Swimming Tips for Beginners

Swimming is how I lost the majority of my weight. You might wonder why, at 250+pounds, I dared to put on that revealing swimsuit? The answer is simple: I knew swimming was something I’d stick with.

Some of these tips I learned the hard way through trial and error. Most of them were just second nature to me. I’d been a good swimmer my entire life and was even on the Synchronized Swimming Team in middle school.

These series of Swimming posts I’m writing are not a substitute for actual swim lessons. So please, if you don’t know how to swim, sign up for lessons at the local community pool. You can buy private lessons or classes.

The first step is knowing Lap Swimming Etiquette.

Here are some basics if you’re just starting out a swimming routine.

1. Buy goggles. I see so many people trying to swim without goggles. Chlorine is an irritant and it will make your experience very unpleasant.

2. Start Slow. Swim 15-20 minutes to start with. Don’t try to do too much too soon. It takes time to build up technique and stamina. If you have to rest at the end of each length, do it.

3. Wear a Swim Cap. Especially women. It’s a much nicer experience not having to mess with hair in your face. And other swimmers don’t want to so chunks of your hair floating in the pool…. 😉

4. Practice Pulling Straight Back: As your hands enter the water, your fingertips (with a flat palm) should immediately begin pointing straight down. Focus on pulling straight back as you roll your shoulder or take a breath. Your hands should not cross over your center line at any point in the stroke. Basically, don’t make an “S” formation with your arms.

5. Use Silicon Ear Plug: Ear plugs are a necessity. I don’t swim without them. There’s nothing worse than Swimmer’s Ear–days of water sloshing inside your ear. Plugs help prevent ear infections, too.

6. Minimal splashing. You should be smooth, gliding through the water. If you’re splashing a lot, you’re doing it wrong.

7. Kick from the hip, with your knees hardly flexed and your toes pointed. Basically, a scissor kick.

8. If you are feeling tired and fatigue, switch over to low intensity strokes, like sidestroke or breaststroke. You can even swim a few laps, seeking the aid of kickboards. (I use a kickboard after I do half a mile of intense, non-stop swimming to cool down a bit.)

9. Rolling with each stroke is very necessary while swimming. For example , if you have extended your right arm, make sure to keep your right side lower than your left one. Roll back and forth with each stroke–but not rolling around too much.

10. The mouth should be closed while the face is in water. You can exhale through the nose while in water but you shouldn’t open your mouth. If you want to blow out air as you surface you can, but don’t open your mouth wide.

11. Concentrate on increasing stroke length rather than your stroke rate to increase your swim speed. Good swimmers use only a limited number of strokes per lap.

12. Use your hands to “grab” more water with each stroke and extend your arms further to push you out of the water. This will help decrease drag and make swimming easier.

13. Drink water. Stay hydrated by drinking water periodically.

14. Don’t hold your breath the whole time. If you are swimming from one end of the pool to the other, the goal is not to hold your breath the entire time. It makes your muscles sluggish and tires you out faster.

15. Push Yourself. After you get really good at swimming, push yourself harder. It’s easy to get stuck in a lazy pace, not trying very hard. When you get to that pace it’s time to try speed work!

And with every new fitness routine, it’s wise to talk to your doctor about it first. Also, be prepared for an insatiable hunger when you first begin swimming! Keep snacks in your locker.

QUESTION: Are you a swimmer? Did I miss any helpful hints for someone starting out a swimming for fitness routine?

Check back Thursday for Part II.

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and Glamour.com.

14 thoughts on “Swimming Tips for Beginners”

  1. Great tips! I loved swimming until I started wearing glasses, but having had my eyes lasered, I really should give it another go. It really is the perfect workout for women, the way it tones the body so well.

  2. Great tips! I used to lifeguard as a teen and I LOVE to swim! (sadly haven’t done so in a very long time though 🙁 ) but the one thing that really made me less worried of a swimmer drowning was seeing they were not only comfortable in the water but knew how to tread water and knew a few tips in case they got a cramp, etc.

    For example, knowing how to tread water efficiently makes me, as a lifeguard, confident that if you do have an emergency you won’t just freak out and panic. Also, knowing how to calmly and safely stretch out a cramp while getting yourself to the side of the pool or out of the pool is also good to know so a rescue can be prevented.

    Lifeguarding was for me was how to prevent a save/rescue so if I noticed someone was REALLY struggling with poor form from one end to the other, most of the time I’d suggest sticking to the shallower lanes/areas until they were a strong enough swimmer to go into the deeper water.

    …just some thoughts :)…manI miss the water…


  3. I was a competitive swimmer through school. I also lifeguard. I am finally back in the pool and love it!

    You did a great job explaining the basics.

    May I ask you how long do you swim now? How many laps, etc? I currently am doing about 30 mins 2 times a week averaging 66 laps (1 mile at our pool).

  4. I would love to be a swimmer but I never learned proper form. I’m also a shallow breather so I always feel like I’m not getting enough air. I’ve felt a little more comfortable after doing Hydrofit so maybe I’ll try a little more seriously soon.

  5. True swimming is a great form of exercise and helps in even toning especially for women. Best part since everyone enjoys it , it no more appears to be a form of exercise.
    Thanks for the great tips.. very handy for beginners.

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