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Let’s be honest here: How many of us really make regular use of a hotel gym? Save for the that one guy who barks into his phone while lazily pumping the StairMaster in his wingtips, of course.
At many hotels, those factory-new Nautilus machines, dustless treadmills and virgin free weights sit as untouched and unloved as the pay-per-view button on the TV remote.
But the swimming pool, on the other hand, remains one of America’s favorite hotel amenities. And if you happen to be staying at a hotel with a pool, you don’t even need to hit the gym, since you can combine water-based fun with enough exercise to assuage any guilt about the extra dessert you had at dinner.
We spoke to Maik Wiedenbach, an alternate for the German swim team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and now a celebrity fitness trainer in Manhattan, about how to keep fit using a hotel pool.
But first, a couple of important tips.
Learn to share
Hotel pools tend not to be Olympic-sized, so the best you can usually hope for is 12 to 15 yards. Plus, there may be way more traffic than at a pool used exclusively for athletic practice — most of it involving people who don’t know common pool etiquette or even what slow and fast lanes are.
So be patient and be prepared: you may have to be flexible with your workout, breaking drills into shorter segments as needed.
“You’ll have to deal with people who shouldn’t be there, but there’s no point in getting upset,” Wiedenbach told The Points Guy.
Get the right gear
Wiedenbach doesn’t care whether you wear Speedos or board shorts, as long as you wear goggles. But not necessarily the super-expensive fancy kind.
“Please invest in proper goggles, like what Michael Phelps is wearing when he competes,” Wiedenbach said. “No rubber, just plastic over the eyes. Don’t worry, they don’t fall off.”
Learn the cup and ladder
“The best thing I ever learned was taught to me by my East German coach,” Wiedenbach said.
“Imagine that there’s a ladder in the pool and you’re grabbing the steps of the ladder, pushing your hands onto those rungs. Most people focus on pushing their hand and body really fast, but what you want to do is pull yourself forward on that ladder. The goal is not to do as many strokes as you can, but [fewer] strokes and really get the most out of them.”
He recommended that casual swimmers create a “tiny bit of a cup” with their hands as they swim.
Now, on to the exercises.
1. Take it to the edge
Hold onto the edge of the pool with both hands and go face down in the water. Stick your legs straight out and kick as hard as you can for 20 seconds, breathing to the side every five seconds. Do this four or five times.
This works your quadriceps, abdominal muscles and hamstrings.
2. Jump up
Stand in the shallow end of the pool. Using your feet and toes, jump up out of the water (for men, your swim trunks should just break the surface). As you jump, squeeze your triceps and try to use your hands as if you’re pushing yourself out of the water for a second before you come back in.
“Think of it like a mini push-up using your arms,” Wiedenbach said.
This will work your shoulders, butt, quads and abs.
3. Take sides
Go back to the edge of the pool in the same position as in the first exercise (arms on the edge, feet out in the water). Start kicking as before, but this time let go with the left arm while still clinging to the edge with the right. Do five strokes with your left arm. Now switch arms and do five strokes with your right arm. Repeat.
This will work several parts of your body, including your quadriceps, abdominal muscles and hamstrings.
Find the longest stretch of clear water. From one end of the pool, push off as hard as you can. Do four to five freestyle laps: Each arm alternates position: one pushing, slightly-cupped palm down, into the water as the other recovers position from above the water.
Meanwhile, the legs flutter kick straight forward. Breathe by turning (not lifting) your head to the same side as you’re lifting your arm on every other stroke. Try to do as few arm strokes per lap as you can.
“This sets you up for a feeling for the water and lets you swim longer and perform better and learn to glide,” Wiedenbach said.
Building on the previous exercise, push off the edge with your feet and freestyle again, but counting to two between arm strokes and gliding between them.
This works on your breathing technique, and is an excellent overall aerobic exercise.
6. Work your lungs
For your final two laps, begin a freestyle as before, but this time do each lap while taking only two breaths per lap. After you finish both laps, take a break of 20 to 30 seconds, and then do it again.
This exercise helps you increase your lung capacity.
Illustrations by MCKIBILLO
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