T Nation

Beach Lifeguard Test


Hey all,

I am going to try to land a job as a lifeguard this summer on the Cali coast. There are training dates on April 1 and April 8. I'm going to take the later one because I havent swam in a while and this is the test:

1) 1000 yard open water swim in less than 20 minutes

2) 200 yard run, 400 yard swim, 200 yard run in less than 10 minutes.

Any swimmers out here that can give me a quick program or technique tips to follow so I can take down this test?

Thanks in advance guys






I am no swimmer, but someone might as well take this post seriously.

Any weight training program on this site is going to help you, but what i think will help the best is to...SWIM.

Try breaking up the test and swimming afew days a week, and increase the load until you can do the test on your own, so when it gets to test time you will know you can dominate.


something to keep in mind when swimming is technique!!! i have seen kids on my team go as hard as they can and go no where cuz their technique sucks. obviously you're gonna do freestyle so here are some drills you can do that my varsity swim coach has us do when our stroke gets a little sloppy.
1) start in the streamline position (both hands above your head) and push off the wall. leave one hand up and pull a stroke with the other, but dont move your other hand until the first one returns to the top, its called catch-up. the hand at the top cannot move until the other one finishes the stroke and "tags" it. the helps with long efficient strokes.

2) this one we call the "zipper pull". swim a normal freestyle but when your hand is at the bottom of the stroke and about to come out of the water for the next stroke, drag your thumb up the side of your body until it hits your armpit, then drag your fingertips across the top of the water, trying to keep your hand goin in as a straight of a line as possible. for this one just pay close attention to where everything is.

a consistant kick is also going to help you a lot. a lot of people have messed up timing on their kicking. it should be fast but efficient and consistent.

a decent swimmer can swim 400 meters in about six minutes so that leaves plenty of time for the other running events and just pace yourself on the 1000. hope this info helps. GOOD LUCK!


1) 1000 yard open water swim in less than 20 minutes

2) 200 yard run, 400 yard swim, 200 yard run in less than 10 minutes.

Start immediately! With only 3 weeks to prepare I would suggest swimming every day until your test. I am NOT saying that you should be in the pool for two hours a day busting your ass. But try to get in the pool every day from now until your test for at least 15 minutes even if it is just to cruise through a couple of laps. I do not know what kind of swimming shape you are in but I can tell you that it takes some time to get your 'feel' for the water.

Also, I would say that since you do not have a lot of time to train your 'swimming endurance' to spend some time working on your technique. Being more efficient in the water will greatly improve your chances of completely your tests in time. I am not sure how great your technique is so you will have to decide how much time to dedicate to it. If you want some good information try www.totalimmersion.net they are one of the best in the industry for technique.

As far as training I would divide up your swimming into non-stop long swims that are longer than 1000 yds (the length of your longest test) along with some interval sets.

For the interval sets I would suggest this:
Looking at the times you need beat you are basically looking at a 2 min pace per 100 yards of swimming. (That is assuming you can run the 2x200 yards in 2 min total). So I would do intervals with a 2 min base per 100. To further clarify do a set of 10x100 on 2 mins. So at 0:00 begin your first 100. 2 mins from then you should be beginning your second 100. So if it takes you 1:45 to complete a 100 then you would have :15 seconds rest before starting your next 100. For this set I would try and hold the same pace for the duration of the set. So do not go all out on number 1 and burn yourself. It is just like lifting. You can change it up however you want. If you would rather do 200s then your interval would be 4:00. If you wanted to do 50s then your interval would be 1:00.

If you can do these interval sets then you will have no problem at all completing the tests.

Also for open water swims you do not have to worry about flip turns so do not worry about them. However, I would practice swimming with your head out of water. During your test you want to swim with your head down in the water but you should lift it out occasionally while continuing to swim to see that your are headed in the right direction.

It is late and sorry if some of this stuff is not clear or if this info is already common knowledge to you. Let me know if you need more help. But right now this is a good place to start.


Thanks guys for the info. I did my first workout today in the pool, forgot my watch though so I couldn't time myself. The pool is either 25 yards across or 30 meters (two people told me two different numbers), so I took the smaller one and did 40 "reps" total, equalling 1000 yards total. I took a break in between each lap, so it wasn't that physically demanding today. On Wednesday I am going to hit the interval swims though!


I worked as a surf guard for 8 years an I can tell you straight up, if you want to pass that test then weight training and interval training in a pool aren't going to help you with jack shit. You need to get your ass out in the open water to train.

If you don't have a background in swimming perfect your stroke and your breathing in the pool. Once you have some confidence in the pool, then get your as in the surf. Swimming in the surf is very differnt from swimming in a pool and the only way to learn is do do it. A pool is controlled and optimal for swimming. In the surf the waves can be high, water can be cold, and you have to fight to maintaing direction and course.


Never mind my previous post. If you haven't been training you're never going to hit those numbers in 2 weeks. Especially if you do the 1,000 and the run-swim-run back to back.

What you are trying to accomplish is like benching 225 and saying I have a meet in 2 weeks and I want to bench 300.


Right on. Swimming in the ocean is completely different than swimming laps in a pool. Especially on a big day when it's ripping. (Check your PM Biceps.)


Damn well I have three weeks. I guess if I fail I fail, but fuck it, I'm tryin anyway. If I dont post back after April 8th with an update, you can find me at the bottom of the ocean outside Monterey State Beach.



Become acclimated to open water conditions. Especially the beaches in your expected administrative area. While it is different, so are the people involved. For example, I consider open water swimming to be easier for me to do than pool swimming. Then again I'm a waterman and the ocean is my playground. So in short, learn your environment.

Many water rescues I have eithe been to, or have read or heard about have always dealt with people not from here or not familiar with waters here (Hawai'i). The waters here are not as dangerous as other places, but ignoring the smallest danger here can cost lots.