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Swimming Interval Workout

Cardio Workout: Swimming

I know many runners and cyclists, who though tempted by the lure of mixing it up in a triathlon, ultimately skip these races because they're intimidated by the swim. Not only is swimming in open water scary, unlike running, it is also considered a skill sport, similar to tennis or golf because technique is so important. If you feel less than confident in the pool, taking lessons to hone your stroke is helpful; I did it and learned so much. Do know that long sessions of laps might not necessarily be the best way to train. Many tri coaches recommend sprint interval training in the pool to challenge your speed, before tiring and losing your hard earned technique.

Here's a workout I have been doing lately. It is mostly freestyle, but I like to add a little backstroke to work the opposing muscles.

Check out the workout.

Warm-up: 300 yards
100 yds freestyle — easy
50 yds breathe to the right — freestyle
50 yds breathe to the left — freestyle
50 yds pull*
50 yds kick**


Intervals: 350 yards
6 x 25 yds freestyle — sprint (rest: 30)***
2 x 100 yds freestyle — hard (rest: 45)

Recovery: 100 yards
100 yds backstroke — easy (rest: 10)

Endurance: 800 yards
2 x 400 yds freestyle — medium (rest: 60)

Cool Down: 300 yards
100 yds breaststroke — easy (:15)
100 yds backstroke — easy (:15)
100 yds freestyle — easy (:15)

Total: 1,850 yards

*Pull: Hold a buoy with your legs and use only your arms to swim
**Kick: Use a kickboard and use just your legs to power yourself across the pool
***Rest the listed amount between reps/laps

As you build up strength in the pool, you can make your sprints longer and do 6x50 yard sprints, and/or 2x200 yards at a quick pace. Whatever you do, make sure to stretch your chest, triceps, lats, back, and legs after your workout.

Image Source: Getty
Noodles-and-Waffles Noodles-and-Waffles 6 years
A couple years ago I was diagnosed with arthritis and was told to eliminate impact I took up swimming. I joined a U.S. Masters swim team in my area and can't begin to describe how wonderful it has been. The team includes swimmers of all levels and I have a coach providing me workouts every week and correcting my strokes. The team has become a little family for me...calling me out on skipping practices and everything. I even swam in my first swim meet this year (I'm 31 and never swam in school). If you're looking for more structure than printing out a workout, a masters team is something you should look into.
CathyZhu CathyZhu 6 years
Oops, here's the beginner's guide!
CathyZhu CathyZhu 6 years
Love how to make swimming into interval training! Looks like a good way to switch my cardio up. For those of you who have easier access to treadmills (or anywhere outside!), here's an interval training beginner's guide featured by the health and fitness site I work for. Thought it could be useful!
onecrispycritter onecrispycritter 8 years
Tendonitis in my knee is keeping me from my usual cycling/running/step aerobics/weight training routine, so I've been grateful for the swimming workouts on this site! I particularly enjoyed this one because of the variety, especially the intervals. A couple of questions: (1) When the instructions say 6x25 (rest 30), does that mean to rest 30 seconds after I swim each 25? Or do I rest 30 seconds only after I've completed all six intervals? (2) About how many calories would this workout burn?
AKGold11 AKGold11 8 years
That's a great workout for a day that you have an hour at the pool. I'm a devoted swimmer, and a big fan of the site which allows you to set up a free account and will produce a different workout for each trip to the pool.
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