Swimming is an ideal form of exercise—but only for those who are interested in a total-body workout that will build strong, lean muscles, go easy on the joints, and increase respiratory capacity. Swimming can ease asthma, strengthen your core, and increase flexibility and endurance. People who are not interested in these things need not apply.
But, there are a few mistakes beginners might make at the start of their swim routine. These ‘do’s and ‘don’ts’ of swimming will keep you at the top of your game and make sure you don’t fall into those beginner traps.
We have Samantha Lefave’s “8 Beginner Swimming Mistakes (And How to Fix Them) from Daily Burn to thank for tips 2 to 5.
1. DON’T: Jump right in
Swimming, like all other forms of exercise requires stretching and prepping before every workout. Swimming workouts engage the whole body, and all your muscles will be screaming for days afterward if you don’t employ the proper care before and after every session.
DO: Stretches and prep-work between workouts
Doing proper stretches before a swim session can save you from a lot of agony later on.
Had an especially intense workout? Or maybe you just want to keep your muscles in tip-top shape in between? A little extra care can go a long way.
Employing a method like cryotherapy will bring you back to full working condition and save you from a lot of muscle damage and pain. Cryotherapy, a pain treatment using very low temperatures, was specifically designed to help athletes recover quickly and improve performance, to prevent relapses of certain illnesses, and to treat muscular and inflammatory conditions. There’s a reason athletes like Kobe Bryant and Floyd Mayweather Jr. swear by it.
2. DON’T: Hold your breath
In Samantha Lefave’s article, Scott Bay, coaches committee chair for U.S. Masters Swimming and ASCA Level 5 certified Masters swim coach, explains that many beginners do what they were taught when they first learned how to swim—take a deep breath, and hold it while your face goes in the water. But you wouldn’t hold your breath while doing any other form of exercise, so why now? This habit will deprive your muscles of much-needed oxygen.
DO: Breath out slowly through your nose.
Instead of holding your breath, exhale slowly while your face is underwater. When it’s time to inhale again, your face will naturally lift out of the water and you’ll take a breath.
3. DON’T: Let your hips sink
According to Lefave, letting your hips sink will create more resistance in the water, which will slow you down.
DO: Stay on top of the water
Linsey Corbin, CLIF triathlete and five-time Ironman champion (quoted by Lefave), says “stay flat and float on top of the water.” Not only will this help you cover more kilometers, it will engage your core. Corbin suggests using a snorkel in the beginning—instead of focusing on your breathing, you are free to focus on using your body correctly and employing the proper technique.
4. DON’T: Rely on your upper body
You should be engaging your whole body when swimming. When you rely on your upper body muscles too much, you will quickly exhaust them. You won’t be able to complete a full stroke, which will slow you down in the water.
DO: Use your whole body
“Use your arms for pulling your body through the water, your core to rotate in the water, and your legs for the kick, which provides forward momentum” says Corbin.
5. DON’T: Swim for a long time at a slow pace
According to Corbin, slow and steady is fine in the beginning for perfecting form—but when you turn it into a leisurely lap, you tend to get lazy about technique.
DO: Speed drills
Corbin suggests doing short and fast drills rather than long and slow. For a few workouts a week, focus on swimming for time, rather than distance.
Swimming is well worth your while. You’ll benefit from a full-body workout each and every time. In between training sessions, head over to the cryotherapy clinic to recharge and repair painful or damaged muscles—you can thank us later.