How to Capitalize on Your Time in the Water

By Jessica Tranchina, PT, DPT – May 6, 2022

It’s about to get really HOT out there! There’s no time like the present to submerge yourself in some refreshing H2O. And while you’re at it, you can burn calories and tone up all over! Why? Water is 12 times more resistant than air, so you can burn as many as three times more calories than if you walked at a moderate pace — and it’s more refreshing! You don’t even have to swim to get these results. 

Here are 14 easy ways to get started, from solo moves you can do in a pool or at the lake to high-energy games for the whole family. 

Treading Intervals

Try this in the deep end of the pool, Barton Springs or one of our beautiful lakes. Tread water softly for five minutes to warm up, then float on your back until you catch your breath. Tread water vigorously for 30 seconds, then float on your back for 30 seconds. Do these intervals 30 times, and you’ll burn roughly 300 calories.

Step Pushups

Try this on the step of a pool or at the Springs. You’re lighter in water, so full pushups are easier while still being a super arm and shoulder toner. Start in plank position in the shallow end, hands on the top step and toes on the floor. Slowly bend elbows to lower as far as you can without getting your face wet. Straighten elbows and repeat. Work up to two or three slow sets of 15 reps. While you’re at Barton Springs, don’t forget to jump off the diving board!

Waist-Deep Lunges

Water makes high-impact jumps joint-friendly. In waist-deep water, lunge with your right foot forward, right thigh parallel to pool floor, left knee bent and hands on your hips. Quickly jump up, scissor legs and land with left leg forward. Do this 15 to 20 times.

The Blender

Water workouts provide 360 degrees of resistance. In waist-deep water, quickly swing your right leg forward. Pause, then pull it back against the current to starting position. Next, swing leg to the side, then back. Alternate legs for 10 to 15 cycles.

Squat to Jog

This move gets your heart rate elevated! Squat in waist- to rib cage-deep water, then jump up and “jog” vigorously for a count of six. Repeat for one minute, then rest for 15 seconds. Do this two more times.

Single leg Balance

Try this in a body of water that has some turbulence or waves. Try balancing on one leg for as long as you can and then switch sides. Repeat five times on each side.

Chaos Running

Grab your friends and family for this one! Start at one end of a pool or in an area of the lake you can touch the bottom. Give each other some room on this one as you’ll be using the space around you. Decide on an endpoint and on the count of three, GO! Run straight for the first three laps, then add a zigzag pattern to subsequent rounds to increase the challenge and fun!

Backward Walking

Research shows that water walking or jogging in reverse engages more muscles in your legs and back than going forward (83% more quads, 61% more lower back and 47% more calves), so give it a try!

Arm Presses

Stand in chest-deep water with palms open and fingers spread and move your arms back and forth and up and down. Increase your speed for a greater challenge.

Deepwater Jogging

Deepwater jogging has been shown to burn a whopping 750 calories an hour! Hold a noodle or slip on a flotation belt or vest (available at most pools). “Run” as hard as you can for 30 to 60 seconds, bringing knees toward your chest and pumping your arms. Do 10 sets, recovering your breath between sprints. Repeat for up to an hour.

Swim Laps

Kid swimming.

If you’re a lover of lap swimming but need variety, incorporate sprints or races with your friends and family. That’s always a great way to increase the challenge and your heart rate as well as add a lot more fun to the workout!

Kickboard Laps

If there are flotation tools handy, you can try this exercise. This will specifically target leg and butt muscles. Practice different types of kicking: flutter (alternating legs), dolphin (legs together, mermaid style) and breaststroke (frog kicks), suggests Paul Smith, swimming instructor and fitness specialist at Lake Austin Spa Resort.

Beach Ball Workout

Trying to submerge a ball that floats well works your core and upper body. Experiment with different movements to vary the muscles targeted. For example, press a small ball down in front of you with bent arms, then move it to the side and straighten your arms.

Adult Fetch

Grab an inflatable ball and toss it and then sprint to retrieve it. Do this 10 times in a row, and everyone will be breathing hard!

As you can see, there are many ways to squeeze in a good workout in any body of water this summer while still having a great time! Have a fun and fit summer!


About the Author

Jessica Tranchina smiling.

Jessica Tranchina, PT, DPT, is a co-founder of Generator Athlete Lab and has been an athlete her whole life. As the creator of the Generator Method, Tranchina works to help guide others to better performance and recovery and is passionate about bringing the active community of Austin together from all fitness levels and athletic backgrounds. She is the owner of PRIMO Performance and Rehabilitation, which started in Austin in 2010, where her expertise and unique skill set have been established as one of the best in her field. NASM-CPT, ART Certified Provider, CKTP.


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