Summertime Swim Workout

It’s Summertime, which means it’s pool time! One of my favorite things to do during summer is change my workout routine from running to swimming. I love getting in the water, feeling the weight of gravity release from my joints, hearing my breath on each stroke and feeling totally exhausted yet not achy at the end of my swim workout. I will say the first time I stepped into a pool as an adult, I had no idea what to do in terms of a workout. Swimming can be a little intimidating if you haven’t been in a pool for a while or if you never learned how to actually workout in a pool. Some people think pool workouts are either for triathletes or senior citizens, but I think swimming is a grossly underutilized training tool for everyone at all ages and fitness levels. So let me walk you though some swimming basics and get you into the pool for your first aquatics workout this summer! You will feel awesome afterwards, I promise!

If you are considering training for a triathlon makes sure to check out my article How to Train for my First Triathlon.

Swim Workout Basics

Why swimming is an awesome workout:

  • Full body strength workout – swimming is one of the few exercises that literally works every muscle in your body.
  • Build your cardiovascular endurance – yes, your heart rate will go up.
  • Improve flexibility and mobility – A simple freestyle stroke stretches your body long, rotating your shoulders and opening up the whole front side of the body. 
  • Long term joint health – swimming takes the load of gravity off your joints, which means you will feel a lot less sore and achy later.
  • Builds your lung capacity –  all this holding your breath under water will actually make your lungs more efficient which will improve your energy, enhance your ability to breathe in high altitude (I did a lot of swimming when I was training for a high altitude trek), and make cardio workouts easier in the future.
  • Stress relief – being immersed in water and practicing the rhythm of breathing with each stroke has a relaxing, almost meditative effect on your brain. 
  • Keeps you cool – during the hot summer months a dip in the pool feels refreshing and enjoyable.
  • Lower anxiety and depression – according to an article by AnxietyUK….
Photo by Taryn Elliott on

 “Regular swimming, even just half an hour at a time, is known to be effective for lowering incidences of depression and anxiety and improve sleep patterns. Swimming releases endorphins, the natural feel good hormones that lead us to experience a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing. While 1 in 6 people in the UK suffer from depression, physical activity such as swimming can lead to a 30% improvement in self-worth, increasing general satisfaction in life.”


What you need:

Essential swim gear

  • Access to a pool – You may need to buy a membership to your local YMCA for access to a lap pool, but you can also use community pools, beaches or lakes.
  • Swimsuit – Ladies, I recommend a 1 piece or a good athletic 2 piece, not your cute bikini. Gentleman, I recommend something on the tighter side, having baggy swim trunks will just weigh you down. Check out your local Dicks or Sports Authority.
  • Goggles – You may want to look for anti-fog.
  • Towel

Highly recommend swim gear

  • Kick Board – I definitely recommend getting a kick board, but it is optional. It is a great training tool to keep your workouts interesting and to have a killer workout for your legs doing flutter kicks.
  • Leg Buoy – Put this between your legs to let them float and let your arms do the work. It will isolate those arms and lats and you can focus on your stroke and upper body strength.

Optional swim gear

  • Hair Cap – This will definitely assist in removing some of the resistance and mess that wet long hair provides.
  • Ear Plugs – This may move to the essentials if you’re like me and are prone to swimmers ear. A nose plug may be another item to look into.
  • Hand Paddles – This is another great training tool to build up strength in your arms.
  • Flippers – I didn’t buy this until I had a few triathlons under my belt. This is used just to help your training sessions and helps improve speed.
  • Lap Swimming Watch – Having a waterproof watch that can track your laps and distance will be very helpful, but not required.
  • Waterproof Headphones – Try out some waterproof headphones to enjoy your jams during your swim workout. I do not recommend using these in any open water swim (open water = lakes, beaches, etc.)  for your safety.
Photo by Patrick Case on

Goggle de-fogging Tips

  • Its gross , but if your goggles are getting really foggy while swimming, your best option is to clean them with saliva. Lick or spit into your goggles, rub it around then rinse.
  • Another option is to use baby shampoo. Use a drop of baby shampoo on your goggles, then wipe it around and rinse your goggles.

Lap pool swimming etiquette

  • If there is not an empty lane available, find the one with the least amount of people. 
  • Joining a lane. Always let yourself be known that you are joining into the lane either by putting your legs in the water or politely getting the other swimmers’ attention. You can also get all the way into the water and stand in the corner of the lane and you can start swimming after they’ve come to the wall. 
  • 2 people in a lane =  each person should pick one side of the lane and go back and forth. When taking rests on the side, make sure to stay on your side.
  • More than 2 people in a lane = circular pattern.
  • If a lap pool is busy, keep lap lanes for lap swimming only.
  • Avoid splashing when turning around or passing.
  • Let faster swimmers pass by stopping at the wall. A swimmer may tap your foot behind you to let you know they would like to pass.
  • Just generally be polite and respectful to other swimmers. 

Every now and then you will get some rude person act all snobbish when you want to join their lane… just ask “what’s your name?” “Weird, I didn’t see your name on the pool when I walked in” and join anyways. But really, you have rights to join the lane as long as safety is not at risk (like 4+ people in a lane).

Photo by Vincent Rivaud on

The different strokes – technique

There are four main strokes: freestyle, butterfly, breast stroke, and backstroke. For the sake of this being a beginners article, we will only discuss two: freestyle and breaststroke.


  • Keep your body long reaching your arm further on each stroke
  • Don’t lift your head to breathe, turn your head
  • Make sure you rotate your hips slightly on each stroke
  • Honestly, I think the best way to learn is to watch. So spend some time watching this video.


  • Always keep your abs engaged
  • Work on your frog kick
  • Again, I think its best to learn by watching, so enjoy this video to perfect your breaststroke.

Example Swim workout

I did this workout in a large community pool and took a little over 30 minutes. I would estimate a 45 minute workout in a lap pool. Follow the workout seen in the image with details and descriptions below.

What you need:

  • Kick Board
  • Leg Buoy
  • A lap pool at least 25 meters long

Warm up

  • Freestyle Stroke – take your first couple laps slow and focus on stretching out the muscles.

Circuit 1

  • Flutter Kicks with Board – 100 meters
    • Follow the form in the image, keeping both hands on the board extended in front of you and kick to the other side of the pool.
  • Freestyle Breathing Ladder – 100 meters
    • Take two strokes, breathe, Take three strokes, breathe, Take four strokes, breathe …
    • Keep going up … once you hit your max, start over until you get to 100 meters.
  • Breaststroke – 100 meters
  • Jumping Jacks – 1 minute
    • Keep your arms underwater at a 90 degree elbow bend the whole time you perform a normal jumping jack. If there are too many people around, try walking lunges instead.

Circuit 2

  • Freestyle – Arms Only (Buoy) – 100 meters
    • Stick the buoy between your upper things so that your legs float behind you. Now only use your arms to propel you forward in a freestyle lap.
  • Sprint Kicks with board – 100 meters
    • Flutter kicks again like circuit 1, except this time you are working on speed. Kick 25 meters hard/fast and then 25 meters easy, alternating. Try not to make any big splashes.
  • Freestyle – 100 meters
  • High Knees – 30 seconds
    • Standing upright in the pool with water chest high, alternate bring one knee one 90 degrees and then the other. Move as fast as you can!
  • Knee Tucks – 30 seconds
    • Standing upright in the pool with water chest high, bring both knees into the chest and back down as fast as you can.

Finish strong with your fastest lap!

I hope you enjoyed your summertime pool workout! Now go grab a margarita, get some sun, and subscribe to my blog for more great articles like this!

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