How To Maintain Your Shred Bod In The Summer: Go Swimming

Want to get your heart pounding, like you just came roaring down a backcountry chute? Try doing an off-season training sesh in your local pool.

Photo courtesy of Freebird Events.

The snow has melted away, the skis need a good tune-up, and you’re starting to feel some recurring pain in your knees. All this means that the warmer months are upon us. And while some are still on the hunt for patches of snow, it’s time to start thinking about what you’ll be doing to preserve your winter fitness this summer.

In the summer, hitting the pool is a no-brainer, but have you ever thought of turning your pool time into your training time? While swimming and skiing seem quite different, they are fundamentally very similar. I know, weird statement, but as a diehard skier and a collegiate swimmer, I can tell you that the out-of-breath feeling I have after an afternoon in the backcountry is comparable to the out-of-breath feeling I have after a two-hour swim practice. 

Both skiing and swimming rely on high levels of endurance, strong lung capacity, and precise technique. When all of these factors come together it can look like you’re ripping a run with grace and ease or sprinting a lap in the pool without even trying. These outcomes are achieved when you train your body to thrive under uncomfortable conditions.

"Both skiing and swimming rely on high levels of endurance, strong lung capacity, and precise technique."


 Photo courtesy of Freebird Events.

Let’s think of one of the more strenuous scenarios for a skier...we’ll say a hike-to run in the backcountry. To begin, you’re already starting at a higher altitude than you’re used to, so your body is probably suffering from some level of altitude sickness. The most common symptom of altitude sickness is difficulty breathing. When in a higher altitude, air pressure is lower, making it harder for oxygen to enter the vascular system. The result of these conditions is oxygen deprivation, otherwise known as hypoxia. Under these effects, you are at a less than optimal fitness level before you even start your trek to the top of your run. However, have no fear, because there are a few off-season workouts that you can do in the pool to help minimize the impact of hypoxia on your body.

Hypoxic drills are common practices used in swimming to train the body to function optimally with less oxygen intake than normal. In swimming, the motion of rotating your head to breathe slows down the speed at which the body is moving, as it breaks with streamline. As a result, the less you breathe, the faster you’ll swim. Hypoxic drills are used to condition the body to breathe less and familiarize it with oxygen debt, so that come race time you can swim your fastest. This same concept holds true for when you want to ski your best and hardest when up at high altitude.

At this point, you may be wondering what exactly a hypoxic drill in the pool may look like. In its most fundamental form, a hypoxic drill means that you breathe minimally while still moving in the water.

Try these three hypoxic drills in the off-season to help you breathe better in higher altitudes come winter: 

For beginner swimmers:

Underwater bobs may be a good start. For this drill, start by taking a deep breath and pushing yourself to the bottom of the pool, a depth of 8-10 feet is usually best depending on your height. Once your feet are on the bottom of the pool, bend your knees and shoot yourself back up to the surface. Once you are back at the surface take another breath and repeat the process 5 more times. Underwater bobs are a great way to utilize hypoxic breathing techniques while moving relatively little and are a great training option if you are still a newcomer to swimming.

For intermediate swimmers:

If you are comfortable swimming down the length of a pool, a hypoxic rotating drill is right up your alley. For this drill, you push off the wall of the pool as if you were going to swim a normal lap. However, instead of using your normal breathing pattern, you will take a stroke with your first arm, take a breath, and completely rotate to that same side you took a stroke from. You will then remain on that side for six kicks with your head in the water. While you are holding your breath with your head in the water during the six kicks, make sure to blow air out of your nose. Repeat this step for as many laps as you feel comfortable with, making sure to take at least a 30-second break in between laps. The exaggerated rotation in this hypoxic drill is great for easily stretching out your body, while also getting in a workout.

For expert swimmers:

Underwater dolphin kicks in the streamline position across the pool will get your heart pumping, like you just beasted a backcountry line. For this hypoxic drill you will again push off the wall of the pool; however, you will stay underwater in the streamline position while dolphin kicking until you need to come up for a breath. When you come up for a breath, take a regular stroke, and then push yourself back underwater, continuing with the dolphin kicks. Ideally, you should only breathe three to four times across a 25-yard pool. Between each lap take a minute break.

Also, please note that if you feel too out of breath or lightheaded at any time while doing these drills, do not continue with the drill and take a break outside of the water.

Each one of these drills gives you a simple way to maintain your endurance and fitness level in the summer. So don’t let yourself get behind the game in the off-season, because don’t you want to be the one to shock all of your friends on opening day?

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Lindsay Hayden is our Marketing & Content intern here at WME. As a member of the Gettysburg College Swim Team, Lindsay finds her happy place in the water. However, water in the form of snow is her preferred environment, as she rips her local mountains on the East Coast whenever she's not in the pool.