With the Olympics streaming live on websites all over the world, many of us are watching athletes like Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, and Missy Franklin with astonishment as their jaw dropping hard bodies flit across the screen. It is nearly impossible to not wonder how their bodies are so in shape and how they have managed to stay in shape. Some might be inspired to compete in future Olympics, others might just want to know how to get those abs. Below are a few ways that non-professional swimmers can use this aquatic sport to get a great, toned, kick-butt body.

Swimming is a great alternative to running or jogging for an excellent, heart pumping cardiovascular workout. It will tone your arms, legs, and core, and because you’re in the water, you won’t even notice how much you are really sweating. But it is still important to know the basics of swimming as a way to stay fit.

Make sure you have the right equipment – a cap to control your hair, goggles to see, sunscreen if you’re using an outdoor pool, and a kickboard to help you work on your stroke. It’s also important to use a lap pool which is better suited to your needs than a play pool. Consider investing in some lessons to hone your form. Like any exercise routine, bad habits can lead to painful, long term injuries.

Always warm up before you start swimming. Do some basic laps in the freestyle stroke to make sure your goggles are on correctly and your cap is secure. Be sure to do at least four easy laps like this to get used to being in the water and getting control over your limbs. Next do some kicking laps to boost your heart rate and loosen up your body.

For the main part of your workout, try dividing your program into sets of laps – choose the kind of stroke you will do, do four laps like that, and then switch. Get progressively faster with each lap and then start from the beginning when you chance strokes. You should also try running some drills to make your stroke cleaner, sleeker, and more effective for toning your body. This is where a kickboard can come in very handy. Use the kickboard to focus on just your kicks.

If you find freestyle kicking to be mind-numbingly boring (especially common among bikers and runners), add some flippers to your mix and bring the kickboard back out. With your arms fully extended, kick yourself down the lane. Notice your speed compared to being barefoot.

When working on your breaststroke, don’t forget to let yourself glide- it’s an important part of the routine. This is another good time for the kickboard because you can focus on doing your frog like kick without working about your arms. Keep things interesting by mixing them up! If you do the same routine every time you swim you are doing yourself a disservice, both in effectiveness and entertainment. Don’t forget – variety is the spice of life.

We hope these techniques help inspire you to get in the pool! What are some of your favorite workouts to do? Let us know in the comments!