Too Hot to Run? Try These Swim Workouts



By Meg Grimes, M.Ed., O2X Client Services Manager, Former Division I Swimmer at Boston University

When you think of summer, you may think of beaches, pool parties, days on the lake, and “bathing suit season.” What do these things have in common?  Swimming. 

Swimming is a perfect alternative for cardiovascular exercise that takes stress off your joints, and provides you with a pretty terrific workout. Swimming during the summer is especially great since you do not have to run, row, and bike in the heat to get a good sweat in (yes, you sweat in the water too – so don’t forget to hydrate). 

Swimming is a good all-round activity because it:

  • keeps your heart rate up while decreasing impact stress on your body
  • builds endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness
  • tones muscles and builds strength
  • provides a whole body workout (nearly all of your muscles are used during swimming)

If you want to switch up your workout routine this summer, try these key tips to keep yourself afloat and get a solid SWEAT in. These tips apply to all swimming levels, and will not only help you get faster and more efficient in your swim workouts, but also increase your safety when around an aquatic environment: 

  1. Comfort
  2. Breathing
  3. Technique


Many people think when you hop in water, whether it be a pool, lake, river, ocean, or pond, that you have to spin your arms and kick your legs hard to keep your head above the water so you can breathe. That’s actually not the case. It sounds cheesy, but if you’re “one with the water,” it’s going to make the act of swimming significantly easier. So how do you become one with the water? Try this:

  • You must remain relaxed when in a water environment.
  • The more stressed and tense you are, the harder it is to breathe and remain near the surface of the water.
  • Focus on just allowing the body to float. You can try floating on either your front and back in the water. Even if you sink a little, that’s ok! Muscle is dense, so those of you that lift multiple times a week and have little body fat may actually sink more. Again, that’s ok! Just let your body relax and do what it will in the water. 
  • The more relaxed and comfortable you are in the water, the better you will breathe and the more efficient you will be swimming.



Some people avoid swimming because the idea of not breathing consistently makes them nervous. But if you think about it, when you run, row, bike, and walk you have a specific breathing pattern you follow. Same applies in the water. 

  • Remember to stay relaxed when breathing, and don’t struggle to take a breath. Also, there is no need to hold your breath for extended periods when swimming – that doesn’t make you go faster (unless you’re an Olympic Sprinter). 
  • Turn your head or pick your head up when you need to breathe.
  • If you stress out about breathing, your body will tense and you will lose your technique.



There are several different types of swimming strokes you can choose during a workout including freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, sidestroke, and elementary backstroke. The four competitive strokes are freestyles, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly. In tactical populations, the combat sidestroke is the go-to. The same tips apply – you must be comfortable in the water, and you must relax when breathing. 

  • The better your technique, the faster you will swim and the farther you will move with each stroke. 
  • Efficiency is key! Try to see how far you can get by slowing down your stroke, focusing on breathing, and reaching to the other side with every stroke. 

Ready to dive in?
(Except, never actually dive if it’s too shallow)



Here are two simple workouts to try – one is swimming, and the other is treading water. Don’t forget the big 3: Comfort, Breathing, Technique. 

Workout 1: SWIM



4 x 75m – 25m fast, 25m easy, 25m fast (:30s rest) choice of stroke

Rest 1:00

4 x 50m – 25m fast, 25m easy (:30s rest) choice of stroke

Rest 1:00

4 x 25m @ 75% max effort (:30s rest) choice of stroke


*when flutter kicking, the kick does not start with your knee. Think about kicking a soccer ball – the kick starts at your hip and goes all the way to your toes. Keep your feet loose.


Workout 2: TREADING



: 30s tread – normal

:10s tread – wrists out of water*

:20s rest

:30s tread – normal

:10s tread – elbows out of water*

:20s rest

:30s tread – normal

:10s – wrists out of water*

:20s rest



*Want an added challenge? Hold a water bottle, small weight, or small object out of the water while treading!

Before hopping into any body of water, always remember a few key safety guidelines: 

  • Let someone know where you are going. You should not swim in a secluded area alone, especially if you are not a very confident swimmer. Always make sure someone else is around (lifeguard, etc.)
  • If you are swimming in open water (ocean, lake, river, pond), make sure to wear a bright swim cap or bathing suit so boaters and others can see you clearly. And don’t forget your sunscreen! The water reflects the light so you can actually get more sunburned in the water than when standing on land. 
  • HYDRATE – just because you are in water doesn’t mean you’re not sweating. Make sure to drink plenty of water during your workout. 

Have a great summer and enjoy the water!



Swimming – health benefits – Better Health Channel. (n.d.). BetterHealth Channel.