How Swim Training Programs Work

These swimmers practice in lanes to work on their form and their times.
These swimmers practice in lanes to work on their form and their times.© Getty Images/Thinkstock

We humans have loved the water since the beginning of our existence -- why else would we pay twice as much for a lakeside condo, spend millions of dollars putting fountains in front of buildings and go to the beach every chance we get? Swimming is a wonderful way to enjoy ourselves, get in shape, increase our endurance, compete against each other, meet other people and even recover from injuries. Water is much more to us than something pretty to look at, and swimming lets many of us spend time getting soaked and loving it.

With so many reasons to swim, instructors work hard to keep up with the demand for specialized training. The growing popularity of triathlons -- with even J. Lo participating in a well-publicized postpartum tri -- adds a new wrinkle to the training dilemma. Some swimmers prefer private, one-on-one lessons, while others opt for group classes. Some classes work on getting beginners used to the water and preventing drowning, others run drills of the four main swim strokes -- freestyle, butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke. Still others focus on the minute details of each stroke to maximize speed and efficiency. Besides the strokes themselves, swim training can teach you skills like sighting, drafting, starting and turning, which you can use in a pool or in an outdoor environment like the ocean. Who knew that moving through the water could be so complicated?

So where do you fall on the swimming spectrum? Could you give Michael Phelps a run for his money, or are you struggling to master the doggy paddle? Is your goal to compete, or do you just want to get in better shape and meet some new friends? The type of swim training you choose depends on what your skill level is now, and what goals you have for your swimming. Once you have a handle on both of these, and you know what your budget is, you're ready to start looking for the right program for you.

Read on to learn about three options for your swim training.