I grew up in the water in California – a lot of homes had backyard pools there, plus I was on a swim team, and I spent a lot of time at the lake. But once I moved away from home and to a new (colder) state, it seemed like my swimming days were over.

Fast forward to my 30’s: I over-trained and earned myself a stress fracture. The doctor prescribed swimming and pool running. I did it a few times, and then even a few more times once my leg healed.

But to be honest, I had a rough time in the pool in the past. For one, I don’t really like sharing a lane, and in a public pool, that can be difficult to avoid. The public pool also costs money, so there’s that. And I never seem to know what sort of workout to do in the pool. Plus, have you ever noticed how hard swimming is?

Every time I go to the pool I remember how hard it is to swim! It feels like every muscle in my body is working and I quickly run out of breath. Turns out it doesn’t just feel that way.

“Swimming recruits all the major muscles groups, including the shoulders, back, abdominals, legs, hips, and glutes,” says Little Rock Athletic Club’s head swim coach Tay Stratton in the article, “Swimming is for Everyone,” on WebMD. “And because water affords 12 times the resistance as air in every direction, it really helps to build strength,” Stratton says.

Oh, okay. That’s why it’s so hard. But that’s also why swimming is such a great workout, and it’s a smart alternative to running and biking – sports that can be tough on joints.

So, what are some good pool workouts that will ease you into swimming? Here are a few I like:
• Here’s an entire 4-week swim training program from Beginner Triathlete that can help you improve as a swimmer or train for a tri.
Active.com has a lot of different swim workouts. This one features drills and a complete swim training plan.
Another article from Active.com that explains how to use “tools” in the pool, including kickboards, fins and pull buoys, gives you some alternatives to basic freestyle laps. It even mentions using a snorkel in the pool. I’ve never heard of that. Have you tried that before?
• Fitness magazine’s article “A Pool Routine for Every Level,” covers workouts for beginning, intermediate and advanced swimmers.
• And, if your sports doctor prescribed pool running, Runner’s World has a great article on how to make it more fun.