Freestyle Fitness

If swimming becomes your sport, aim to get to the pool at least 3 days a week. Beginners should try to swim 4 to 6 laps in a 25-yard pool. More experienced swimmers can float into the 8- to 10-lap range. And the female fishes in the crowd can shoot for 20 laps.

Tips and Techniques

Swimming used to be the sport that kept me out of triathlons because I sank like a stone and struggled just to stay afloat. One day, I got a few pointers from a pro, and my life has never been the same. By using the right technique, you'll go faster, feel lighter, swim more efficiently, and have more fun.

Roll Like an Otter
The more efficient your stroke, the longer you'll be able to swim. The secret is reducing your number of strokes while making maximum progress with every pull. Learn from the aquatic animals, and roll through the water. Contrary to appearances, swimming is not about twirling your arms and kicking your legs as fast and hard as you can. In reality, your power comes from your hips. As you move through the water, instead of just turning your head for air, roll your whole body, keeping your head in line with your spine, so that your mouth comes out of the water. Breathe, then roll back to the other side with the next stroke.

Streamline Yourself
Your head should be mostly down, with the top of your forehead leading the way. This position helps keep your hips up and is less fatiguing to your neck than holding your head high and looking ahead.

Stay to the Right
If you swim during prime hours, like morning and evening, there's a good chance that you'll have to share a lane with other people. Swim on the right-hand side of the lane, just like you would drive. If someone behind you is swimming faster and making you nervous, stop at the end of the lane and let her through.

Rinse Before and After

Pool chemicals can leave your skin as dry as the Sahara. Avoid this irritation by rinsing off in the facility's shower right before you get in the pool and then soaping up with a moisturizing cleanser and applying a body lotion after you're done. If you're afraid that chlorine will turn your hair to straw, use a chlorine-removing shampoo such as Nexxus Clarifying Shampoo after every swim.

Switch Strokes
Most swimmers do their laps freestyle, because that's the classic swimming stroke we learn as kids and it's the easiest to pick up. But you can work your muscles in new ways and improve your overall conditioning by playing around with a variety of strokes. Flip over and try the backstroke for a few laps. Learn the breaststroke or sidestroke. Your body will appreciate the new movements, and you'll be less likely to get bored.

Swimming Stats

Here's what you can expect from 30 minutes of a water workout.

Calories Burned
255 (based on a 140-pound woman)

Muscles Worked

Trapezius, rhomboids, pectorals, deltoids, glutes, and hip flexors

Psychological Benefits
Cutting through the water is sensual, stress relieving, and a welcome silencing of the usual workday noise.
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