Best No-Swim Workouts for Any Body of Water

Whether you’re taking a dip in the backyard pool or spending a week at the shore, there’s an easy workout move that will help you get fit. Even if you’re not that into swimming.

By Megan Othersen Gorman


Water WorkoutsSwimming is an indisputably excellent way to exercise, but it isn’t your only water-based option. Being in the water makes all kinds of workout moves possible. “Water provides resistance and also buoyancy, so it’s an efficient way to burn calories and build muscular endurance without high impact,” says Mary Sanders, PhD, a Reno-based exercise physiologist and director of WaterFit/Wave Aerobics personal training and instruction.

To add some exercise to your next aquatic outing, choose the workout that works best for the water you’re in:

1. Best Home-Pool Workout: The Spiderman
Space is often too limited in a home pool to swim laps. If that’s the case, make more like a superhero than superswimmer Michael Phelps, and try crawling some walls, suggests Sanders. Face the side of the pool and place your arms on the edge for support. Then literally run down and back up the wall as quickly as possible. You’ll burn calories and work your core muscles, she says.

Another option: Deep-water running—it’s great for burning calories with no impact whatsoever, says Sanders. Simply slip on a buoyancy belt, and go for a run in the deep end. You can run in place or do a small circuit. Perform 1-minute sprints followed by 1-minute recovery intervals to increase the challenge.

2. Best Public-Pool Workout: Dodge-Running
Public pools tend to be crowded, but you can use this to your advantage, says Sanders. She suggests running back and forth across the shallow end of the pool, dodging kids, pool toys, and noodles as you go. The random obstacles that cross your path will keep things interesting. “It’s fun to dodge sideways around kids and others,” she says. “Just try to keep your speed up while you’re doing it. Maximal running effort in water of navel to nipple depth can burn about 14 kilocalories per minute.”

3. Best Lap-Pool Workout: Vertical Laps
Tired of those freestyle laps? Try swimming vertically. Start in the shallow end, and “rebound run” (that is, run by pushing off the bottom of the pool) forward until your feet can’t touch the bottom and more. Then go float upright and propel yourself by pumping your legs as if running in place. When you reach the wall, turn around and repeat. If you don’t have a lane to yourself, “Just make sure you choose the slow lane for your workout,” says Sanders, “and that you circle it counterclockwise, just as swimmers do.”