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Lap Swimming more than just Cardio

Lap Swimming more than just Cardio

Swimming laps has long been considered a great way to get a cardio work out in. Whether your swimming freestyle, backstroke, breastroke or butterfly, swimming allows you to get a full body workout in using all the major muscle groups. A typical lap swimmer will go 15-30 minutes without stopping; they have built up an effective and efficient stroke. However, swimming is more than just a great aerobic exercise.

Many swimmers fail to use lap swimming as an anaerobic exercise as well. Where aerobic exercise is a low intensity and longer duration workout, anaerobic swimming is fast short spurts of swimming, often times one or two lengths of the pool at a time at maximum effort. A simple set could look like 8X@25s or 10X50s (25 yards or meters is the length of the pool.) Anaerobic swimming is beneficial because you will increase your heart rate to a high level and burn calories much faster than at a moderate aerobic rate. Many swimmers will spend 45 minutes to an hour swimming lap after lap, without ever getting to an elevated heart rate or see the benefits of anaerobic exercise. Here are a few tips for the next time you swim laps.

Mix it up, don’t just swim laps to see how many you can do or how long you can swim, incorporate a full workout plan. A well rounded swim workout will have four components to it.

  1. The warm up
  2. Stroke or technique work (drills, breathing patterns)
  3. Main set (anaerobic set)
  4. Cool down/recovery

If you have questions on designing your swim workout feel free to contact me at We also offer workout cards on the pool deck with basic practices and sets designed at three levels. Active – about a half mile workout, Lean – a mile workout, and Fit – a mile and a half workout.