"Really there's nothing better than running to improve your endurance in the water," says Laurie Jackson, an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer based in Tucson, Arizona. "Running helps with your stamina and gets your heart rate up."
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Unlike other cardio routines like step aerobics, the cadence in running is constant. Plainly put, it's easier to sustain your heart rate. Plus, it's simple to do, there's no hand-eye coordination involved and you don't need a lot of gear, says Jackson, who also is a certified running coach through the Road Runners Club of America.
"It's one of the purest and simplest forms of exercise that works your whole body, adds power and stamina."
Jackson suggests competitive swimmers add a 30-minute run—that's including a five-minute warm-up and cool down—up to three times a week to their normal workout routine. Aim to run 75 percent to 85 percent of your max heart rate.
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Swimmers should also work their abdominal muscles in a short workout several times a week, Jackson suggests.
"Any kind of ab workout will help your swim," she says. "While you're swimming you want to engage those muscles, and not let the belly stick out. If you do, your legs are forced to work a lot harder."
Jackson says swimmers can complete any combination of four abdominal exercises in a single workout. Individuals should do two sets of each exercise. Here is one of Jackson's favorites.
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The bicycle crunch typically involves laying on the floor, knees bent and the feet off the ground. Arms are placed behind the head. The individual raises the head slightly, engages the abs into a crunch-like position and then brings the left elbow up and across to the opposing right knee while the other leg extends out.
Jackson likes a modified version of the bicycle that sort of looks like a beetle on its back. In this version, the individual begins in the same starting position, puts the hands behind the head, lifts up the head, and then brings the left elbow up and forward until it touches the inner left thigh. The individual then alternates from the left elbow hitting the inner left thigh to the right elbow hitting the inner right thigh.
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The important rule is to keep it slow and methodical. "Don't bust through the workout because you'll end up using momentum, not your muscles," she says. "And it's possible to push it too far and injure yourself."
Jackson loves this exercise because it works every abdominal muscle including the oblique, rectus and transverse abdominus.
Jackson also recommends that competitive swimmers work on increasing strength in their legs to add power off the starting block.
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An ideal exercise is the broad squat, which begins like a standard squat and ends with the individual leaping forward. Stand up with feet shoulder-width apart and then sink into a squat position. Your arms should swing back, butt and hips out, back straight. Your knees should be behind your toes. Power up and forward and then land solidly on two feet and sink back into the squat position. Complete two sets of jumping squats for 30- to 60-second intervals.
If you don't have a lot of space, Jackson suggests the standing jump squat, which is the same basic premise, but instead of jumping forward, the individual jumps up and back down into a squat position.
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