For the majority of swimmers, being able to swim for longer without getting tired is directly related to your swim technique and not your level of fitness.
You could be a marathon runner with an excellent fitness level, but one length of the pool can leave you exhausted and gasping for air.
In order to swim for longer without getting tired, you need to relax in the water, stretch to your maximum length, reduce your kicking to a 2-beat kick, consider your body position and improve your breathing technique. By working on a few key areas, you can quickly improve your long-distance swim ability.
With some minor adjustments to how you swim, you can become a long-distance swimmer and not even feel that you are working out.
In this article I am going to look at:
- How can I swim for longer without getting tired?
- Why are you tired after swimming 50 meters?
- How do I train myself to swim for longer?
How Can I Swim Longer Without Getting Tired?
It can be very frustrating to go to the pool hoping to do a 45-minute workout only to be exhausted after one length.
If you are not a regular swimmer, you might find yourself staring over at the superhumans in the fast lane zipping up and down the pool with a mixture of awe and confusion.
It might particularly frustrate you as outside of the pool you consider yourself a fit person, therefore it makes little sense for you to be gasping for air after 60 seconds or one length.
If you find yourself in this position, you are not alone.
Many individuals want to swim for longer (be it long distance or just more time) but cannot overcome the sheer exhaustion they feel after a couple of lengths.
The secret to unlocking your potential to swim all day long and for miles without being out of breath is technique.
The great thing about the following tips to improve your technique is that you do not need to sign up for expensive swimming lessons or need a personal coach to do them.
The following are simple modifications you can make to your front crawl stroke to allow you to swim for longer without getting tired.
The next time you are in the pool, try these out and you should see an instant improvement.
Personally, I recommend trying these things in the shallow end so you can stand up and take a breather if you find yourself getting tired.
1. Push Your Head & Upper Body Down Into The Water
Like many beginners, when I first started swimming I thought that speed was all about kicking your legs fast but this is not true. Kicking only contributes to around 15% of our power.
When you kick your legs fast, you quickly become tired.
Although there is much debate on how much you should kick as you swim, if you are getting tired you need to kick less.
The reason beginners kick so much is that their legs typically sink when they swim, creating drag. Our instinct is to kick more to counteract this effect. However, this will not work and you will quickly become completely exhausted.
The secret is to push your head and upper body down into the water as you swim, which will cause your legs to pop up, creating less drag. I have found this to be the number one tip in learning how to swim without getting tired.
Your upper body is full of air from your lungs, so won’t sink. As you press your head and upper body down into the water, your legs and hips will naturally rise, creating less drag and better balance in the water.
Since our chest is so buoyant as our lungs are filled with air, you should reach a point where you feel the water pushing up against your upper body. (Imagine pressing a beach ball into a body of water – it will reach a natural point where it becomes hard to submerge)
From pressing your head and upper body into the water, you should reach a suitable position of balance where your legs and hips are high.
Now as you swim front crawl, you are not dragging your legs. You should feel a natural propulsion and momentum.
Here is a quick summary of how to do this:
- In a shallow pool, push off from the wall with your arms out in front of you and allow yourself to float.
- Make yourself long and extend your body as much as possible.
- Consciously push your head down into the water. Look at the bottom of the pool and tuck your chin in. Imagine you are holding a tennis ball under your chin.
- Experiment with this head position until you find you are floating and moving effortlessly just from the push off the pool wall.
- Once your momentum stops or you need to breathe, stand up.
It might amaze you to realise how far you have floated just on the propulsion from kicking off the wall.
Good water balance with your head pressed down into the water, which acts as a counterweight to raise your legs and hips, will allow you to float with natural momentum with no kicking or arm strokes.
2. Kick Less
If you are getting tired in the pool, you need to learn to kick less.
As mentioned, it is natural as a beginner to want to kick like crazy to swim fast and keep your legs up, but this is not helpful.
If you ever watch long-distance swimmers, you’ll notice that they kick very little. The most common kick for long-distance swimmers is a “two-beat kick” which is kicking twice per full stroke cycle.
Even some Olympians in long course swims will reduce their kicking for most of the race to conserve energy and then increase their kicking for the last 50m for speed.
The secret to learning to kick less is linked to point one already discussed, which is to push your head down into the water to allow your legs to pop up.
If your legs and hips are high in the water, you will not be dragging them.
It is all about balance in the water. Your position should be flat in the water with your legs high. In this position, your arms and hip rotation can help you move through the water with some gentle kicking.
To stop yourself from getting exhausted, kick less.
3. Don’t Hold Your Breath
Imagine trying to run while holding your breath. You would quickly become exhausted and start gasping for air, as your body needs a constant stream of oxygen to keep working efficiently.
The same is true for swimming. It is very difficult to swim if you are holding your breath.
As a beginner or someone who is new to swimming long distances, it is critical that your breathing is natural, controlled and regular.
With good breathing techniques, you will breathe in a way that feels natural.
With practice, you will breathe just as efficiently in the pool during a long swim as you do during a run.
How Do I Avoid Holding My Breath While Swimming?
In order to breathe naturally, you must feel relaxed in the water.
From minor discomfort to panic, it is natural for our breathing to become laboured if we are in an uncomfortable situation.
If you are completely relaxed in the pool, breathing becomes natural and something we don’t think so much about, just like running.
2. Exhale Into The Water
When you need to exhale, exhale into the water to empty your lungs completely, then inhale naturally as you turn your head to breathe.
It can feel strange at first to exhale into the water, but you can try this in the shallow end by simply placing your head in the water and blowing out light bubbles through your nose.
Only try this at the shallow end for safety. Once you get used to this, you can incorporate it into your front crawl stroke.
Here is an excellent video that can help you breathe more efficiently as you swim.
4. Roll Your Body
Swimming is all about propulsion in the water. The more efficiently you use your body to move through the water, the further you will swim and the less effort you will exert.
When you swim, it is really beneficial to roll your body from side to side.
Instead of having your shoulders flat in the water, rolling your body so that your shoulders are almost perpendicular to the surface of the water will allow you to cut through the water like a knife.
This will help you move faster through the water with less kicking.
Some balance is required when you try this at first, but by simply attempting to swim more on your side than your belly by rolling from side to side, you will feel a dramatic improvement in propulsion and speed.
5. Extend Your Body (Make Yourself Long)
There is a reason most professional swimmers are tall, and that is because they have a natural advantage in the pool.
Other than being able to reach the far wall in fewer strokes, being tall or long is important in the water.
No matter what height you are, if you stretch your arms and legs to make yourself as long as you can in the water, you will see a dramatic improvement in how you swim.
Here is how you can try this in the pool:
When you extend your arm in front of you in the front crawl, stretch your body and imagine that you are reaching for the far pool wall.
Don’t be afraid to leave your hand in that extended position for a start so you can experience how it feels.
This arm extension and imagining that you are reaching for the pool wall will also cause your body to rotate and you will more naturally swim on your side, which is already mentioned in point 4 above.
Here is a really nice swimming example that shows very calm and graceful swimming. Notice how the swimmer extends their arm out in front of them as they swim.
Their body position is long and extended and perfectly balanced in the water.
Why Are You Tired After Swimming 50 Meters?
It is perfectly possible to be a very fit person, running 10k or even marathons in your spare time, but then being absolutely exhausted and out of breath after just a couple of lengths in the pool.
If you are tired after swimming a short distance in the pool, even if you consider yourself a relatively fit person, you are most likely tired because of poor technique such as kicking too much and a poor breathing style.
I do not consider myself a fit person outside of the pool. In fact, if I run for one minute at a moderate pace, I am out of breath, yet, I can swim for hours in the pool, completing length after length without being out of breath.
This long-distance swim ability is down to technique.
Here are the main reasons you might tire quickly while swimming:
- Kicking too much
- Holding your breath.
- Dragging your legs
How Do I Train Myself To Swim For Longer?
If you would like to know how to swim for longer without getting tired, I recommend checking out the Total Immersion Swim Method.
This is a taught swimming method that will teach you how to move smoothly and efficiently through the water.
As a result, you will find that you will swim long distances without getting tired. Once you master the art of swimming efficiently, it becomes as easy as walking.
I appreciate that might be hard to believe if you are a beginner and tired after one length of the pool, but once I modified my swim technique and followed the principles set out in the Total Immersion Swim Method, I went from being exhausted after one length, to swimming a mile within one week.
It really can be life-changing to learn how to swim efficiently.
I have covered the Total Immersion Swim Method and what it is in my article, “Total Immersion Swimming – What it is and how it works”. This is absolutely worth checking out if you want to learn to swim for longer without getting tired in a short amount of time.