Swim Challenge | Everything You Need to Know

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The PATHFINDER Swim Challenge is a Life, Forward, Endure, and Advanced approved Challenge option meant to support and improve the cardiovascular needs of ruck athletes. Swimming is a low-intensity cardio option that also helps increase overall lung capacity and naturally increases shoulder, arm, core, and leg strength through water resistance.

Challenge Purpose

  • The PATHFINDER Swim Challenge is designed to train your body through alternative complementary cross-training to improve your overall rucking performance.
  • We realize many people may not be comfortable swimmers, which is why we highly suggest you use common sense and please read the entire document.
  • Swimming has been shown to improve the volume of swimmer's lungs in a 2015 study. The study compared how much air swimmers’ lungs could hold compared to sedentary control subjects and elite football players.
  • PATHFINDER Life, Forward, Endure, and Advanced all have the same requirements for this Challenge.
  • Swim according to your ability. If you're new to swimming, take it slowly. If you're a competent swimmer and already include it as part of your weekly training, continue with your training/time/distance parameters.
  • The goal of this Challenge is also to create and build competency to complete the PATHFINDER Triathlon as written.

Challenge Parameters


  • The entire PATHFINDER Swim Challenge should be conducted in a safe body of water. Always swim with a lifeguard present. 
  • The Challenge is to be completed over 6 weeks with six 20-minute+ swims. The swims can be completed at any point over the six-week period. You may swim longer than 20 minutes and more frequently than just six times. Our preference is for weekly swims to build consistency, but there are many reasons to have, for instance, a week of swims.
  • We highly encourage rosters to increase their swimming volume and frequency week over week. For instance, if you're just getting back into swimming, go slow and focus on short distances. As you get stronger over time, you'll notice you're able to swim further and faster.
  • All strokes are permitted, however we highly recommend our rosters utilize the freestyle swim technique. If you are unfamiliar with it, or need a brush up, please watch the following:

    • This really should go without saying, but
      • Do not hold your breath for extended periods of time.
      • Do not dive into shallow water.
    • This Challenge is not permitted in the ocean.

    Challenge Distance Requirements

    • Program completion is by time only. There are no distance requirements.

    Challenge Time Requirements

    • The roster must complete six (6) swims @ 20 minutes in length.

      What kind of swim workout should I follow?

      Sample Pool Workout - Novice

      • Swim 2 x 25 yds with kickboard. Take up to 1:00 of rest in between each lap.
      • Swim 2 x 25 yds with pull buoy. Take up to 1:00 of rest between each lap.
      • Swim 2 x 25 yds easy, choice of stroke. Take up to 1:00 of rest between each lap.
      • Repeat sequence 3-4 times.

      Sample Pool Workout - Beginners

      • Swim 4 x 25 yds at easy pace. Take up to :30 seconds of rest in between each lap.
      • Swim 5 x 50 yds, freestyle, easy pace. Rest up to :30 seconds in between each 50yd interval.
      • Swim 5 x 50yds with pull buoy or hand paddles. Rest up to :30 seconds between each interval.
      • Swim 3 x 100yds with kickboard. Rest up to :15 seconds between each interval.

      Sample Pool Workout - Intermediate+ Swimmers

      • Swim 4 x 25 yds at easy pace. Take up to :20 seconds of rest in between each lap.
      • 100 yd freestyle. Rest :20 seconds.
      • 4 x 25 yd intervals, each intervals building pace. Rest :30 seconds
      • 4 x 25yd single arm drills with kickboard. Alternate arms per interval. Rest :30 seconds
      • 100 yd pull buoy. Rest :30 seconds
      • 4 x 25yd dolphin kick drill
      • 100 yd freestyle swim, fast pace
      • 100 yd freestyle swim, easy cool-down pace

      Looking for more swim workouts? Check out U.S. Master's Best Swimming Workouts for Beginners and there are a bunch of beginner, intermediate, and advanced level swim workouts at Sport Fitness Advisor, located halfway down the page.

      I'm new to lane swimming. How do I start?

      Getting acquainted with the pool and learning a few useful pool etiquette tips is your first step. First, make sure you're swimming in the lane right for your skillset. Sometimes there are signs designating lanes, but if you're not sure, ask a lifeguard or pool management.

      Next, make sure that if the lane is occupied by another swimmer, you let them know you'd like to swim in. The best way to do that is to sit with your legs hanging in the water off the pool deck. When the lane-share swimmer surfaces, ask if you can swim in, and if they'd like to circle swim or stay in their lane half. (Circle swim is usually counterclockwise per lane.) 

      This is an excellent overview with step-by-step instructions for the very best experience lane swimming for adult beginner swimmers:

      It's been a while since I've been in the water. What do you recommend?

      We found this excellent video on making your swimming comeback. This is especially pertinent if you had been a swimmer for a while and are interested in getting back into it now that it's a PATHFINDER Challenge option.

      Does a 20-Minute Swim Count as a Workout?

      No, it does not. You will either need to continue on for 45 minutes, or pick another activity for the remaining time that day for your swim to count as both credit towards your Challenge AND a workout credit.

      Remember - 20 minutes is this Challenge's minimum credited time. We have intentionally kept the time length brief for this multi-day Challenge short to make it accessible to the largest number of PATHFINDER rosters. #CTHT

      Challenge Restrictions

        • YOU MUST COMPLY WITH ALL APPLICABLE LAWS AND RESTRICTIONS. DO NOT TRESPASS. If you are in doubt contact facility management for a clear understanding of access to and usage of any facility’s property. PATHFINDER assumes no liability whatsoever for any actions taken by a PATHFINDER roster.

        PATHFINDER assumes no responsibility or liability for any injuries, damages or death. A roster assumes all risk associated with their participation in any and all PATHFINDER programming.


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