Does anybody on here swim laps for exercise? I'm trying to get an idea of how much I should swim a week, how often and how long, etc. in order to get in better shape, gain muscle, lose fat, etc. Does anyone have any recommendations?
I used to be a competitive swimmer, so I did LOTS of laps for exercise
Really there are no set rules for swimming - the more often, the better, though I would suggest at least 2 rest days per week.
For a start, I'd recommend 3 sessions a week of roughly 45-60 minutes. The number of laps you can do in this time really depends on how good your technique/stamina is, so if you want to improve I would suggest you count your laps in your initial session, then gradually try and do more laps per session. For example, if you manage 50 laps in 60 minutes on the first attempt, try for 52 laps on the next session, then 54 etc. Once your stamina improves (and it will fairly quickly if you keep this up), you'll soon be doing 80+ laps!
If you want to gain a reasonable amount of muscle, you will need to supplement the swimming with some weight work - swimming will build some muscle, and tone in nicely, but it is mainly an aerobic exercise, so for muscle building you need some weight work too. One or two weight sessions a week should suffice if you complement it with your swimming.
Swimming is my main form of exercise and I usually go 4-5 times a week for an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. For the most part I go regularly, but unfortunately my job effects when I can swim. For most of the year I'll go three weeks, then I have to take two weeks off and it basically continues like that until summertime when I can devote more time without work being a factor. This totally effects my stamina because as easy as it is to build it, it's just as easy to lose it! With the off and on schedule I'll typically do 80 laps in an hour, and when on the summertime schedule I can do 100!
I love swimming because it uses the whole body and in a gentle kind of way. Not like running where everytime your feet hit the pavement you basically jostle every organ in your body and stress all of the joints in your lower half! (Nothing against running, to each his own I say) In my opinion and experience though, swimming will make your muscles long and lean and certainly not bulky. Like Willapp said, it's good to incorporate weights into your routine as well. I'll also add that a lot of swimming can cause you to have a voracious appetite, so be careful in that aspect. I don't know if this is true for anyone else, but it certainly is for me! lol
One other suggestion, once you get confident with doing standard laps - don't be afraid to take a kick board or pull buoy in with you so you can focus on arms/legs separately if you want to. This should allow you to increase the intensity if you start getting too comfortable doing the laps.