Lap swimming: all you need to know!

Fitness & Wellness
Written by: Joel McKenna at 6 December '13 0
You are reading: Lap swimming: all you need to know!

For a lot of us folks finding time to swim gets harder and harder each year that we get older.  Work, family and the daily stresses of life seems to pile up.  When you do find swim you may not be able to swim with a club or team and then it’s lap swim time on one’s own.  Personally I find lap swimming the hardest form of swimming.  When swimming a lap swim there is no coach to give you sets and no swim mates to push you and keep you honest about completing those sets.  Then on top of all that you must navigate around other swimmers of different abilities.

But with all that said a lap swim can be one of the best workouts one can do burning up an average 475 calories per hour. Since not everyone wanting to do a lap swim is at the same ability I’m going to go over some tips to become a stronger lap swimmer for every level of swimming.

The Beginner Lap Swimmer

I was once a beginner lap swimmer after being out of the pool for over a decade.  The key is to start small and build.  My first few times swimming I just would swim a 50 or 100 meters/yards at a time taking 15 to 30 seconds rest.  I was only able to swim a total of 500 meters/yards my first swim but a swim is a swim.  Every lap swim I attempted to swim a little bit more each time.  I added in some kicking with a kick board to get a little rest and it easily added a fe more yards/meters.  I’d skip the fins at first to you’ve gotten stronger.  Fins, paddles and other tools of the pool should be used only after you have mastered the basics.  Using swim tools can be like crutches never allowing us to get stronger and these tools can help set in bad habits.

The No Longer A Beginner Lap Swimmer

You’ve been doing the lap swim for a while now and your are ready for a challenge.  It’s time for a swim workout with sets and all the math that comes with swimming.  Oh, you didn’t know your math skills would be tested while swimming but they will be, everyday!  Here is a simple 30 minute 1500 yard/meter workout to start with.

200 Warm Up – Freestyle, we will stay swimming Freestyle until we feel strong enough to bring on the backstroke, butterfly and the oh so dreaded breaststroke.
Main Set:
The first time you swim this set take no more than 15 seconds rest between each 50 and 100 swimming the set continuous if possible.  That is only the basic math if your pool as a pace clock try to see your time for each part and come up with an interval.  Find an interval that you’d be comfortable finishing the whole set.  For example if you see that you are averaging 50 seconds on these intervals do the 50’s on 1:15.  Do the same plus 15 for the 100’s.  As time goes on try and make the intervals shorter.  You may have to play around with intervals during a set to finish but that is okay.  Just keep swimming.

“Ready To Move Up To The Big Swimmer” Lane Swimmer

You’ve done various sets you’ve found on the internet and you think you are getting better at swimming.  Now it’s time for you to try Bench Sets.  A Bench Set or Breath Through Set is a set that one swimmer will repeat from time to time to see if they are becoming stronger and faster.  My old team would have us swim 10×100’s on 3 minutes all out sprint on the first Monday of the month.  We’d keep track of our results and that allowed us to see how we were in our training.  Of course you’d want to warm up before swimming the 10×100’s all out.
Warm Up Set:
Easy 300 followed by
75 Drill on 1:2
50 Swim
100 Kick
50 Swim
25 Swim
Then move on to the 10×100’s

Hopefully those set’s will help you get going and slowly improving.  As for using hand paddles, pull buoys, fins and other swim tool “toys” you will need to use your best judgement.  I usually DO NOT recommend paddles for beginner swimmers or any swimmer with shoulder or rotator cuff injuries.  I’d also wouldn’t do more than 25% of your workout with paddles.  As for fins don’t be a mermaid and use fins the whole time once again I’d try to stay below the 25% of your workout with fins.  Now you can use pull buoys for all your pulling sets and kickboards for all your kick sets.  Remember the key word for both of those were SETS and not WORKOUTS.  I can’t imagine anyone would want to kick for 30 or 60 minutes.

Hope that gives everyone a basis to start lap swimming.  Just remember to have fun and keep checking back here at Water Instinct for more workouts and swim tips.


Written by:

Joel McKenna

Joel is a Master’s Swimmer whose been swimming almost as long as he’s been walking. He was introduced to swimming by his mother as she was afraid to swim and didn’t want her kids to have the same fear. Swimming in age group swimming Joel was always the last place finisher and even tried to give up swimming for a try at water pool before returning to the swim world. After taking a decade off from swimming Joel returned to swimming through Masters Swimming and became hooked on everything swimmer. Joel created a swim blog called the17thman as a way to keep track of his workouts. Inspired by his swimming Joel eventually left his office job to work in the world of fitness becoming a personal trainer, spin instructor, yoga instructor and of course swim instructor. Joel currently resides in Florida.