Wednesday Workout: Snowmaking-Pond Swimming with Andy Newell

BrainspiralAugust 6, 20145
Open-water swimming: turn a dip into a workout. Andy Newell recently blogged about his "stay-cation" in Vermont, which included an evening swim with Erika Flowers (pictured above) in North Burlington. (Photo: Andy Newell/
Open-water swimming: turn a dip into a workout. Andy Newell recently blogged about his “stay-cation” in Vermont, which included an evening swim with Erika Flowers (pictured above) in North Burlington. (Photo: Andy Newell/

When the weather gets hot, Andy Newell goes for a swim in Stratton’s snowmaking pond — and a couple times a month he makes a workout out of it.

We should expect nothing less from the 12-and-under Vermont state swim champion, now a veteran U.S. Ski Team sprinter.

Andy Newell by the water in Bend, Ore. (Photo: Andy Newell/
Andy Newell by the water in Bend, Ore. (Photo: Andy Newell/

“It’s great if you need to rest the legs a little bit from impact or if you have some kind of injury,” Newell wrote in an email, a little over a month after recovering a back injury. “Or if you want to get a break from the heat and humidity.”

Those of us not on a full-time training regimen are usually trying to escape the latter: the dog days of summer that make us suckers for AC.

Rather than hop in an indoor or outdoor pool, Newell recommends open-water swimming. For the calorie-conscious, it’s more work swimming in variable water, especially against a current (but we recommend calm lakes or ponds over rivers and oceans for safety reasons).

“I always do open-water swimming because it’s way more exciting,” Newell explained. “We have a great spot for it here at the Stratton snow making pond. The water is nice and clear and it’s big enough to keep it interesting. Down and back is about .5 miles or you can swim loops of you don’t mind always turning.”

Rather than go for distance, swim for a set amount of time. Newell usually goes for an hour.

“Any longer it starts to get tiring,” he explained. “Often I will bring my surf board down to the pond, or you could use a stand up paddle, and I do the remainder of the workout paddling. It’s a pretty fun workout for the summer.”

In terms of tips, he recommends the following:

  • Wearing a wet suit can make long-distance, open-water swimming a little easier (and less scary since you’re more buoyant).
  • Use goggles. Clear are best.
  • Breathe often. Newell alternates sides, breathing every other stroke. “A lot of the time people don’t breath enough especially people who aren’t strong swimmers so they get claustrophobic,” he explained. “It won’t slow you down that much to breath more.”
  • Keep the elbows high and think about long, full-body pulls in the water.
  • For open-water swimming, use the shoreline when you breathe to make sure you’re going straight. No need to keep popping your head up.
  • FS extra: Opt for non-motorized bodies of water if possible. Stay close to shore and swim early if that’s not possible.

In terms of stroke, pick whichever you feel most comfortable with. Most people pick freestyle, but swimming breaststroke for an hour will burn a similar amount of calories as a fast freestyle workout, according to Backstroke is equivalent to a slower freestyle, and butterfly is the “king of calorie-burning swimming workouts,” Active editor Ryan Wood writes.

Here are two workouts from Active:

30-minute swim for distance:

Try to cover as much distance as possible in 30 minutes. Compare between workouts and try to go farther on the same course (or do more laps in the pool).

Mix it up with a main set:

(10-minute warm-up, 15-minute main set, 5-minute cool down)

Warm-up: 300 meters (choice): 5 minutes

4×50 kick/swim (butterfly, back, breast, free) @ 1:15

Main Set (with ladder):
400 @ 5:30
300 @ 4:45
200 @ 3:00
100 @ 1:30

Cool down:
300 meters (backstroke, breaststroke): 5 minutes


For more on non-specific ski training, like swimming, check out Matt Liebsch’s previous Wednesday Workout.

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  • tclaynm

    August 7, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    I’ve often wondered why we don’t hear more about xc skiers using swimming as a pretty serious training tool for the off-season. Swimming is so complimentary to xc skiing, not only for the physical aspect, but they also share many of the same technique skills and processes. So much of the core strength (and particular muscle groups) that is required for skiing is also required in swimming.

    Even just simply the kicking is very beneficial for core and xc specific workouts. I think the MasterSkier did have an article once by a coach from California who talked about the benefits of swimming for xc skiers, but that is the only thing I’ve seen published until this article from FS. Interesting.

  • nordic_dave

    August 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I’m pretty sure more Vasa trainers are sold to swim teams than ski teams. Swimming is a quadrapedial cardiovascular sport so is cross country skiing. Last year there was a great coach from USA Swimming who spoke for a few days at the USSA Coaches conference. He was in charge of the top end junior developing swimmers. We learned a lot from Jack on a variety of topics.

    Coincedently I am doing a 5k open water swim tomorrow, I have swam a total of 5 times this year, lord help me, praying that the roller skiing pays off 🙂

    Cheers, ND

  • tclaynm

    August 8, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Awesome, nordic_dave! Best of luck. Yeah, I do a lot of open-water swimming in the summer to stay in “quadrupedal” shape. It also is something I can work into my life, since the family likes going to the local lakes for an entire day, or weekend camp out, where I can easily find the time to put in a good, solid one-hour swim. I always seem to hit the Nordic season ahead of some much more serious masters who have spent countless hours roller-skiing. I use the swimming for the fitness, and the roller-skiing only in the fall for xc-specific technique work.

    Anyway, there is NO doubt that swimming has some pretty amazing cross-over benefits…

  • Carol Newell

    August 10, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Hey- Andy’s mom here. I love open water swimming too, and train for triathlons in Rangeley Lake in Maine, or in the Stratton snow making pond with Andy. My pool workouts are often with a Master’s swimming group, which makes training more fun….seek one out in your area. In open water, my husband generally kayaks alongside when I cross the lake, but I just got a visible buoy from Keifer for when I swim alone. Even though I usually wear a yellow cap, I still worry about boats on my swims along the shoreline. The buoy floats along….bright orange…can’t miss it. I highly recommend it. Swim on—Ski on!

  • nordic_dave

    August 12, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Carol, I will send Andy an email depicting what happened in my race. SOO glad to have that one done. A mile swim is more my level of cross training.

    Cross training with swimming is great thing for nordic skiers to do for a variety of reasons.


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