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wikiHow to Work Out in the Pool

Six Methods:Preparing YourselfWalking in Shallow WaterRunning in Deep WaterTrying Water AerobicsKickboardingSwimming in the PoolCommunity Q&A

Working out in water can be the perfect answer for every age of swimmer, whether you're trying to improve your swimming technique, looking for cross-training solutions, seeking to rehabilitate an injury, trying to lose weight, or just wanting to find a general, gentle exercise routine, such as when pregnant or recovering from illness. There are various different pool-related workout routines that make the most of water's ability to support weight, prevent injury, and keep you cool.

Preparing Yourself

  1. 1
    Talk to your doctor. Be sure to consult your doctor to see if swimming, or other water exercise, is appropriate for your current condition. The doctor can advise you on swimming strokes that you should avoid, or equipment that might be particularly useful.[1]
    • Talking to your doctor can help you get the most out of water exercise, but it can also help you avoid potential injury.
  2. 2
    Take swimming lessons. This is especially important if you don't remember how to do strokes, or if you have never swam before. This is also a great idea for anyone who is unsure of their form when swimming. Improper form can lead to non-balanced muscle mass, back and neck pain, and uneven strokes.[2]
    • Look for classes at a local recreational center, swim club, or gym. You can either choose to take private lessons or a join large class. It may only take a few sessions to get you swimming properly.
  3. 3
    Choose the right accessories. Get a form-fitting swimsuit, swimming goggles, and a swim cap. If you are prone to ear infections, you may also want to get ear plugs.
    • Buy aquatic shoes to protect your feet if you plan to swim in rivers or oceans.

Walking in Shallow Water

  1. 1
    Find a pool with ankle- to knee-deep water. This might be the children's pool, or it could just be the shallow end of a local, regular pool. Start with ankle-deep water and, as you feel more confident, move to water that is knee-deep.
    • This is ideal for those who are rehabilitating from illness, for pregnant women, and for anyone who feels that exercise might be too strenuous or cause injury after a period of inactivity.
  2. 2
    Walk through the water. Make sure you are walking heel to toe, rather than just on your toes. The buoyancy of the water can make it harder to complete a normal stride. You may need to focus on foot placement when you first begin.[3]
    • Try to maintain your normal stride, and notice the resistance that the water provides. Moderate walking on land can burn about 130 calories per half hour, whereas walking in the water, against resistance, burns approximately 260 calories.
  3. 3
    Start marching laps. Walk through the water and bring your knees up high with each step. Swing your arms to propel your body if the movement seems difficult. Try to bring your legs up as high as they will comfortably go with each step.[4]
    • Flex your stomach and try to bring your thighs parallel to the surface of the water. This is a great exercise for the abdominal muscles as well as the thighs.
  4. 4
    Walk sideways for several laps. Turn sideways in the water and move your legs directly sideways against the resistance of the water with each step. After several laps, turn around and lead with the opposite foot.[5]
    • This activity will help work the inner and outer muscles of your thighs, as well as your abdomen muscles.
  5. 5
    Do forward lunges. Step forward with one leg and bend your knee to a 90 degree angle. Keep your hands at your sides, straighten your front leg, and then lunge forward with the opposite leg.[6]
    • Switch it up by doing side lunges. When you are walking sideways, bend your leading knee to a 90 degree angle, lean into the lunge, then raise your body and repeat. Make sure to do the same number of lunges on the opposite side for an even workout.
  6. 6
    Continue for as long as you feel okay walking in the water. The resistance of the water on your legs strengthens them, burns calories, and helps to build water confidence for harder exercise stages.
    • Shoot for 30 to 45 minutes sessions each time. As you get more accustomed to the movements and the exercise, you can increase your workout time.
    • Consistency is important. Try doing water exercises two times each week. Then increase your frequency to 3-5 times each week.

Running in Deep Water

  1. 1
    Find a suitable place to aqua jog. Deep-water running, often called aqua jogging, requires deeper water than simple shallow water walking. Many pools will set aside a lane at a particular time for this activity.[7]
    • Water jogging mimics jogging on land, but the water belt or buoyancy vest keeps your chest above the water's surface.
  2. 2
    Get the right accessories. Find a suitable buoyancy jacket or vest. The pool might supply buoyancy vests, but you should also be able to find them at any sporting goods store.
    • You may also want to consider a water belt that you can cinch at your waist as you move into deeper water. This accessory will help you perform the water walking/jogging motions when you are in the deeper end of the pool.
  3. 3
    Try jogging in the water. Wearing the buoyancy vest, perform a free running action up and down the marked lane of the pool. The vest will keep you afloat and will prevent you from touching the bottom of the pool. This builds up strength through resistance, and burns a lot of calories.[8]
    • Try alternating jogging at slow speeds, higher speeds, and doing high knees for a few minutes each. Although you will not go very far or very fast, you can burn about 100 more calories every half hour by water jogging than you would jogging on land.
  4. 4
    Bicycle your feet. You can alternate your water jogging routine by kicking your feet in a bicycle motion, especially when you are in deeper water and can’t touch the ground because of your buoyancy vest. Keep your feet flat and move them in a circular motion, as if you were pedaling a bicycle.
    • You can also stay still and move your feet up and down as quickly as possible, as if you were running in place.

Trying Water Aerobics

  1. 1
    Find a class at a time that's convenient to you. Check your local gym, sports center, or public pool to find a water aerobics class that works for you. Be sure to talk to the teacher before booking to reassure yourself that you're choosing the right class and that everything is a good fit for you.[9]
    • Follow the instructions during the class. The teacher will instruct you what to do; simply follow along. Be sure to ask questions if needed.
    • This method of working out in the pool offers a chance to socialize with others and to get fit through regular classes.
  2. 2
    Learn a routine. After you have memorized a whole routine from the class setting, you may be able to do it on your own; however, there is a plethora of moves that are used during a water aerobics class.
    • Inform your instructor of any disabilities, so that the exercises can be modified if need be.
  3. 3
    Warm up at the beginning of your exercise routine. Do a warm up that includes 5 to 10 minutes of stationary jogging, marching (high knees), jumping from one foot to the other or doing jumping jacks.
    • Begin by only submerging yourself up to your waist or chest in water. After you have the water aerobic moves down, you can go into deeper water.
    • Find the place in the pool or lake where you can comfortably perform your exercises, according to your height.
    • This cardiovascular exercise speeds up your heart and breathing for the rest of the routine.
  4. 4
    Vary your movements. Do arm circles and leg circles. Next do squats, lunges, side kicks, front kicks, back leg kicks, and sideways walking to strengthen and tone your muscles. Add water weights or resistance gloves to increase the resistance of the water and increase the intensity of the exercise.[10]
    • Note that many gym exercises can be modified and used in the pool. For example, you can do bicep curls, arm flies, and balancing exercises in the pool.
    • Do a stretching routine against the side of the pool for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure to hit your major muscle groups – including the calves, quads, hamstrings, biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, and neck.
  5. 5
    Participate regularly. The benefits of aqua aerobics include strengthening your leg and arm muscles, flexibility, and resistance training, especially the faster you push and pull in the water. Of course, the best benefits will come from attending regularly.
    • Work out for 30 minutes to an hour.


  1. 1
    Get a kickboard. Even top swimmers use kickboard workouts to strengthen the muscles in the legs and align their swimming posture. It's a great way to add extra pool laps into your daily swim laps if you go to the local swimming pool daily/regularly, while concentrating on your stroke and breathing methods at the same time. It also burns calories.[11]
    • Many pools supply these for users to borrow, but they're not expensive if you need to buy your own. Just be sure to put your name on it in case it gets "borrowed" by someone else!
  2. 2
    Hold the kickboard out with your arms straight. Place your hands at one end of the kickboard and place the other end up against your chest. Your arms should stretch out across the entire length of the kickboard.[12]
    • This will allow you to pull the board underneath your upper body and float on top of it.
  3. 3
    Kick your legs. Hold the kickboard against your chest and put your body weight on it so that you can lift your legs off the ground in the water. Kick your legs, doing laps up and down the pool.
    • This exercise is fantastic for strengthening and toning legs and buttocks.

Swimming in the Pool

  1. 1
    Stretch before you enter the pool. Stretching before a swim is really important to prevent cramps and other injuries while in the pool. Take a few moments to stretch out your muscles before you begin your swimming routine. Here are some good warm up stretches:[13]
    • Put your right arm across your chest and link your left arm around, then do the opposite.
    • Pick up your right leg and balance on the left foot, then do the opposite.
    • Try to put your hands on the ground while keeping your legs and back straight to stretch your legs. Don’t bend your knees.
  2. 2
    Swim a few warm up laps. Be sure to warm up every time before you swim a different stroke. This will help prevent exhaustion or injury. Do six laps (one lap is one way in the pool) of freestyle swimming, which means in whatever style you choose to do.[14]
    • This workout is good done by yourself and not with a group. It is a basic workout for a swimmer who is looking to maintain fitness through swimming.
  3. 3
    Do a 100 individual medley (IM). This consists of one lap butterfly, one lap backstroke, one lap breaststroke, and one lap freestyle in that order.[15]
    • Go at a pace that you are comfortable with and don’t push yourself too hard.
  4. 4
    Do a 200 IM. This consists of two laps butterfly, two laps backstroke, two laps breaststroke, and two laps freestyle, in that order. Continue with the following laps:
    • Do 4 laps of freestyle.
    • Do 4 laps of breaststroke.
    • Do 4 laps of backstroke.
    • Do 4 laps of butterfly.
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    Do a cool down. Make sure you take some time to cool down at the end of each swimming workout session. Try doing six laps, two of each stroke – backstroke, butterfly, freestyle, and breaststroke.[16]
    • This will help your body cool down after your swimming session.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • How do I breathe properly in the pool?
    User Contributor
    Most of these exercises don't require you to put your head under water, so just breathe normally. For breathing while swimming, it depends on the stroke. For freestyle, after 4 strokes (right are, left arm, right arm, left arm), turn your head to the right with the next right-arm stroke (when your right arm is above the surface of the water). Take in a sufficient amount of air to keep you comfortable. When your face is in the water, blow bubbles. Repeat every 4 strokes.
  • Why do you not cross your legs when you do straddle legs in the swimming pool?
    It's just the name of the exercise; it's the opposite of what you do.
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    about 30 seconds in


    • Water workouts are great for people with back pain or injury, arthritis, joint problems, knee problems, etc. However, be sure to verify with your doctor first before doing any water exercise.
    • Any form of exercise in the pool is good for strengthening and burning up calories because water creates resistance, all while buoying you up (which helps to prevent injury).
    • Always wear waterproof sunscreen if you are swimming or doing water aerobics in an outdoor pool or body of water. You may also want to wear a hat and sunglasses if you are doing water aerobics in the sun for an extended period of time.
    • Make your water workouts more fun by inviting friends to join you. Play water polo or basketball instead of swimming. When played vigorously, these are also great water-based cardiovascular exercises.
    • A combination or even all of these methods are an excellent way of introducing cross-training into your usual exercise routine.


    • Don't try to do too much water exercise at once. Although the motions may feel easier, because they have a lower impact on your joints, the resistance provided by the water can lead to muscle soreness. Increase the time you do your water activity slowly. And always stretch after exercising.
    • If you can't swim properly, ask someone to spot you until you feel safer. Let lifeguards at the pool know you cannot swim if you are working out and have nobody else to spot you. While you don't need to avoid the water, it's a good idea to get swimming lessons so that you can broaden your pool exercise possibilities.

    Things You'll Need

    • A pool; ensure it is of a decent length if doing laps
    • A swim cap – if your hair is down, it is harder to swim. Some protection from chlorine is also good for hair if swimming regularly
    • Goggles – so that you can swim underwater
    • Comfortable swimwear – fashionable isn't necessarily comfortable; put comfort and sound fit first
    • Towel
    • Pool shoes or flip flops
    • Aquatic shoes
    • Swimming belt
    • Water weights
    • Resistance gloves
    • Sunscreen (if outside)

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