When some people decide to lose weight, the first thing they do is get — or renew — their gym membership. But you don’t have to hit the gym to transform your body.
As a matter of fact, you might have better results with activities you enjoy, like swimming.
Swimming isn’t only a great way to cool off on a hot day, it’s also one of the best ways to lose weight, according to Franklin Antoian, personal trainer and founder of the online personal training website, iBodyFit.com.
“You can lose the same amount of weight swimming as you could by running, but you can do so without the impact, which is great for people with injuries or painful joints,” he says.
So, how can you swim to lose weight? Read on for a few tips and tricks.
Whether you’re swimming to lose belly fat, increase muscle tone, or just change up your workout, here’s how to get the best results.
1. Swim in the morning before eating
A morning swim isn’t feasible for everyone, but it’s worth a try if you can access a pool before work.
“Waking up in the morning and going for your swim will leave your body in a fasted state ready to utilize those fat stores as energy,” explains Nick Rizzo, a trainer and fitness director at RunRepeat.com, an athletic shoe review site. “Swimming isn’t only a great form of cardio, but it’s a full-body workout as well, so you can expect some great results.”
2. Swim harder and faster
Swimming burns a lot of calories when you’re just starting out. But as your swimming skills improve and you become more efficient, your heart rate doesn’t increase as much, warns Paul Johnson, founder of CompleteTri.com, a website providing guidance, tips, and gear reviews for swimmers, triathletes, and fitness enthusiasts.
The solution, according to Johnson, is to swim harder and faster to keep your heart rate up.
Wear a waterproof fitness tracker to monitor your heart rate while swimming. Your target heart rate during a moderate-intensity workout should be about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.
You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.
3. Take a swim class
Learning proper stroke techniques can help you swim at a moderate pace. Contact a community center or YMCA for information on swim lessons, or sign up for a class through the American Red Cross.
4. Switch up your swim routine
If you swim at the same speed and use the same technique over and over again, your body may eventually hit a plateau.
Stepping outside your comfort zone and modifying your routine is an excellent way to utilize different muscle groups, helping to maximize your results.
5. Swim four to five days a week
The frequency of swimming for weight loss is the same as other cardiovascular exercises, so aim for four to five days a week for the best results, according to Jamie Hickey, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with Truism Fitness.
6. Start slow
Start with 15 to 20 minute swims every other day, and then gradually increase to 30 minute swims five days a week, as your body allows. If you start a new swimming routine at too high an intensity, muscle soreness and fatigue could cause you to give up.
7. Alternate swimming with water aerobics
You don’t have to swim every day to see results. Take a water aerobics class on your off days. This is an excellent low-stress exercise to keep moving on active recovery days.
8. Swim with a float or pool noodle
If you’re not a strong swimmer, swim laps in the pool using a pool noodle, kick board, or life vest. These will keep you afloat as you use your arms and legs to move through the water.
9. Use water weights
If you’re swimming to lose weight and tone up, do a few bicep curls with water dumbbells in between laps. The water creates resistance, which can help build strength and endurance.
10. Adjust your diet
With any weight loss program, you must burn more calories than you take in, swimming is no exception.
“If your aim is to lose a few pounds, you still need to make adjustments to your diet,” mentions Keith McNiven, founder of the personal training company Right Path Fitness.
“And be careful. Swimming takes a lot of energy, so you’ll need to refuel with food. Also, the cold water can cause your appetite to increase substantially after a session.”
If you’re feeling hungrier, McNiven recommends adding more vegetables to your plate, grabbing a protein shake, and staying away from snacking.
Keep in mind that different swim strokes can result in a greater calorie burn, depending on the muscles being worked. So experiment with various routines to keep your muscles and body guessing.
Swim freestyle one day, and the next day do the butterfly stroke. “The butterfly stroke is the most demanding, working the entire body and will burn the most calories,” says Hickey. “The breaststroke would come in second, and the backstroke third.”
Mixing up the intensity of your workout also has great results, notes Rizzo. He recommends sprint interval training, which consists of sprints for 30 seconds, followed by four minutes of rest.
This can be full on rest, or you can continue to swim at an intensity of 1 out of 10, repeating four to eight times, he says. “It doesn’t sound like much but remember, you were going 100 percent during those entire 30 seconds. It is demanding to say the least, but effective. You can switch between different swimming styles or strokes, or keep it pretty straightforward.”
Many children were taught not to swim until 30 to 60 minutes after eating. It was thought that some blood would divert to the stomach after eating to aid with digestion, and in turn, divert blood away from the arms and legs.
Some believed that blood leaving the limbs would cause arms and legs to tire easily, increasing the risk of drowning.
But while a common belief, there doesn’t appear to be any scientific basis for this recommendation.
Some people may develop stomach cramps after swimming on a full belly, but this isn’t anything serious or dangerous.
If you’re not a fan of the gym or can’t participate in certain activities due to joint pain, swimming is an excellent way to get into shape.
It’s a great workout for losing weight, increasing muscle tone, and strengthening your heart.