How to turn recreation into a workout
By Judy Torel
One of the benefits of summer is the opportunity to enjoy the many lakes and pools accessible in the Capital Region. Spending an afternoon sunning and relaxing can also be a great opportunity to get in a workout if you have the right equipment. You can spend a few hours frolicking in the water or you can turn your water time into an awesome calorie burning workout for the entire family without losing any of the fun!
The one “must have” piece of equipment
In order for you to take yourself from just playing in the water to getting a full-blown workout, you must invest in a pair of swim goggles. Swim goggles allow you to put your face into the water and project yourself forward because you can clearly see where you are going even when your face is submerged.
There are many types of swim goggles available, and the traditional ones that just cover the eyes are fine. My personal favorite is made by Aqua Sphere because it is more like a mask and enables you to have a periphery view, which makes having your face under water less frightening or claustrophobic. Children may find these goggles more comfortable and less intimidating.
Now that you have your goggles you are ready for some fun swim workouts with the addition of a few inexpensive props!
Pull buoys are made of foam and come in two main types. One type is comprised of two foam rollers that are joined together by a rope or a band. The other is a one piece that is narrow in the middle. Pull-buoys are placed between your legs at the thigh when in the water.
I recommend that you use the pull-buoys in a pool rather then use them in the open water of a lake. Place the buoy between your legs and then with your goggles on, swim 1 lap of the pool. With your goggles on you can keep yourself swimming a straight line even if you are not in a lap pool where there are lines on the bottom for you to follow. You can take the buoy out of your legs and tread water for 3 minutes and then put the buoy back between your thighs and swim another lap followed by 3 minutes of treading water. You can take turns and have one person swim the lap while the other treads water. See how many times you can repeat this until one person says “uncle”.
Kickboards are also made of foam, but are flat with one rounded end and one straight end. You can use a kickboard in a pool and in the open water of a lake. With your goggles on, hold the kickboard with your hands over the top of the board and let your body float behind the board. Take a breath, place your face in the water and kick! Lift your head when you need to take a breath and to check that you are swimming the direction you want to go.
If you are in a pool you can use the kickboard for a lap and then give the board to another person in your family who kicks one lap while you back stroke along side of them. When you get to the other end of the pool you can switch positions and the opposite person back strokes and kickboards to the other side again. Before you start, decide how many laps you want to achieve and then don’t stop until you hit your number. As one person gets tired the other person can motivate them to keep going!
If you are in a lake then designate a turn-around spot. The first person uses the kickboard and goes to the turn around spot and then back. Upon the return that person hands off the kickboard to the next person who does the same. You can do this as a family relay with one person using the kickboard while the others tread water. The bigger the family the more workout you get treading water waiting for your turn! Before you start, decide how many turns each person will take on the kickboard and then don’t stop until each person has hit that number.
Fins are placed on the foot of the swimmer and look like webbed duck feet. They are a very common swim prop that have traditionally been very popular when combined with snorkels. Fins can also be used to help develop ankle flexibility and leg strength when used in a swim workout.
In a pool, one person can put on fins and swim a lap while another person times how many seconds it takes to reach the opposite side. Then they can switch. When everyone in the family has gotten a turn, each person goes again, this time trying to beat their previous time. In this way it is not a competition against each other, but a way to achieve your personal best against yourself. You can play this game until each person has gone at least 3 times (and more depending on your fitness level!) You can do this workout in a lake by designating a turn-around spot.
Swim paddles are like fins for your hands. They are used to create more resistance in each swim stroke, but because this also can lead to increased stress on the shoulder joint, if you are relatively unfit, you will want to look for paddles that have curved or tapered designs. These create additional resistance in the water with minimal stress on the shoulder.
To get a group workout going, one person can use fins and one person can use hand paddles while swimming to a designated spot in open water. When that spot is reached, tread water while switching equipment and then swim back to the start point. You can do this as relay teams if you have more than two people or you can do multiple repeats with just two people. If you are doing multiple repeats, then decide before you begin how many times you will complete the swim lap and don’t stop until you hit this number.
Swimming is great exercise especially in the hot weather because it keeps you cool and it is a very enjoyable form of exercise. It builds muscular endurance, muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness. Swimming burns significant calories at a rate of about 3 calories per pound of bodyweight per mile and can also be a wonderful family workout with the addition of a few swim props and a few guidelines like those listed above. Have a great swim!
Judy Torel is a therapist/personal trainer with a Master’s degree in psychology. She is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as a fitness trainer and works out of Planet Fitness and Deb's Sweat Shop Extension. She can be reached at JTOREL2263@yahoo.com