I invented a pretty simple yet varied swim workout for myself and my clients. Here in Southern Arizona, it’s tricky to to get a daytime outdoor workout at this time of year without being in the water. If your summertime temps present the same challenge, you might like this adaptable routine.
It can be done once through, or twice for a longer workout. And it can be done at whatever level of strenuousness is at your own edge. It does vary in intensity and you should always be a little bit out of breath, ideally at intervals very out of breath. But it’s low impact and can be a “rest day” workout if you’re very fit.
Sequence is as follows:
1. SHALLOW END CALISTHENICS. (8-9 mins)
In the shadow end of the pool (water at between hip to ribcage level), do one minute of running forward, followed by one minute of running backwards. Repeat. At the shallow end of my community pool, that’s about six laps of each per minute. (About 10 seconds per lap.)
Next do 30 seconds of tuck jumps + 60 seconds of high knees, and repeat this two more times. (So, three sets of tuck jumps, three sets of high knees.) Tuck jumps in the pool at the shallow end should ideally be where your knees just almost break the water. The same goes for the high knees. (If you don’t know what a tuck jump is, you can see it demonstrated lots of places on YouTube, or just jump! in a way that’s safe and comfortable for your body.)
If you don’t have a watch or clock at the pool you can just count each step or jump as one second. It’s approximate but good enough.
Next: swim (I just dog-paddle or breaststroke!) over to the deep end.
2. WATER TREADING WORKOUT (5 mins)
Now there are FIVE water treading exercises:
a. Basic treading: 60 seconds – paddle your arms down with shoulder to elbow static, pushing down with forearms, so you’re mostly using your triceps. Kick or “run” with your legs. You’re perpendicular to pool bottom.
b. Jackknife scissor: 60 seconds – scissor your legs front and back while holding them straight or just slightly bent so that you feel it in your quads and hamstrings. (If the water pressure makes a straight leg feel not good on your knees, bend at the knee slightly.) At the same time, scissor your mostly straight arms front and back as well (opposite arms and legs). You’ll feel this in your whole core, front and back, as well as legs. You’re perpendicular to pool bottom.
c. Push-away dog paddle: 60 seconds – with your belly parallel to the pool floor, frog kick while paddling your arms in the opposite direction of a dog paddle, essentially “pushing the water away” from you with your palms. Doing this, you should basically stay in place. You’re parallel to pool bottom.
d. Reclined float paddle: 60 seconds – with your back parallel or almost parallel to the pool floor, kick your legs to stay afloat and paddle your arms beside you, pushing down with your palms toward the pool floor.
e. Water sprint: 60 seconds – simulate a sprinting motion in the water by “running” hard with your knees high and pumping your arms at your sides as if you were running fast, leaning forward as if pushing off for a sprint.
3. LAPS SECTION (3 mins)
Now do three minutes of laps of your choice – I like to combine breaststroke and sidestroke. Work as hard as you can.
Swim back to the shallow end.
This routine should take you about 17 minutes once through.
If you have the time and energy, do it twice through.
- You can add more time to any one section to extend the workout: just the laps, just the treading exercises (doing them twice through), or just the shallow-end moves (doing more or varying them). I often add a second set of the water-treading to add five more minutes, or just finish off with a few more minutes of “pool runs.”
- Instead of tuck jumps and high knees (or in addition), you can do “pool jacks,” water “jump lunges” (much more buoyant than on land!) or many other bodyweight moves that will be lower impact in the water yet still keep you moving and working.
- You can switch up the order of the three sections. You might find the water treading a good warmup before jumping into calisthenics.
- Finish with a set of tricep dips and/or v-ups at the pool edge.
DISCLAIMER: All fitness activities and exercise, as well as all water sports and activities, are potentially hazardous activities. All information on this website is intended for informational purposes only. Consult a physician before performing this or any exercise program. Consult a personal trainer to learn proper form for any exercise or fitness activity. All exercisers assume all responsibility for the risks associated with any physical activity in which they choose to engage.
ROBYN LANDIS is an ACE-certified fitness professional, personal trainer, health coach, Ayurvedic educator and bestselling author. She is a mind-body transformer who helps people LOVE getting the body and energy that’s fit for their dreams—without hype, regimens, extremes, or concern for irrelevant “weight.” She synthesizes over two decades of study and research to deliver a signature blend of science, spirit and common sense—and make healthy choices joyful and natural.
Her unique Conscious Inspiration™ process has helped thousands overcome health-info confusion, overwhelm, and resistance. Her clients learn to integrate food, exercise, rest, meditation and traditional healing, and become deeply happy getting exceptionally healthy™ with energy to spare and the health to thrive and live fully.
Robyn’s books (including Herbal Defense, cowritten with KP Khalsa, one of the country’s foremost plant medicine experts) have been published in five languages with a combined 200,000+ copies in print. Going on three energetic decades of walking her talk, Robyn embodies and advocates a radically vibrant, radiant vision of “ wisening,” and dissolves destructive myths about health and fitness. She offers individual and group coaching, including “NOURISH U: 9 Weeks to More Energy, Less Fat and a Super-Fueled Life.” www.robynlandis.net, www.nourish.university.
In addition to transforming how health/fitness professionals and individuals alike approach the concept of “motivation” (a radical shift that makes health living a natural, joyful choice)—Robyn specializes in helping women between 40-60 achieve optimal hormonal health for glowing skin, lower bodyfat, energy, and JOY—and helps men in that age range who’ve “let themselves go” get back in shape so they’re primed for performance and pleasure in their next phase of life.