Offgrid Preparation Strength and Conditioning for Survival Swimming
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The exercises and content expressed in this column are for illustrative purposes only. Consult a medical professional before trying any physical activity or nutritional plan.
With the summer heat in full swing, being fit enough to wear your bathing suit is probably on your mind. But let's get out of the “beach body” mentality and think more about preparation. Swimming, much like running, is a skill you need to be able to do without much thought when the apocalypse hits. After all, not all emergencies happen on dry land.
In 2010, 52 percent of the U.S. population lived across 673 coastal counties, so you should seriously consider adding swim training to your physical preparation plan due to big storms, tsunamis, hurricanes, and a rise in the sea level. In 2016, floods killed 126 people in the USA, according to the National Weather Service. And we're just talking about natural disasters, much less man-made emergencies like pool drowning deaths or boating accidents.
In a crisis, you'll never know how far you may need to swim to safety or how long you might need to tread water before help arrives. We can't prevent these disasters, but we can prepare you in the best way possible: improving your ability to swim for longer periods of time. And we're not just talking about hitting the local pool — you can use resistance training to get in shape as well.
Resistance training is an important aspect of dry-land training for swimming, but we also put a premium on your conditioning. This aspect of your physical preparation is often overlooked in lieu of just “hitting the gym.” There are usually a few reasons why this is, but most commonly because it's uncomfortable. Sometimes, it can be downright grueling, as many effective conditioning programs tend to be. The good news is we'll be pretty specific by targeting the energy systems that have the most bang for your buck. When training for a specific event or goal, the more specific you can get, within reason, the better.
With regard to swimming, getting in the pool is obviously key. You'll never improve your swimming if you don't actually perform the activity. Outside of that, though, there's a place for strength and conditioning.
The latter aspect is important to allow you to swim for longer periods of time without gassing out. We'll accomplish this by simply completing freestyle swims of increasing duration. This is the most basic form of conditioning that many of us are used to, like going for a run or using the elliptical at the gym. Through this type of training, you can increase the amount of blood your heart is able to pump at each beat.
Next, we'll focus on upper and lower body conditioning through resistance training in two different ways. The first helps target the aerobic system by increasing the amount of oxygen your muscles can use. The second focuses on just the lower body and its ability to produce power for long periods of time. Kicking through the water quickly requires this exact type of movement. Enough talk; let's get into the specifics and outline a plan for you to start using.
Getting in the pool is your most basic form of training. The initial goal is to freestyle swim for 30 minutes at a lower intensity. You can do this a few different ways. The best way to determine the intensity is to use a heart-rate monitor. Your goal is to reach and maintain between 130 and 150 beats per minute for a half-hour.
If you don't have a heart-rate monitor, just set an easy pace and don't allow yourself to move any quicker than you can maintain without taking a break. This may be slow at first, but that's entirely OK. Just shoot for consistency without pausing. At first, you may need to take a break regardless, so set a goal of taking a three- to five-minute break halfway through your 30-minute session.
Progressively, you'll work for longer periods of time. The maximum amount of time to complete this type of training is 90 minutes, but 45 to 60 minutes will work for the general purposes of physical preparation.
This next method focuses more on the working muscles, so it'll be a completely different feeling. Choose an exercise and complete it for three to five sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.
The major difference is how each repetition is performed. Move slowly at a two-seconds-up and two-seconds-down tempo without pausing or locking out the joint. This means there will be constant tension throughout the whole set. For the purposes of swim performance, do three sets each of the squat, pull-down, and push-up with the tempo described above.
Kettlebell Sumo Squat
1.Begin by holding a kettlebell at arms-length between your legs.
2.Keeping your chest up, slowly squat between your knees.
3.With your weight on your heels, slowly push into the floor and return to the starting position. Be sure to stop just shy of your legs locking out.
4.Make sure your back stays flat at the bottom of the squat. There should be no rounding at all.
5.Immediately descend back down into the squat. Remember, no pausing!
6.Maintain this tempo for 8 to 10 repetitions.
1. Start in a seated position while gripping a bar in an overhand or underhand position. The underhand position will be a little easier.
2. While staying tall, slowly pull the bar down to your upper chest. You should feel your back and arms working.
3. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just shy of your arms locking out.
4. Begin pulling back down toward your chest.
5. Your lower back shouldn't arch at all throughout the movement.
6. Maintain this tempo for eight to 10 repetitions.
1. Begin in standard pushup position: your hands slightly outside shoulder width and hips in-line with your shoulders and ankles.
2. While holding a light brace in your abs, slowly lower yourself toward the floor. Your arms should be at roughly 45 degrees to your body.
3. Without pausing at all, slowly begin to push yourself away from the floor.
4. Stop just shy of locking your arms out, then begin to lower yourself again.
5. Maintain this tempo for eight to 10 repetitions.
At first, the idea of doing something for a longer period of time that's also high-intensity may seem impossible. Generally, the higher the intensity, the shorter the duration. The difference with this method of training is that the resistance is high, not the speed. This makes it possible to do the exercises at higher volume. You'll just be moving slower.
The advantage of this type of training is that it increases the endurance of your muscles. Specifically, it works the more strength-oriented type of muscle fibers, which aren't usually attributed to their endurance capabilities. We pick the walking lunge because it's a great exercise to work the major muscles of the lower body in a single-leg fashion. Moving uphill just makes it a little more challenging.
Walking Lunge Uphill
1. Begin with your feet together, with either a weight vest or dumbbells in your hands.
2. Take a large step forward, making sure your back knee is slightly behind your hips.
3. Drive through your heel and step forward.
4. Pause for two to three seconds, then complete the same thing on the other side.
5. Continue to do this for two sets lasting 7 to 10 minutes each. Rest five minutes between sets.
Building yourself into a paddling machine will pay dividends down the road. Adding specialized swimming training will help you move through water with ease and get to safety faster. Depending on where you live, this might just be the physical preparation plan you need to ensure your safety in a future crisis.
Ryne Gioviano holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He's the owner of Achieve Personal Training & Lifestyle Design located in Naperville, Illinois. You can find him at @rgioviano on Twitter and Instagram. For more information, please visit www.Achieve-PersonalTraining.com.
Ultimate MMA Conditioning
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration