T Nation

Swimming For Cardio?


Hi All,
I dislocated and broke my ankle 3 months ago and running is a long way away. I was thinking of swimming to keep my wind up and minimize the loss of cardio.

I usually ran 2 miles every other day so how much swimming should I do?

Any thoughts?


When was the last time that you swam? I only ask because if it has been a while, swimming 2 miles is much harder than running 2 miles. You'll probably realize that though as soon as you hit the water.

I'd say just head to the pool, start with a few easy laps, and see how it goes. There's definitely a lot more technique involved with swimming compared to running but if you arm yourself with a few basic principles, you can make things much less cumbersome.


Just set a time to start. see how far you go and try and do better next time.

I agree that the swimming will be MUCH harder.


I was a competitive swimmer for 12 years and I can tell you swimming is probably going to be alot more difficult than you might think.

In terms of swmming for training to be a swimmer total distance, "yardage",is what we went by. A typical week consiste of 9 workouts: 3 mornings(~3000-4000 yards), 5 evenings(~5000-7500 yards)and a saturday moning(~7500-10000 yards). This is the extreme side of swimming. In your case you should train more by time in pool then work up to distances. For example, start by doing 10 X 100 yard swims on a rest interval of 3:00 min. Gradually bring the rest interval down until you can comfortably do them under a 2:00 pace. Then instead of 100's do 5 x 200's, then 2 x 500's, and 1 x 1000 yards. From here if you do 1 x 1500 yard swim three times a week that should be fine.


Swimming for Cardio will kill you in a good way....:wink: since you are not going to be a competative swimmer dont focus some much on distance, just try swimming for a continuous 10min time frame at any pace. Do that 3 times a week and then the next week increase to 15 min, the next week increase to 20....and so on....



Yes, swimming will be tough if you've not swum before especially if your technique is poor.
As mentioned in a previous post, traditionally swimming has been about yards/laps/distance, even for sprinters.

I questioned this years ago as a lazy sprinter - why did I need to be swimming steady state laps for miles and miles each week? And was thrown out of the national squad!

The advice in the previous post is sound enough but consider also the various discussions found elsewhere on this board regarding low intensity vs high intensity energy systems work.

In my experience sprint/interval work is better for fat loss - it is my preference also,the thought of having to cover distances makes me weep, so perhaps my anecdotal evidence is biased!

Interval work is also completed far quicker.
10x25m swim sprints on 30seconds will take you roughly 9 minutes to complete (20seconds swim + 30 second rest).

Consider also that the energy system requirements will be similar to that of a 100m running sprint (a world class swimmer will complete 25m in approx 10sec, a world class sprint runner 100m is 10sec) so if that gives you an indication of the effort required it may give you an indication of where to start.
Hope that helps.


Swimming is almost all technique.

If you have poor technique it is exhausting.

If you are smooth it is not nearly so tough.

There are a bunch of really fat guys at my daughters pool that can swim for an hour straight yet they are at least 100 pounds overweight. They have such great technique, they just glide through the water. It is amazing.


Well, my technique is as good as an average guy, nothing to write home about. I don't want to become a master in the water and don't really care about technique, what I look like or how far I can go. I only want to get some cardio in so when I am able to run I'm not bagged after a block:)

Thanks for all the tips. Any others?


Echoing Zap's comment, you will always see overweight and/or old people stroking up and down endlessly. This type of swimming is simply not taxing.

They rely on decent technique and (don't laugh) the bouyancy afforded by their fat deposits.
For most novice swimmers (and by novice I mean non-competitive), provided they are able to hold their heads above water or breathe comfortably they can do length after length in the waterbased equivalent of a leisurely walk. In terms of exercise they might be better employed trying to walk through the water.

I guess what I'm saying is, that like moving around on land we can choose to walk slowly at one end to running as fast as possible at the other with a myriad of options in between, each lending themselves to 'fat loss' with varying degrees of success. The same can apply to swimming.


For someone who doesn't have a competitive swimming back ground 500yds (20 lenths or 10 laps in a standard pool)low end to 750yds high end would probably be equivalent to running a mile. So for 2 miles of running I'd say 1000 - 1500 should get you there. As recommended by some others, sprints would probably be your best bet.

Try 200 yd continuos warm up, 3 X 100 yrd sprint resting 2 minutes between each 100, 6 X 50 yrd sprint resting 2 minutes between each sprint, 200 yrd cool down. Adjust based on how you feel either adding more sprints or lowering rest time.