, allowing yourself rest days in between. No need to speed through the initial workouts, either; just keep building. Below is a freestyle workout to begin with, as the weeks pass, continue to increase your yardage, and incorporate other strokes.

Warmup: 200 yards
4 x 50 yards — easy (rest as needed)
Intervals: 200 yards
2 x 100 yards — build speed (rest: 1 minute)
Endurance: 200 yards
1 x 200 yards — moderate (rest as needed)
Warmdown: 100 yards
4 x 25 yards — easy (rest as needed)

Total: 700 yards


Since swimming is a total-body workout, cross-training will increase your strength and get you up to speed faster. It will also help your other workouts, too! For sculpted swimmer shoulders, start doing this upper-body-focused weight workout. The moves aren't complicated, and you don't need any fancy equipment to work your arms, shoulder, back, and core.

Explore Equipment and Drills

Unlike running, swimming strokes are not comprised of natural movements. To explore the strokes and your body position, use equipment like fins, paddles, and a kickboard. Drills are used to help you become more familiar with your stroke and make changes to your technique. There are a number of common swimming drills that you can try, but feel free to play around and create your own drills.

Take Care

Swimming is not a walk in the park. Because of this, it's important to be mindful of your recovery practices, especially if you're just starting out. Water resistance can be very taxing on your shoulders, meaning it's important to get a good stretch after every swim (a stretch rope can help!). Those myths about serious swimmers and calorie intake aren't false either. One hour of moderate swimming can burn around 500 calories. Be sure to fuel up with a post-workout drink or healthy snack.

Image Source: Thinkstock
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awayaway awayaway 3 years
@mnmemily15 99% of the swimming world refers to a lap as one length of the pool.
Mnmemily15 Mnmemily15 3 years
Just so you know there's actually a difference between a swimming 1 lap and swimming 1 length of the pool. A lap is down and back, while a length is just down. So 1 lap=2 lengths. I was on my high schools swim team.
awayaway awayaway 5 years
Hey guys above; If you're not a super strong swimmer any stroke is going to be really great for fitness; measuring calories in swimming is a bit hard because a very efficient swimmer is going to be burning less than someone who's really fighting it :) The great thing about throwing in a lap of backstroke or breaststroke here or there is that it uses different muscle groups, so it will give certain muscles a little bit of a rest without interrupting your workout! Generally in swimming we measure each part of the workout by total time rather than by the time you get to rest (ie we would do the 4 x 50s on the 50 seconds, and the faster you do them the more of a break you get). Since you're measuring these in how long you get for a break, it won't matter if you throw in a lap of a slower stroke! :) Butterfly requires that crazy arm flexibility that swimmers acquire over a few years, so it's definitely going to be the hardest stroke for beginners to take a stab at. Happy swimming!
commonsense102 commonsense102 6 years
Yes I was also wondering about the different strokes... I just started swimming and my breathing isn't up to par so often I opt for the backstroke in betweens laps of breaststroke and freestyle... there's no way i can do the butterfly ; ) But any tips on the different strokes would be great! And calories too!
runningesq runningesq 6 years
and then I suggest you enter an OWS (open water swim) race.. much fun. I LOVE OWS .. so much better than pool swimming.
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