Open Water Swimmer

No matter your sport, I totally believe we all benefit from water fitness. This can come in many forms. Some of my favorites I’ll talk about is lap swimming, water aerobics, and paddle boarding in my Get Fit, Get Wet Series. Any of these three will propel your fitness to the next level. I love a good challenge and nothing pushes me harder than myself! A rule of thumb with any program, but especially with water fitness activities, is you get out of it what you put into it. So, with that in mind, let’s break it all down and see if I can’t get you a set of gills and strong muscles.


I love swimming laps and open water swimming (OWS). You get a huge cardiovascular workout. You work/tone most all of the muscles in your body. You can challenge yourself with sprint sets, endurance sets, or a combination. You can also find balance by working all four strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke and freestyle) and using proper training equipment. My core feels strong, my upper body feels strong, my lower body feels strong, my posture improves, my mood lightens and basically I feel like a rockstar. Or a dolphin. :)

Nutrition and Hydration:

While I swim, I drink plenty of fluids during the first hour, either water or coconut water. If I’m swimming longer, I use an endurance drink or do either pureed fruit or a gel. I try to eat a light meal at least 60-90 minutes before I swim. I find the accountability of training with a team or a committed swim buddy is the best way to stay consistent. There are also dozens of open water swim races popping up all around the country. Swim/run races, too. Having set goals can keep one motivated, too.

Now, if you’re not a natural swimmer and really don’t feel you have good (or any) swimming skills, do not fear. Dear friend, you can still get started and learn and progress in time. Rome was not built in a day, Michael Phelps didn’t win the Olympics his first time in the pool, so you too, will learn and grow in this sport with practice. By the way, practice = training. Training = calorie burn. Check with your local pool to see if they offer a Masters Swim Program. Hands down, one of the best ways to learn all strokes properly and make friends. You can always recruit a swim instructor to give you group or private lessons. If you are a monkey see and do kinda learner (like me)… watch some online videos to see the proper strokes technique and tips. If you have someone with you, have them video you swimming, so you can see where you need to make changes.

Pool Exercise

So here is one of my favorite sets. It includes all four strokes, sprints, strength and a good calorie burn!

  • 300 warm up
  • 6 x 75 (free/stroke/free) stroke: alt between fly, bk, br
  • 6 x 75 (stroke/free/stroke)
  • 100 ez (free)
  • 300 kick (alt front/side/back/fly/breast)
  • 200 pull (free)
  • 8x25 sprint (free)
  • 200 cool down (choice)
  • TOTAL: 2200 meters or yards (depending on your pool)

There are plenty of resources for stroke development, workouts, and coaching.

Sounds great, but what do I wear?

OMG, the best part. There are so many cool suits for everyone, every age. I like a racerback style. Typically you buy based on your bra size, but check the sizing chart for the best fit. I also wear a lycra or latex swim cap even though my hair isn’t that long, and for me, Aquasphere goggles, ut choose goggles that fit you best. Not too tight; your eyeballs won’t like that and you’ll have funny circles around your eyes when you go to work. On the rare occasion I’m swimming alone and I need a little xtra motivation, I bring along my waterproof iPod. Ladies, I also spray a little conditioner into my hair under my cap; helps keep the chlorine from damaging my hair or so my hairdresser says. Last, I have a neat little TYR mesh bag to keep all of my swim toys, I mean training gear, in one place.

Lap Pool

Is the pool water cold?

You better hope so. Just like any fitness program, it takes a few to get warmed up, but once you do… it’s great. Same in the pool, I prefer an 80-82 degree pool. If it’s 84 or higher, it’s hard for me to swim as fast; it starts to feel like a bowl of soup. Colder than 76-78, and it sure motivates me to not rest very long. If I’m open water swimming then a wetsuit goes on below 78. That’s just my threshold, so find yours. I have temp thresholds for outdoor sports too. Just use your best judgement.


In a pool: Always the best idea to swim with a lifeguard on duty. If your facility doesn’t require one, swim with a friend and find out if the front desk has a security camera in the pool.

Open Water: This list is not limited to just these safety tips, always use the local website for that area for full water safety recommendations and warnings.

  • Chose area that has a lifeguard on duty. If no lifeguard is on duty, swim with a friend. Always tell someone your training plan. Purchase a swim buddy floatation device.
  • Know your water environment. River? Current? Lake? Water Quality? Ocean? Tide/Current? Aquatic animals (sharks/jellies/etc)
  • Know sunrise/sunset times
  • Have strong swim skills for open water swimming
  • If possible, have support on a water vessel like a kayak or SUP.
  • Read posted signage

Any cons?

If I had one con about swimming it’s that I don’t have gills.

Open Water Swimming

Well, that’s about it for my take on swimming laps/ows. Hey, feel free to shoot me an email if you have questions: [email protected]

See you in the water!