Can’t Swim? What to do?!

With most public pools and gyms closed right now, and it being a little bit too early to get in Lake Erie, I’ve been busy (like most of you, I’m sure) trying to find replacements for my swim workouts. For example, this week, I had two days planned in the pool: a 2700m interval swim workout and a 2400 aerobic swim. But, you work with what you’ve got, and right now, I don’t have a pool. So I’m planning out a couple of tweaks, and I’ll be off to the races again. Modifications can sometimes be mandatory.

Stew Smith, a military fitness trainer, recommends hitting the weight room and focusing on the muscle endurance needed for swimming (Stewart).  The key muscle groups he targets are back muscles, biceps, shoulders and triceps.  Stew advises moderate weight and high reps (15-20+ reps per set) for the following “swim-specific” muscle exercises:

  • Bent over rows
  • Bicep curls
  • Pull-downs
  • Tricep pushdowns

The only “problem” with this list is my lack of weights at my house! So, I will substitute more body weight exercises during my non-swim workouts.

I don’t believe simply substituting strength is an adequate substitute, however. Flexibility should also be a focus, so I also want to mix in more stretching and yoga, and can implement swimming-focused, flexibility-increasing active warm-ups as part of this focus.

On interval swim days, my focus is anaerobic. Shorter, higher-intensity distances can simulate race pace, or when heart rate spikes while passing, or sometimes in my case, panicking in open water (I’m working on that!). It also helps build your lactate threshold. So, I can still focus on that by mixing in some HIIT workouts to my strength work.

On aerobic days, my focus is building muscular strength and endurance. This allows me to swim more efficiently, effortlessly and comfortably by building my aerobic capacity. In this case, I can still aim to target my aerobic qualities by adding in workouts geared for muscular strength and endurance. Low-impact, limited stress cardio should be a sufficient addition/substitution, although I want to question how much time I just hop on the bike as a substitute.

So here’s my plan for now:

Active warm-up:

  • forward arm circles, 20s
  • reversed arm circles, 20s
  • wall-press chest stretch, 20s each side
  • rubber-band shoulder rotation, laying flat on stomach, 45s
  • stick-stroke-mimic, 45s

HIIT, such as this video.

Additional strength:
3xSS: rubber-band defensive slides 60s + 20 rubber-band squats + 20 tricep dips
3xSS: 12ea. plank rows w/ weight + 45s side plank reach throughs + 45s swiss ball jack-knife

Finish with yoga, such as: Yoga For Swimmers or additional core

Active warm-up:

  • forward arm circles, 20s
  • reversed arm circles, 20s
  • wall-press chest stretch, 20s each side
  • rubber-band shoulder rotation, laying flat on stomach, 45s
  • stick-stroke-mimic, 45s

Sample Strength Workout:
3xSS: 12x single leg glute raises + jump lunges 30s + 20x squats w/weight
3xSS: 8x pullups/scapular plank to dolphin + 15x shoulder press + 12x burpees
3xSS: 12x arm raises + plank with reach out and back 45s + 15x elevated pike pushups

Finish with yoga, such as: Yoga For Swimmers

Obviously, I’m crossing my fingers that the weather warms up enough to just swim outside. But I’m not holding my breath for that 🙂 I’ll see how this goes this week, and modify as needed.

Get fired up! What’s your plan for pool-less workouts? Write it down. Or try out some of these ideas!

Resources

Stewart, Mel. “What To Do When You Can’t Get In The Pool.” SwimSwam, VASA Trainer, 19 Oct. 2013, swimswam.com/what-to-do-when-you-cant-get-in-the-pool/.

“10 Stretching Exercises for Swimmers during and after Swimming.” WEST Swimming Technique, 10 Apr. 2017, http://www.swim-west.com/10-stretching-exercises-for-swimmers/.

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