Traveling Swimmers: Try These Hotel-pool Workouts

A kidney-shaped hotel pool doesn't mean you can't dive in for a workout.

Finding a pool while on a business trip or vacation can be time-consuming and frustrating, if not impossible. For business travelers with little free time, it may not even be worth the effort of locating and commuting to a decent lap pool.

As a result, travelers are left with few options, the most obvious being vertigo-inducing laps in kidney-shaped hotel pools.

As unappealing as it may sound to have to train in a hotel pool--which can be overrun with margarita-sipping tourists, their water-winged offspring, and even a stray piece of lounge furniture deposited from the previous nights drunken bacchanal--there are creative ways for you to stay in shape and, if all else fails, keep your feel for the water.

The most important thing to remember about staying in prime swimming shape is the frequency with which you actually get into the water and develop your feel. So while a better overall traveler's workout may be running from your hotel or using the fitness center's stationary bike, it is preferable to practice drills in the hotel pool if your goal is to stay conditioned for an upcoming swim event.

Depending on the pool in question, it may be possible to hook up an Aquatrainer (a portable rubber tubing device with a Velcro belt) to a poolside ladder and swim in place for varying intervals. While this is a convenient and easy way to make use of limited space, I am reluctant to promote these devices as a training supplement because they alter your natural body position in the water. They also change the feeling of resistance (the sensation of swimming in place is nothing like propelling yourself through the water at full speed).

Kick it up a Notch

Vertical kicking sets are a terrific way to build leg strength and get your heart rate up while sparing you the hassle of executing multiple flip-turns every 15 yards. Here is a vertical kicking set you can try (provided the pool is deep enough):

  • 5 x 1 minute freestyle kicking, hands raised above head
  • 30 seconds rest between each minute, treading water
  • 3 x 1 minute dolphin kicking, hands crossed over chest
  • 15 seconds rest between each minute, treading water
  • 1 minute vertical breaststroke or eggbeater kick

By the end of this 12-minute set, your legs will be burning and you should be breathing heavily. To add to the challenge, you may hold a pair of water bottles (one in each hand) above your head like dumbbells. This will work your shoulders as well, and you can drink from the bottles during your rest intervals (thus lightening the weights as the set progresses).

Do the Hand Jive

Sculling is another drill to keep your feel for the water. With your hands at your sides, move your wrists in a rapid, waving, figure-eight motion and propel yourself through the water (either on your back or stomach). It is slow going, but in a short or oddly shaped pool it is a manageable and terrific way to work your forearms and maintain conditioning.

Sculling is also the best way to get that all-important feel for the water, as you are using only your hands to push yourself from point A to point B. Although sculling itself is not too physically demanding, you can challenge yourself with hypoxic breathing patterns during the drill, taking only one breath per kidney-shaped lap.

Both vertical kicking and sculling are drills that work specific and oft-neglected swimming muscles. An added advantage to these drills is that they require you to get wet, the only way of maintaining that all-important feel for the water, which is so easy to lose.

Granted, a better workout may be to go running or practice band training, but these cardiovascular activities are dryland-only and will not help keep you in ideal swimming shape.

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