How Do I Increase My Stamina For Swimming? (9 key tips)


lane swimmers build their swim stamina in the pool

Do you love swimming but feel you get tired too easily? You are not alone. Increasing swimming endurance and stamina is a goal for most swimmers, from novices to experts.

We all want to know how to swim for longer without getting tired.

Swimming stamina can be puzzling for many, particularly for fit individuals who can easily run 26km but cannot understand why one length of a 25m pool exhausts them.

Swimming stamina can be improved by regulated breathing, improved technique, kicking less, using training aids, pacing your swims, swimming more frequently, practising swim drills, varying swim strokes and introducing interval training as part of your swim.

I have had my own battle with swimming stamina in my quest to improve my swimming to the point where I could regularly swim laps.

I have learned some awesome things while trying to improve my stamina, some of which had an instant impact.

In this article, I want to share the things I have learned that have helped me move from an exhausted and splashing panicked swimmer, to a lap swimmer including:

  • 9 key tips to improve swimming stamina
  • How do I start swimming laps?
  • How can I swim longer without getting tired?
  • How do I train to swim longer?

9 Tips To Increasing Swimming Stamina

Are you super frustrated you cannot swim one length of a pool without getting tired?

Perhaps you are confused because you are a fit individual. Therefore, a few lengths in the pool should be easy, right?

I have had a long battle trying to build my swimming stamina. After much effort, I realised that getting frustrated and trying to “push through” is not the best approach to improving swimming stamina in the pool.

Slowing down, relaxing, and letting the water do most of the work is the first step to building swimming stamina.

1. Slow Your Pace

When completing dryland activities, for example running, coaches and trainers will have you sprinting laps from the start to get your heart pumping to build cardiovascular fitness.

It can be easy to take this mentality and try to apply it to the water, setting yourself speed goals and trying to swim fast from the start.

If you are struggling with swimming stamina, however, or trying to swim one length without being out of breath, this is not a productive approach. You will quickly tire and not recover fast enough to stay in the pool for very long. It is also not enjoyable.

This “run at it” approach of pushing through and putting high levels of energy into your swim until some magic threshold point is reached where your stamina improves does not work in water in the very early stages of stamina building. (It works later, but not in the beginning.)

The first step to building swimming stamina is to slow down and pace yourself in the water. To do this, take long and slow strokes, extending your body until it is as long as it can be in the water.

By slowing your pace and taking deliberate and long strokes where your arms are fully extended, you will naturally become more streamlined in the water.

This is when some magic can happen as you start to feel your body glide through the water.

Once you slow down and learn to glide through the water with a gentle and long stroke, you will find that the water can do a lot of the work in getting you from one end of the pool to the other.

Getting from one side of the pool to the other should feel relaxed and easy. Slowing down with a 2-beat kick, or hardly kicking at all, with a slow and deliberate stroke can get you swimming those first few lengths without being out of breath.

2. Breathing

Breathing technique is fundamental in building swimming stamina.

Breathing technique is more than just turning your head at the right angle to grasp a breath. It involves knowing when to breathe and not holding your breath.

You should breathe out underwater, blowing bubbles into the water. As you turn or lift your head to breathe, your lungs will be almost empty. This allows air to rush into your lungs, making taking a breath effortless.

Why Do I Get So Out Of Breath Swimming?

If you find you are out of breath swimming, this could be due to one of many factors, including:

  1. Holding your breath as you swim
  2. Kicking too much
  3. Allowing your legs to sink

1. Hold Your Breath

Imagine trying to run a mile while holding your breath. You will not get very far even if you are exceptionally fit. The same is true for swimming.

If you find you are holding your breath and not breathing naturally, then you will quickly tire.

2. Kicking Too Much

In addition, if you are kicking too much as you swim, this will cause you to become exhausted very quickly.

Kicking too much is like sprinting on the spot. It is very hard to do for a long time.

If you find you are kicking too much, reduce the amount of kicking you are doing to a 2-beat kick, which is taking 2 kicks per one full stroke cycle.

3. Reduce Your Kick

Reducing your kick rate will greatly help you to improve your stamina and increase the distance you can swim in one swimming session.

Long-distance swimmers typically use a 2-beat kick when swimming to conserve energy.

You may kick so much as you have a poor body position in the water. Many swimmers with poor technique will sink as they swim. As a result, they over-kick in order to compensate.

To overcome this, you need to practise balance in the water.

As you swim, focus on pushing your upper torso and body down into the water. This should feel like you are pressing down on a beach ball in the water, as your lungs will give your upper body buoyancy.

By pushing your upper body down into the water, your legs should “pop up” which will reduce drag and make swimming much easier.

To learn more about not sinking as you swim, check out this article, which covers the topic in much greater detail, How To Stop Sinking When Swimming (7 exercises to try)

4. Mix Up Swim Strokes

To improve stamina in the pool, it is important to get as much swimming time in as possible.

However, if you are exhausted after one length of front crawl, it is not practical or fun to continue swimming for any long amount of time.

By mixing up your swimming strokes, by swimming some front crawl, some breaststroke and some backstroke, then you will keep your body engaged in the water and continue to build stamina.

5. Use Training Aids

Using training aids such as hand paddles, training fins and pull buoys are wonderful to build stamina in the pool.

Besides improving stamina, using training aids can help with technique and can help you become a more efficient swimmer overall.

Here are my three favourite pieces of swimming training aids:

6. Improve Using Drills

Practising your swimming by using swimming drills is a great way to improve your stamina while keeping your swimming workout interesting.

Personally, I have found that the best swimming drills are from the Total Immersion Swim Method, which is described as an effortless way to move through the water. [source]

You can read how to do all the drills in the book, Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier, which can really change your swimming life.

Here is an example of a propulsion drill from the creator of the total immersion swimming method. I recommend you check out their YouTube channel to find drills that will help with all aspects of your swimming.

7. Stick To A Routine

It is important to stick to a routine, which incorporates rest days, in order to improve swimming stamina.

Welcome to Eve Pacific Health #shor...
Welcome to Eve Pacific Health #shorts

Swimming intermittently, it can be very difficult to progress and even notice any improvement in stamina.

With regular swimming, which also makes use of rest days, you will notice your strength and stamina increasing regularly.

To track your progress, it is a great idea to use a swim log book. You can download a free swim log book from here.

By entering your daily swim distances, you can see just how far you are swimming, how well you are keeping to a routine, and how much progress you are really making.

8. Swim Backstroke

Swimming backstroke can be a great way to improve your swimming stamina, as you can breathe normally.

As your face is out of the water, you will not hold your breath or have to worry about breathing techniques.

The backstroke is similar to the front crawl, so by practising backstroke, you can improve your front crawl stamina.

9. Increase The Number Of Days Swimming

Building stamina is done by building the number of hours you are swimming every week.

Try to increase the number of days you swim.

More days in the pool, with shorter and more intense workouts, can be very effective.

It is important not to overdo it to prevent injury.

To learn more about how many days a week you should swim, I covered this in detail in this article, Should I Swim Everyday? Which includes information on how to recover between your swims.

How Do I Start Swimming Laps?

Most swimmers want to build their stamina with the ultimate goal of becoming lap swimmers.

A lap swimmer is someone who swims for fitness by completing many lengths of a pool during a lane swim session.

In order to swim laps, it is important to swim at a pace you are comfortable with.

Many swimming pools will have multiple lanes open during public swim times, each with different speeds. For example, you normally have a slow, medium, and fast swimming lane.

In order to start swimming laps and build stamina, it is important to not overestimate your skills and start in the slowest lane.

Once you can swim many lengths of the pool at a slow pace, you will reach a natural point where other swimmers are getting in your way. In other words, you are getting more proficient and faster at swimming.

Once you feel too fast for the slow lane, it is time to move to the medium-speed swimming lane.

Depending on your local pool, this could be anywhere from moderately fast to fast.

Again, swim in the medium lane until you feel you are too fast for the lane.

Once you reach the point where you are overtaking in the medium lane, it is time to move to the fast lane.

At first, if you are struggling to swim laps, it can be a great idea to use training aids to help you keep up in the pool.

Training aids such as hand paddles, training fins and pull buoys can give you some extra speed to keep up.

It takes time to progress to long-term lap swimming. Keeping a log of your swimming distances using a swimming log book is a great way to keep you motivated and monitor your progress.

I have created a free swim log tracker which you can download for free. Just enter your email address below to get your free swim log. (No spam email, I promise. I hate spam, too.)

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Final Thoughts

Building stamina for swimming can be a long process, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Remember to start slow and gradually work your way up to longer distances and faster speeds.

The two key things you can do today that will improve your stamina are to ensure that you are breathing normally without holding your breath and not kicking too hard.

If you find you are kicking too much, but once you stop kicking, you sink, this is a sign that you are not balanced in the water and your legs are sinking, creating drag. In this instance, practice body balance drills to get your legs higher in the water.

Building your swimming stamina is a great investment. Not only are you improving your swimming, but you will also be improving your overall fitness and health.

Happy swimming!

Louise Byrne

Hi, I am Louise and I am obsessed with swimming. I spend my free time in the water or getting ready for my next water adventure.

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