How to Swim Long Distance


Swimming is one of he best forms of exercise, working every muscle in the body. Even a quick sprint in a pool can give you a decent workout. Someday, you may have to swim a long distance, either by choice or necessity. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:

  • To lengthen your swim, trade speed for duration. Most of learned to swim by using the crawl. It's still the stroke favored for speed, what lifeguards use to reach a victim and what most triathletes rely on while racing. The crawl is a good way to generate body heat when you first enter a cold body of water, because it won't take long for you to warm up. Be sure to put your face in the water to rest you neck and give your body a better plane relative to the water's surface. Unfortunately, the crawl is not the easiest stroke to maintain over a longer distance. There is no resting phase. You're in constant motion. Try replacing the flutter kick with a scissors kick during the crawl. Although your arms keep moving, your legs will get a breather. This stroke is now known as a trudgeon.

  • Vary your strokes, working different muscle groups so that they don't fatigue. After you've been doing the trudgeon for a while, change to a breast stroke. Again remember to keep your head in the water when you glide. A good breast stroke has a beat where your body is in full rest right after your kick and arm motion. Other strokes with this full rest period include both the elementary back stoke and the side stroke. Try to make your strokes as efficient as possible, going for smoothness in execution. Pay close attention to how much water you are moving with your arms and feet, varying the angle of attack until you get the most power from your moves.

  • Hypothermia is always a danger when swimming long distance. It's rare to swim in water close to body temperature. If you ever plan to swim long distance in the ocean, it's a good idea to wear a wet or surf suit. Some wet suits are specifically designed for ocean swimming with cut outs for full arm rotation. If the water is particularly cold, a bathing cap is a great idea. We lose a lot of heat through our heads.

  • If you ever have to abandon a boat and take to the water in a last ditch act of survival, it's a good idea to grab a flotation device. If you're far from shore, try to put on a life jacket. It can make the difference between succumbing to fatigue and drowning or be upright and breathing air when you are rescued. In another posting I wrote about how to swim while wearing clothing. Your garb can also be used as floats.

  • If you have to swim across an open body of water, pick a landmark to head to. You might have to adjust the direction in which you are swimming to compensate for current.

  • If you are doing long distance swimming for exercise, it's a good idea to jump in past the surf line and swim parallel to shore rather than swim straight out. That way on a patrolled beach, you'll never be far from a life guard station.

  • Another way to rack up the miles is to have somebody row or paddle next to you in a boat. Be sure that you've practiced getting into the craft before you need to do so. Few boats tip more readily than canoes or kayaks, so getting in them if you have a cramp could be problematic.

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