Your mission president challenged you to set goals. We suggest you add exercise to your list. Although exercise isn’t on par with reading your scriptures or prayer, it’s not far behind. Failure to care for yourself will damage body and spirit.
Create a habit of regular exercise now. You might not think you need to, but trust us, the day will come when your metabolism goes MIA. Being prepared for that day, if it hasn’t come already, will put you ahead of the game.
To exercise regularly, you need to find activities you enjoy. We suggested running as a foundation for your fitness and we also recommend swimming. Swimming is a perfect counterbalance to running, it’s easy on your body and leaves you with the “exercise high.”
However, adding swimming to your regime can be tricky. Sure you can swim but to make swimming a viable workout, you have to do more than keep your head above water. The tips below, will help you get started.
1. The Suit
Do you like skimpy Speedos? For guys this can be a holdup. Fortunately, “Jammers,” knee length swimsuits made of spandex, work just as well and do a great job covering up. Wearing a baggy pair of trunks not only dramatically slows you down, but it can cause irregularities in your stroke. Women the tankini isn’t going to work either.
2. The Goggles
You will want a decent pair of goggles. Look for a pair in the twenty dollar range. Cheaper goggles will leak and be uncomfortable. For beginners, find a pair that has foam or soft plastic surrounding the eyepieces. Having goggles will increase the safety and comfort of your workout.
3. The Swim Cap
If you’re a woman, you will want to use a swim cap, particularly if you have long hair. Your hair adds drag but more importantly it will be in the way. Caps are fairly cheap and will make your experience more enjoyable. To put the cap on, you don’t have to get your hair or cap wet. First, put your hair in a pony tail. Then put your fists into the cap, spread it apart and put the cap on your forehead first and then pull it the back over your pony tail. Guys, the cap is optional.
4. The Towel
You get wet so you might want a towel. That’s it! Swimming gear is fairly inexpensive.
A lap pool is ideal. It will be long enough, at least 25 yards, and will have lane markers that keep you going in a straight line and warn you when the wall is coming. A backyard pool is typically not long enough for a good workout. If you’re a student, your school will likely have a lap pool. Other cheap options are the local YMCA, or similar community recreation centers.
Open water swimming if done in a safe location can be an excellent workout because it often allows you to swim further than 25 yards without having to turn around. Try to find a place with lifeguards and that is marked as being safe for swimmers.
There are a handful of swimming strokes but for beginners, we are going to focus on the front crawl or freestyle as it is commonly called. For the speed it produces, it is the most efficient stroke.
The key to a productive stroke is simplicity—moving faster and more vigorously doesn’t equal faster or better. Your movement needs to be fluid and smooth. Below are some pointers but if you have a knowledgable friend, have them watch your stroke and give you feedback.
1. The Kick
Start with a simple kick which if done right will move you through the water and keep you balanced. If you kick too hard or flail, you will simply tire yourself out. Keep your legs fairly straight, with your knees and ankles close together and your toes slightly pointed. Begin with a small, fast kick that makes the surface of the water bubble. You will alternate each leg going up and down. If you don’t kick enough, your legs will act as anchors causing your body to be out of balance. You want your body to be parallel with the water not dragging against it.
2. The Arms
You probably have the basic idea—one arm is reaching forward while the other is pulling or pushing. Your shoulders are an integral part of your stroke which act as an axis on which your arms rotate. One arm reaches out in front of your eyes as the other is sweeping backward. Your pulling hand should stay mostly under your body, keeping your elbow at a 45 degree angle. Pull down past your shoulder, sweeping under your chest, and down by your leg fully extending your arm to finish off your stroke. Your recovering arm should not be stiff, but bent reaching over your head and reaching forward to begin your stroke again.
3. The Breathing
You may want to breathe. Many people don’t like swimming laps because they feel like they aren’t getting enough air. That feeling has a lot to do with fitness and comfort. As you learn to breathe properly the feeling will subside.
When your face is in the water, breathe out through your mouth and nose–using both will help keep water out of your nose.
Some people take a breath during every cycle of their stroke but one and half cycles is preferable for distance swimming. To breathe, don’t pick your head up. Instead, rotate very slightly to your side so that your mouth makes it out of the water when your arm is forming a triangle with the water. Breathe in that little pocket and all will be well. Breathe on both sides to maintain muscle balance. And don’t be surprised if you get a mouth full of water occasionally, just spit it out.
Swimming is about being efficient. To help you become more efficient, count the number of strokes it takes you to swim one lap and then use that as a benchmark. If the number of strokes decreases as you practice, you know you’re heading in the right direction. Remember, adding more laps to your workout doesn’t necessarily make you more efficient—you may just be cementing bad habits. Swimming, done right, is an art which takes practice and focus.
Okay after our crash course you should be a pro. Now, you need to begin working out.
It’s common for beginners to swim one lap—25 yards—and want to take a break hanging on the side of the pool. Just like any exercise you need to push yourself. To help wean yourself from the wall, swim one lap and then, if needed, give yourself an allotted amount of time before you swim the next—say 20 seconds. Hold yourself to the time constraint and push off even if you don’t feel ready.
As your fitness and confidence increases reduce the time you rest. Within a few weeks, you will find yourself swimming multiple laps without needing to stop. When you can swim two laps in a row without stopping, you can more or less create a workout for yourself.
For example, you could swim one lap fast and then one lap slow. Or you could swim four to six laps and then take a short break. Be creative, varying intensity and length. Another fun thing to do is to set a goal—like swimming a mile. Like any good workout you should warm up gradually and keep at it for at least a half hour.
That about covers it.
If you’re a swimmer, please share some tips for the beginners.
This article is purely for entertainment. Always consult a qualified doctor, lawyer, and meteorologist before beginning any exercise program. You might die if you don’t.