Swimming Workout at the Beach

Woman swimmer flexing arms in front of ocean.
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If your fitness routine includes swimming, you can change your workout from the pool to an open water swimming workout and get in a great swim workout without the walls of a pool. Open water swimming is fun, different, and just as good for you as a swimming pool workout.

Swimming at a moderate effort burns calories at a rate of about 500 calories/hour or 8 calories/minute. It does not matter where you are swimming, the workout is still going to burn calories and will help improve or maintain your health and fitness (assuming that you are medically cleared and the beach is safe for swimming).

Open Water Swimming Workout Ideas

Open water swimming workouts can include a number of techniques and approaches, from continuous swimming to long and short courses.

  • Continuous Swim for Time: Get in the water and start swimming. That's it. Just keep swimming. As you get to the edges of the swimming area, turn around. Steady, easy, relaxed swimming strokes back and forth or around the perimeter of the swim area. If your usual swim workout takes you 30-minutes, then swim for 30-minutes. Need to stop to get your bearings? Then stop, look around, then get back at it. It helps to have a waterproof watch with a stopwatch function to time your swim. When your time is up, swim back to the beach, dry off, and relax.
  • Long Intervals: This workout will vary based on the swim area. Your goal is to swim for 2-6 minutes at a time, rest for a bit, then repeat. Among the many ways to do this is to swim parallel to the beach, or to swim out and then back towards the beach. Swim with a moderate effort, trying to go at a faster pace than you would go for the "Swim for Time" workout. An example for this kind of workout is: swim for a few minutes to warm-up, then swim 4 to 8 intervals, taking 30-seconds to 1-minute rest between each interval. Need more rest between each swim? Take it!
  • Short Intervals: This one varies by the layout of the swim area, too. You are going to swim some short, fast efforts that take about 2-minutes or less, rest, and then repeat the swimming effort. You could even do very short intervals of less than 10-seconds, but you would do these at a very high effort level. The rest for this kind of swim depends on your effort, your level of fitness and your goal for the workout. If your focus is more endurance-based, then the effort will be a little lower and the rest should be a little shorter. If you are focused on developing more speed, then the effort should be faster and the rest should be longer. An example is to first look over the swim area. Figure out your route, maybe beach to swim buoy and back, or maybe just beach to buoy; whatever distance will take you about 1-minute to swim and keeps you in a safe swimming area. Next, get in and swim to warm-up, checking your chosen swim course to make sure it will work for you. Once you are warmed up, start the intervals, tread water or stand on the bottom to rest.
  • Mixed Intervals: Just like it sounds, you do some of each of the above. Warm-up, do some short and/or long intervals, maybe add in some continuous efforts, then back to the beach to relax.

It is easy to take your swim workout from the pool to the beach. Next time you are at the beach, give it a try.

Updated by Dr. John Mullen