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Swim yourself fitter

Because beach season's only eight months away

Swim yourself fitter
29 September 2010

Just as your beach wear takes it's place at the back of the wardrobe for the rest of the year, that doesn't mean your toned physique you worked so hard on should be doing the same thing. That's why we've recruited Mr Mark Foster - arguably one of the greatest swimmers Britain has ever produced - to give us a few tips on shaping up in the pool. This program isn't for total rookies, nor is it for 2012 contenders.

1. Focus on the arms

"Around 80 per cent of propulsion comes from the upper body - all the work should be done by the arms," says Foster. Borrowing a technique from long-distance swimmers can help isolate the upper body. "It's called a two-beat leg kick - You do one kick for every arm pull." That allows enough buoyancy for you to travel through the pool but also enough of a workload to give you a good workout. "Another option is do four lengths swim, two lengths kick, four lengths swim, two lengths kick, eight lengths swim four lengths kick. it gives your arms a rest but you're still working out, keeping your heart rate up."

2. Timing

"Try to do at least half an hour each session. Swimming is based completely on muscle memory, the more you do it, the more your body gets used to doing it, and the easier it will become." The bare minimum - if you're not combining swimming with other training - is two times a week. As your body gets used to the training, you should begin to increase the workload, but try not to increase the load by more than ten per cent a week. "As you're getting fitter you want to give yourself a little more of a push, try going faster with longer reps."

3. Interval Training

This particular method of training involves pushing your body for a period time, followed by a short rest and then repeating. "What middle distance swimmers do is long distances with short rests, working at around 60-70 per cent of their max." A good place to start from would be 100-metres at 70 per cent followed by 45 seconds rest, repeated ten times. "If you start getting up to 90-100 per cent rate of effort you're going to need a lot more rest, otherwise you blow up with lactate and you get tired very quickly."

Picture: Getty Images

Mark Foster has teamed up with Just For Men for Grey-Away Day. Visit