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Question about swimming

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Old 01-08-2008, 06:47 PM   #1
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Default Question about swimming

I just started physical therapy for the soft tissue injury I have in my ankle. I asked the physical therapist if I could start swimming, since all other cardio exercise seems to aggravate the injury. She said she thought it would be okay, as long as I didn't overdo it.

Does anyone here swim for exercise? How long do you swim? Do you do laps? Any advice for someone just starting out?
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Old 01-08-2008, 09:38 PM   #2
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Have you looked at swimplan.com?

I'm moving to a place that has an indoor heated 25m pool and I would love to start swimming for fitness. I've been looking at the programs on this site and they look good. Then again, I'm not a swimmer. I'm interested if there's something better.
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Old 01-09-2008, 11:04 PM   #3
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I swim once a week for cardio. It is fabulous cardio exercise. I've injured my knee, so I can't run at the moment, but when I was running, I would see a marked improvement in my running endurance (e.g., I could set the treadmill a little faster) every week that I swam. It was remarkable.

Swimming is also great for injuries. When I first injured my knee, I refused to accept it and continued to exercise and ended up injuring my ankle as well. I think it was a mild strain--no bruising or swelling, just really painful to walk on it. Swimming seemed to make it feel better and my ankle would be more flexible when I finished the swim.

When I first start swimming, I just got in the pool and tried to do laps. I did eight laps of freestyle, then eight laps of breast stroke, then another eight laps of freestyle. I also threw in a few sets of eight laps of flutter kick or frog kick (the kick you do with breast stroke) to give my legs more of a workout and for a change of pace. I did that for an hour, but you could do if for however long is comfortable for you. The first swim was killer, but the second one was easier, and the third even easier. As I said, swimming is a fantastic cardio workout. If you do it regularly, you'll be surprised how quickly you progress.

As I got better at it, over the next year or so, I concentrated on improving my workout in the following ways:
  • Eliminating any rests in the middle of sets and reducing my rest period between sets. Eventually doing flip turns on the freestyle sets.
  • Adding a couple sets of eight laps of back stroke.
  • Replacing some of the breast stroke sets with freestyle intervals. For eight laps, I alternate between swimming as fast as I can and then swimming a lap at a recovery pace. When I first started the intervals, I did breast stroke for all the recovery laps. The I focused on trying to do freestyle for the recovery laps. The next step was to add flip turns. I currently include four sets of 8-lap intervals in my workout: three with freestyle recovery and flip turns, one with breast stroke recovery (and only four flip turns because flip turns and breast stroke don't really mix). I could probably do all four sets with freestyle recovery, but I'm a breast stroker at heart (that was my stroke when I swam competitively) and it's my reward for doing the other three sets with freestyle recovery.
  • Trying to swim a lap underwater without coming up for air. This is the way I finish my workout and I added it maybe six months ago. The first workout I tried it, I only made it halfway across the pool. By the third or fourth workout, I could finish the whole lap without a breath. Did I mention swimming is a fabulous cardio workout?

My most recent improvement is to buy a pair of swim fins and use them for the sets of flutter kicks. Awesome! But you don't want to do this until your ankle is completely healed, because it is very stressful on the ankle (it would definitely fall in the "overdoing" category).
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Old 01-09-2008, 11:20 PM   #4
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The most important thing is to get in the water & get moving. I like to do sets of 4 lengths - 3 front crawl & 1 breast stroke. I used to do 2 front crawl & 1 breast stroke. The breast stroke is my recovery. I have also added flip turns - these really take good breath control so it is a progression for me. I like to start & end my swim workouts with a few lengths of legs only, flutter, whip or dolphin kicks.

For myself, because of the breath control (that is unique to swimming) I find if I jump in & push too hard, too soon I get roaring headaches. I don't know if anyone else finds this but just be aware if you are getting a headache while swimming, trying backing it off a little & adding more recovery lengths.
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Old 01-09-2008, 11:52 PM   #5
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I love swimming. I can actually get in a real workout in the water (unlike on land, where I'm in pain before the heart rate is elevated at all). I've found it a little harder to "listen to my body" in the water, because everything seems so much easier than on land that I don't want to stop when I'm getting tired. That's the biggest tip I can give is really listen to your body. If you're out of breath (even in the middle of a lap) stop and tread water for a bit, and pay attention to how you feel. You shouldn't be uncomfortable, breathing a little harder, being a little tired that's one thing, but if you cross into discomfort back down. If you're wondering if you're pushing yourself too hard, walk in shallow water or get out of the water where you'll notice how much you're sweating (when you're submerged to your neck, it can be hard to tell), and if your legs are a bit rubbery or even sore from the exertion. A little is fine, but again if you're crossing over into pain, back down.

I'm always in the pool at least an hour, but not all of it is lap swimming. I do about 20 - 30 minutes of lap swimming (I started with 10 minutes) and another 20 - 30 (also started at fewer, maybe 15) minutes of resistance training (our warm water pool has a lot of equiptment such as water weights, a pull up bar, submerged parallel bars) and then treading water, floating and water walking at a relaxed pace "just for fun." If I miss the pool for more than a couple weeks, sometimes I have to backtrack to a previous workout, but when I go at least every week I try to get in at least one more lap in than the time before.
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Old 01-10-2008, 12:48 AM   #6
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I typically swim 2 times a week and I'm in the water for 30 minutes. I try to increase the number of laps each week. I'm up to .75 miles. I too use swim fins because I don't have a great kick. My other gadget is a lap counter which I wear on my finger. Otherwise I lose count. At any rate, the thing I like about swimming is that there is always room for improvement. When you start out, perhaps you are just flailing around trying to catch a breath here and there, but once you get beyond all of that, you can actually concentrate on how certain adjustments can improve your stroke. Good luck!
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