6 Tips to Get Started Swimming, According to a Triathlete
I grew up swimming, and I love it for a lot of reasons. In my home state of Michigan, learning to swim is a necessity with all of the lakes around. Early on, I started competitively swimming and I was lucky enough to compete in collegiate triathlon for Michigan State University. Even after all the years and laps in the pool, I can still solidly say it is my favorite way to move my body. That said, I realize swimming can be a little intimidating if you don't have much experience.
If you don't already swim, there are several reasons to start swimming laps for exercise. Swimming has been associated with a slew of health benefits, like leading to a longer life, improving mental health and reducing cancer risk. Not to mention, it is no-impact, so it's easier on your joints as you age. This can help you stay active and also prevent injury as you get older. In fact, it's one of the best exercises for women over age 50. Swimming allows you to use a variety of muscles and get a cardio workout all in one, making it super efficient. To help you get started, here are a few beginner-friendly tips to make getting in the pool enjoyable and safe.
Beginner Tips for Swimming
1. Take a Lesson
When you are first getting started, some expert coaching can be helpful. Sure, many of us may have taken swim lessons as a kid, but those might be an ancient memory by the time you start trying to lap swim. Get in contact with a local pool or YMCA in your area to see if they can put you in contact with a coach for a lesson. Many pools also offer master's swimming clubs with options for all skill levels, which are another great way to learn and get comfortable. Having someone with experience provide feedback on your swimming can help improve your form, and having good form will set you way ahead of a true beginner. Not to mention, it also helps prevent injury.
2. Start Small
Progress in a way that feels good to you. Start with shorter distances or in a shallower pool, and work your way up as you feel comfortable. At first, you might be taking frequent breaks. But, with time, you can start to increase the length you can consecutively swim as well as the total distance you can swim. However, trying to go too far or too fast to start can wear you out too quickly. It's not safe or enjoyable to be exhausted in the pool as a new swimmer.
3. Get the Gear
A little bit of sport-specific gear can go a long way in making you feel comfortable in the water. You don't have to break the bank with new stuff, but there are a few items worth having. First, a good pair of goggles that are comfortable and fit your face without fogging is a must. My personal preference is the Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 Mirrored Goggles (on sale for $16.49, SpeedoUSA.com).
Second, it's worth a couple of bucks to get a good quality swim cap. In fact, some pools even require them for lap swimmers. Many prefer silicone caps because they are easier to stretch and more comfortable than latex caps. Plus, it is safe to wear silicone if you have a latex allergy. Try these Solid Silicone Elastomeric Fit caps for only $9.99 each on SpeedoUSA.com.
Last, but certainly not least, a swimsuit meant for exercise will be more comfortable when you're logging laps in the pool. There are many shapes, sizes and styles, so this is more about what fits your preference. I like the website SwimOutlet.com for their variety of styles and affordable prices.
4. Learn a Few Drills
Having good form will not only make you faster and more comfortable, but it can also help prevent injury. One way to improve your form is to break out specific parts of the swim stroke and practice them as drills. Whether it's focusing on how your hand hits the water or flattening your body position, there is a drill for pretty much everything. Check out these five drills for beginner swimmers, and ask for advice from a coach in your area.
5. Practice Your Breathing
One of the most unique (and uncomfortable) parts about swimming is learning to breathe in the pool. A lot of this has to do with timing when your head comes out of the water in relation to your stroke. Trying to breathe every single stroke is a recipe for fatigue and even hyperventilation. Instead, try timing your breath for every three to five strokes to see what is comfortable. This will help you get comfortable breathing on both sides of your body. As with any new skill, practice makes perfect. Plus, this is another area where expert advice from a coach can come in handy.
6. Bring a Friend
Last, but certainly not least, it is more fun to take on a new hobby with a friend or family member than by yourself. Having someone to go to the pool with you can help hold you accountable and make it more social. To find a community in your area, look for local swim clubs or groups through the YMCA to see if they are accepting new members.