when i swim, i tend to swim intervals like this (this is a record of the last workout i did, prior to not wanting to be in the pool anymore because of excessive chlorine!):
200 warm up breast stroke
100 x 4 free (short rest in between each 100)
200 x 4 free (short rest in between each 200)
500 x 4 free (short rest in between each 500)
200 x 1 free (short rest)
100 x 1 free (short rest)
200 breast stroke cool down
4000 m (roughly 2.5 miles)
i would first work the distance until i felt i could do it comfortably, then start to work on getting better times for each distance. and then i would work on decreasing the amount of rest between sets (usually they would start at 1 minute rests and then decrease to 30 second rests between sets), and then increase the distances again.
so, for example, if i was just starting again, i would do:
50 warm up
50 x 3 free
100 x 2 free
200 x 1 free
500 x 1 free
100 x 2 free
50 x 2 free
200 cool down
1600 m or .99 mi (nearly a mile)
i would start by taking each distance comfortably and then resting a full minute--whether i need to or not--between each set. i would do this until i got comfortable with each distance with only 30 seconds of rest in between. then, i would start to work each distance for time--trying to get each distance to the best time i could with 30 seconds rest. and then i would increase the distance, and so on.
ok, so, what were my discoveries?
first and foremost, i find swimming to be a most relaxing and enjoyable exercise. i'm in the water and feeling good. i love the way it feels and how people can't interrupt you or anything. i mean, the coach of the master swimmers at the Y and JCC where i used to work out, they had to stick their foot in the water in my lane in order to get my attention. LOL and that was usually to ask me to join the team.
i do not swim competitively because i always get my period when it's time to compete and therefore i never compete (i do not use tampons!). LOL
so anyway, i love to swim.
from a body composition stand-point, swimming is a weight bearing exercise that is easy on the joints. it's great for overall strength, shoulder and hip flexibility, and increasing aerobic and lung capacity.
i found that by swimming intervals--rather than long distances--my body fat composition decreased by a great deal. when compared to my friends who simple swim for distance and not time--eg, their mile of swimming always takes 45 minutes or whatever the time is, rather than it going from taking 45 minutes to taking 35 minutes to taking 28 minutes and then adding distance--tend to get to a certain point and then stop loosing or getting leaner because the body is used to the exercise and comfortable there. if one keeps pushing the body, then it will adapt and continue to get lean until it hits the point where it is at it's max.
but also, one's body stops at a certain point no matter what because that is what is healthy for the body.
i would love to swim again, but the local pool is so chlorinated it's horrible just standing next to it. i told them i would pay to have it converted to salt water (which costs about $150 per conversion of each pool, which would have cost me a donation of 5 pools if i included both the kiddie pool and splash pad) but they refused, even though they keep having to dump all of the water because people don't put their kiddies in swim diapers and, well, yuck, and so they close the pool, get rid of the water, clean the pool, add in new water with excessive amounts of chlorine, and do it all again the next month anyway. salt water is so much healthier for everyone, btw, but god forbid they use a donation to do it!