Snorkeling is a fun and relaxing hobby that many people can do with little to no preparation. Just get a mask, snorkel, and a pair of fins and into the water you go! However, like many things in life, snorkeling can get a whole lot better if you invest time and energy into getting in shape so that you can be more capable in the water.
How embarrassing would it be if you traveled all the way to a tropical snorkeling location only to completely tire yourself out after a few minutes in the water? Sure, you could wear a buoyancy belt to help you conserve energy, but what if you wanted to freedive? And if a strong current were to sweep you away, do you have stamina to swim back to safety?
We tend to ignore the important health components that contribute to our physical performance such as our lung capacity and muscular endurance. And while snorkeling is not a particularly strenuous activity, to the point that even non-swimmers can do it, the waves are always unpredictable and having a higher fitness level can only be a good thing. That is why in this article, we want to provide you some tips to help you get in shape before your snorkeling vacation.
Snorkeling Fitness Tips to Whip You into Shape
Staying safe involves not only having the right gear, but also having the strength and endurance to dive underwater and explore. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you will be able to swim out of it. Unfortunately, no amount of snorkel gear can make up for lack of competency in swimming ability, not even a snorkel vest or life jacket.
That is why we recommend training your body to have the extra stamina to allow you to snorkel all day and maximize your time in the water. Let’s go over how to do this.
Before you engage in any physical activity, you should do a warm-up. Warm-ups get the blood flowing through your muscles and joints, lubricating them for the physical activity that is about to follow. Prior to snorkeling, some light calisthenics and swimming can help you get ready.
The warm-up activity need not be complicated or strenuous. A few air squats, push-ups on your knees or from the wall, and some torso rotations while putting your hands on your waist is enough. While performing these movements, look out for any stiff spots in your body, such as your lower back or hamstrings, and do some stretches to loosen them.
After a couple of minutes of moving your body and stretching, your muscles and joints should be primed for a swimming and snorkeling session. Furthermore, your body should be more flexible, making it easier to fit into your fins and snorkeling wetsuit.
Take Daily Walks
Did you know that walking for 30 minutes at a brisk pace can help you burn close to 200 calories? If the average person engaged in these short bouts of walking everyday, then they would weigh approximately 20-30 pounds less in their middle age. Furthermore, they would improve their cardiovascular health and lower their chance of developing heart disease by 50%.
Now, even though fat is more buoyant than lean muscle and leaner individuals have a more difficult time staying afloat, I would say that the benefits of having more endurance and overall better health outweigh the buoyant fat you’d have if you didn’t walk regularly. If walking for 30 minutes in one session is too much, splitting it into three 10-minute sessions produces similar results.
Something as simple as getting off one stop earlier or choosing to walk to the grocery instead of driving can help you meet the walking quota. If the weather is nice, a brisk stroll around your neighborhood for five days out of the week can whip your body into shape for snorkeling.
Developing Your Muscles
As we age, loss of lean muscle mass is to be expected. However, this also means a drop in our natural strength along with a tendency to accumulate fat (muscle helps burn calories in the body, and less muscle means less calories broken down). High body fat is detrimental to the snorkeling experience, and that is why one should strive to keep their weight down while training their lean muscle tissue.
If you really want to transform your body, you can try doing these exercises in addition to your daily walks. There are two workout routines below, each routine with four exercises you should do.
Workout Routine A
This workout focuses on strength training using your own bodyweight as resistance. Perform the exercises in three sets of 10 repetitions, with 1-2 minutes of rest between each set.
- Bodyweight Squat: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your arms in front of you to counterbalance your weight. Then squat down as if you are trying to sit down on a stool that is slightly behind you. You only need to squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor before standing back up. That counts as one full repetition. Note: make sure that your knees do not go past your toes, as that puts enormous stress on your knees when standing up.
- Push-ups from the Knee: Kneel down on the floor and get into the push-up position. Your hands should be placed on the floor in a position that is slightly wider than shoulder width. Go down until your arms are at 90 degrees, then push back up using your chest and arms.
- Negative Pull-Ups: First, find a monkey bar at a park, playground, or even a tree with a strong branch. The negative pull-up focuses only on the descending portion of a pull-up. The starting position is the top portion of a pull-up. Simply jump up into that position, and focus on descending to a dead hang over the course of about 3 seconds. Just focus on the negative portion of the pull-up, and jump back up to start the next repetition.
- Criss-Cross Crunch: Lie down on the back with your legs bent at 90 degrees and raised up. Your calves should be parallel to the floor. With your hands behind your head and elbows facing forward, lift your right shoulder, moving your right elbow to touch your left knee while extending your right leg at the same time. Then switch sides and repeat, counting one full repetition after having done both sides.
The previous workout relied entirely on body weight to provide resistance. This workout utilizes water resistance to focus on stamina and cardiovascular training. Keep in mind if any part of your body is above the water at any point, the water is no longer providing any resistance.
- Jumping Jacks: Jumping jacks are a great exercise to elevate your heart rate on dry land. But we’re going to be doing them in the pool at a depth of about shoulder height. The starting position is feet shoulder width apart, with hands to your side. To do a jumping jack, swing your legs out in a V-stance while simultaneously swinging your arms to the surface of the water. From this position, return to the starting position in a quick, forceful motion.
- Side Steps: Start with your feet placed slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Squat down ever so slightly and stay at this height the entire time. Now you want to shuffle sideways to the end of the pool, making sure that your legs never cross each other. Then switch to the other side, and shuffle all the way back to the other end. Your knees should be slightly bent the whole time and you should not be standing up at any point during this exercise.
- High Knees: Starting with your feet slightly apart, forcefully raise your knee as high as you can one leg at a time. You can even use the momentum to do a small jump. You can perform high knees standing in place, or you can turn it into a skipping motion and jump forward with each high knee.
- Butt Kicks: Work the opposite side of your legs by performing a butt kick. Simply do a slow jog from one end of the pool to the other while using your legs to kick your buttocks with each step. Do butt kicks to the end of the pool and back.
Drink More Fluids
You need to stay hydrated when performing any exercise and especially while snorkeling. It is recommended that you drink half of your bodyweight in ounces prior to snorkeling. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you would drink 80 ounces of water. All fluids work fine, however water is best because it has no calories and will not cause you to crash.
Sometimes people can go overboard and drink too much liquids. Obviously if you’re drinking alcohol, then moderation is key. Drinking more than two bottles of beer can be detrimental to your body especially if you’re planning on snorkeling the next day. Alcohol is a dehydrating agent and too much can impair your senses.
Sugary drinks should be taken in moderation as well, since sugar is high in calories and can make you jittery before crashing later. Make sure you are well-hydrated whether you’re out in the water or doing a workout on dry land.
Stretching Your Legs and Feet
Cramps in your legs or feet are bad enough on land. When you’re out in the ocean, suffering a cramp could be not only painful, but potentially lethal if you are not wearing a flotation device. Before you head out into the water, we recommend you stretch out your legs and feet to reduce the chances of cramping up.
One simple stretch you can perform is the toe touch. It is a simple stretch that stretches and strengthens the muscles in the hamstrings. You can do this while standing or sitting on the floor. Straighten out your legs and keep your feet together. Next, reach down/forward and try to touch your toes. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. You don’t even need to actually touch your toes, just reach for them to get the benefits of this stretch.
Next, to stretch your feet, we’re going to do a toe grab. Place one sock in front of your barefoot in reach of your toes. Without lifting your heel off the floor, grab the sock with your toes and lift it off the floor. Hold the sock for one second, then release it. Repeat this process until your foot fatigues, then do the same for the other foot. The toe grab stretches and strengthens the arches of your feet, lowering the chance of it cramping it while snorkeling.
Benefits of Water Exercise for Snorkeling
Aquatic workouts can help you improve your endurance, cardiovascular health, and help you lose weight, all of which can help with snorkeling. Did you know that water is 800 times denser than air (and heavy water is even denser)? That means just to move around in an aquatic environment, your body (and heart) must work significantly harder to do the same activities underwater compared to on land.
While doing water exercises, you can burn as much as 11.5 calories per minute. In comparison, running on land burns about 8 calories per minute, which is 30% less calories per minute. In addition to that, water training has less impact on the joints. You will not experience knee pain or shin splints by jogging in the water, but you will on land.
Next, many athletes are shocked to learn that water training can train the core muscles. Jogging in the water requires individuals to engage their core and postural muscles to stabilize their body in the water. Since water is so much denser than air and provides resistance just by you moving around, you can train your core muscles without even necessarily targeting them in your workouts.
Aquatic exercises are great for injured athletes or people with physical disabilities because of how low impact they are. For instance, water jogging is a common exercise that injured runners, weightlifters, and cyclists do to ease their way back into their normal capacity. And since water increases hydrostatic pressure in the body, it can help injuries heal faster by stimulating blood flow.
Therefore, a hobby like snorkeling provides numerous benefits for all, even the elderly or injured. If you felt that these tips weren’t helpful enough, you may be interested in reading our advanced snorkeling tips – we promise that even a seasoned snorkeler like yourself will learn something new.