Lap Swimming for Out-of-Shape Swimmers
Swimming is a low-impact sport enjoyed by people of all ages. The water is soothing to people with sore joints, yet provides resistance to strengthen your entire body. Lap swimming can be an ideal way to stay fit, burn calories and strengthen your muscles. Lap swimming for out-of-shape swimmers, however, must be done slowly and carefully to avoid strained muscles.
Easy Does It
Swimmers who are not at their peak fitness may not have the stamina needed to swim several continuous laps of the pool without stopping. Stacey Halprin, author of "Winning After Losing: Keep Off the Weight You've Lost--Forever," suggests swimming as many laps as you can before you are out of breath as a beginning technique. When you are winded, stop and walk or march around the shallow end of the pool -- out of the way of other swimmers -- until you are ready to begin again. Over time and regular practice, you will be able to increase the number of laps you can swim without stopping. Challenge yourself to add one more lap to your workout each time you swim. Once you are in better shape, you can work on adding different strokes to your repertoire and doing some interval training to build more strength.
Swimmers who are out of shape and trying to get fit may not have the energy and stamina to swim laps every day. BeginnerTriathlete.com recommends new lap swimmers restrict their workouts to only three or four days a week in the beginning. This is a healthy way to avoid overuse injuries. As your strength and endurance increases, you may choose to add another day to your regimen. Workouts can range from 20 to 30 minutes at first, increasing gradually to 45 minutes.
People who are not accustomed to swimming laps might need a little help to conserve energy or improve their stroke while they get used to the workout. Flutter boards, also called kick boards, are foam flotation devices that, when hugged to the chest in the water, can help you increase your kicking power during lap swimming while keeping you afloat. A pull buoy is a similar device that you tuck between your legs while swimming laps, allowing you to concentrate on your arm strokes. Competitive swimmers use these aids frequently during practices. Check with your local pool to be sure they are allowed in an adult lap swim session.
The rules of lap swimming etiquette might be posted at the pool for ready reference. More often than not, however, certain nuances of etiquette are unspoken and may be harder for the inexperienced swimmer to grasp or remember. Look for signage around the pool indicating a dedicated fast lane for speedy swimmers or a slow lane for out-of-shape swimmers and others who swim at a leisurely pace. Many pools use circle swimming as their method for laps. Swim one length of the pool, turn around and return to your starting point in a counter-clockwise circle, always staying on the right side of your lane. Wait for faster swimmers to pass you and push off the wall before you attempt a turn if you are a slow swimmer. If you need to catch your breath at the wall, move off to the side of the lane to allow others space for turns.
- Beginner Triathlete: Beginner Swim Workouts: Endurance, Speed and Form
- Winning After Losing: Keep Off the Weight You've Lost--Forever; Stacey Halprin
- Getting in Shape; Carol Leonetti Dannhauser and Sandra Michaelson-Warren
- Lee BA, Oh DJ. Effect of regular swimming exercise on the physical composition, strength, and blood lipid of middle-aged women. J Exerc Rehabil. 2015;11(5):266–271. doi:10.12965/jer.150242
- Gatta G, Zamparo P, Cortesi M. Effect of swim cap model on passive drag. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(10):2904-8. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318280cc3a
- Tanaka H. Swimming exercise: impact of aquatic exercise on cardiovascular health. Sports Med. 2009;39(5):377-87. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200939050-00004
Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.