Swim & Gym: a winning combination!

Fitness & Wellness
Written by: Joel McKenna at 27 January '14 0
You are reading: Swim & Gym: a winning combination!

In my last post “Lap Swimming: All You Need To Know” I offered advice and sample workouts for swimmers of various abilities.  So by now you’ve been swimming and are looking to try something else.  Maybe because it’s winter outside and you’d rather spend an hour at the gym then jumping into a pool and getting wet.  Or maybe you want to get stronger to become a faster or more efficient swimmer.  Either way dry land training or cross training can be just as important as the time a swimmer spends in the pool.

Once one has decided to add in dry land training into the mix one needs to start thinking on what should be their SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely) Goal.  A SMART Goal might be “I want to shave 5 seconds off my 1500m Freestyle in 12 months by attending 3 swim workouts a week and going to gym at least 2 times a week for the next 12 months.”    A SMART Goal is NOT “I want to be faster.”  So stop reading and write down what your SMART Goal is.  Now that you got your SMART Goal it’s time to tackle what will help you get to your goal by hitting the gym.

Most gyms offer an array of cardio and strength machines and equipment and others offer additional strength, cardio and well being classes.  But what to start with and what to stick with is the million dollar question.  So once you join a gym I will suggest that you purchase some training sessions with a Certified Personal Trainer even if it’s only for 2 or 3 sessions.  There is no point going to a gym and trying a new routine and injuring yourself due to bad form or proper exercise knowledge.  Having a Certified Personal Trainer show you the correct form and offer you advice on what exercises work best for your goals is the best and safest route to go.  Some gyms offer a complimentary session when joining the gym which I advise you to take advantage of as soon as possible.  After a few sessions you may want to continue with that trainer as they’ll be able to show you new routines on a regular basis helping to break the monotonous of doing the same workout over and over.  If you decide to go it on your own I do suggest that you do a check in with your routine by buying a single training session maybe every 6 months or at least once a year to make sure you are still using correct form and maybe finding a new routine.

Just maybe personal training sessions may not be for you due to cost or other reasons then you can try the group classes route.  Most gym offer many classes that are usually included in your membership.  Picking a class can be a bit nerve wracking since you may not know what you like or what is good for your cross training.  As most classes are free at most gyms I’d advise someone to try them all at least once or twice.  Just to see if you like the class and the instructors.  Different types of classes can help you be a better swimmer by focusing on various aspects of your workout.  For Strength and Endurance of the muscles try a weight training class such as Les Mills’ Body Pump or Mossa’s Group Power.  Those classes are a one hour full body workout using free weights and body weight.  The classes are taught by a certified instructor to guide you to proper form.  Best of all these classes are choreographed to music so you get to have some fun in your workout.  For Flexibility I would recommend a Yoga Class.  You can never go wrong with Yoga and some gyms offer various levels of Yoga for beginners and advanced students.  One of my all time favorite classes to help build my cardio endurance is Spinning or Indoor Cycling Classes.  Indoor Cycing Classes are also choreographed to music to make the time fly by.  Again these classes are taught by a certified instructor to guide your to proper form and a great workout.  With all classes they also become a great social outlet meeting new friends who then can hold you accountable when you skip a few weeks of classes.  Remember that each instructor have different personalties which can change up the class dynamic so if you don’t like a class try it with a different instructor, you may love it!

After a few months into your dry land or cross training I’d check in with myself to see how I’m doing towards my SMART Goal.  Try entering in a swim meet and see if you have been able to shave off time off that 1500m.  If not don’t be alarmed or discouraged as these are small baby steps.  Try and have someone film your swimming and then review your swim.  Maybe you need more propulsion off the wall or more flexibility of the ankle in kicking.  Use this feedback to adjust your dry land routine.  Ask fellow swimmers what they are doing?  Trust me other swimmers will be glad to pass advice.  Years ago when I started swimming again I came up with my own weight training routine as I got stronger in the water other swimmers asked me what I was doing.  I then jotted down my routine and emailed it out to a few swimmers.

In the end of it all remember weight training combined with swimming is a good thing.  I hardly doubt any of us will turn into the Incredible Hulk in a few months time so don’t worry about becoming to bulky.  Take the advice from Certified Personal Trainers and take advantage of Group Classes.

Disclaimer: The author is a Certified Personal Trainer and is certified to teach MOSSA Group Power, Group Centergy, Group Core, Group Ride and R30.


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.