There are many reasons you may want to begin, continue or return to swimming. Maybe you have suffered an injury and can no longer run or lift in the gym. Or you were an avid swimmer and had to miss some time for life events. Or maybe you are new altogether. No matter the reason I hear it often “I want to lose weight” or “swimming is good exercise but won’t get you thin like running.”
Does Swimming Burn Belly Fat?
Yes, swimming can help you lose weight by burning fat throughout your body. Just liking running can help you burn fat and biking can too. What is the trick though? You may have heard that swimming can burn hundreds of calories per hour. This is true, and it all is in how you swim.
If you are going to burn fat while swimming you must think about the workout you do and put in the effort to get the end result you desire.
If you hop in the pool, and swim 15 laps in an hour you will not have burned many calories. Now if you spend 30 minutes in the pool and swim 30 laps you are on your way to burning calories and fat.
So let’s talk about principles you can use during any swim to keep you on track with your goals. We will focus on three main areas which are time, distance and speed. Combining these three factors together will help you burn fat.
Time and Distance:
-Time in the Pool:
Our first factor is how much time is spent in the pool. You can swim for 10 minutes or you can swim for 30 minutes and expend the same amount of energy.
You can swim 100 yards or you can swim 1,000 yards. Swimming more yards does not always mean that you can work harder or burn more calories than when you swam 100 yards.
One of the best ways to begin to burn fat is to combine the amount of time you spend in the pool with the distance you swam.
You can swim for an hour and swim 500 yards or 2,500 yards. What is the difference?
When you swim more yards in less time you will be expending more energy? What does this mean? It means you are transitioning from putzing around to exercising. When you get your heartrate up you are entering a cardiovascular level of exercise and this is where you will begin to experience your body burning fat.
This concept is fairly simple. Swim farther distance over a shorter period of time to elevate your heart rate.
Heart Rate Monitoring
You may have seen a heart rate chart that is based on your age, looks like this:
This chart tells you based on your age, what your heart rate will be based on the level of your activity. For example, if you are 30 years old and working at 80% of your max effort your heart rate likely will be 25 for a 10 second count (150 beats per minute). Since I am not your doctor, I will not recommend where your heart rate should be, but it is a good baseline to begin tracking your heart rate.
By elevating your heart rate for an extended period of time, your body will be working hard and begin to burn calories and fat. The key here is to maintain this level of cardiovascular exercise long enough to continue burning fat without causing too much fatigue on the body that could result in passing out from over exhaustion or even heat exhaustion (yes that is possible in the pool!).
Maybe you swim across the pool and feel worn out or maybe you can swim a few hundred yards before needing a break. How can we translate what we have learned in this article into your workout?
Example Fat Burning Swim Workout
I like to follow a few key points, which I will share along with a sample workout which you can adapt to your current level of swimming. When swimming and training my clients who want to burn fat, I like to use the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) style. This often involves increased effort over a set period of time. This will get your heart rate up and also give you enough time to rest before repeating the set. This means you can sustain an interval workout for longer periods of time.
Let’s look at a sample workout for an intermediate level swimmer.
4 x 100’s
100’s on the 2:00
Translation: You will swim 100 yards at a time. You will have 2 minute to complete each 100 and then begin the next 100. Repeat three times for a total of 4 sets of 100 yards.
If you can swim each 100 with about 30 seconds rest before the next 100 continue the set. Ideally you will swim each 100 yards at the same pace.
For example, if you can swim each 100 at 1:30 (on the one minute and 30 seconds) you will have 30 seconds before your next 100. Great!
If you have 30+ seconds rest, make your interval 1:45. Meaning you have one minute and 45 seconds to swim 100 yards, rest and begin again.
If you find that you are swimming the 100’s and have less than 15 seconds rest and are too tired to continue, up your interval to 2:15 and see how that goes. You should have 20-30 seconds rest max during your intervals to keep your heart rate from dropping too much before you next set.
Keep an eye on your heart rate. Is it up, but drops during your rest time? Is your heart rate skyrocketing and not dropping?
Use this information as a baseline and adjust your workout based on your heart rate. Change the workout so that you are able to sustain an elevated heart rate for 20-40 minutes.
Use this style of intervals to build workouts that work for you. Maybe you change the 100’s to 50s. Or another favorite is to swim 50 yards and give yourself a set rest time of 30 seconds. This will help develop your cardiovascular strength while also working up to more challenging intervals. As you progress you can swim 50 yards with a set 20 seconds rest if you are not quite ready for an intense interval set.
Depending on your starting point and next desired goal, your workouts will need to be modified along the way. If you have no clue where to begin, are plateauing, or just need to speak with a swimming coach, learn more about our private swim lessons at your home or community pool! At Sunsational Swim School, we are here to help you achieve your swimming goals one stroke at a time.
Amanda Girton’s bio:
Swim instructor in Tampa, FL
Hi! I’m Amanda. I’ve been teaching swim lessons for over 7 years now. I teach infants and up, including adults who are experienced triathletes. I have experience teaching children with a wide variety of experiences. It brings me so much joy to see my students accomplish their swim goals.