Swim and Trim: HIIT Water Workout

Welcome Hong Kong summer! Come May the weather begins to hot up and working out outside can get a bit steamy too. A dip in the water to tone and trim seems like a great way to make the most of our semi-tropical climate and get fit at the same time. What’s more, all the pools in Hong Kong are now officially open, which means if you’ve got facilities to dive into, there’s no excuse to miss a workout.

The great thing about swimming is that it ticks a ton of boxes at the same time. It’s low impact, so perfect for those with joint issues. It can offer a great cardio workout and it also uses resistance through the water to increase muscle endurance.

Since a lot of my clients have mentioned swimming as their go-to cardio activity of choice this week I thought I’d give you all a quick HIIT workout for the water that can be added to any weekly fitness routine to blast fat. What’s more because HIIT workouts have a shorter duration than traditional cardio it’s great for busy people who just don’t have the time to work out for longer periods. The catch? You have to work HARD for those short bursts to make this effective. So bring your A game peeps.


High Intensity Interval Training is proven to be one of the most efficient ways to burn calories. Through short periods of intense exercise, interspersed with longer periods of low intensity exercise, the body gets a real metabolism boost. When you do steady state cardio (like swimming laps for an hour) you burn calories for that hour. But with HIIT, you continue to burn calories for up to 72 hours afterwards. What’s more it’s proven to be a more effective tool for burning fat than steady state cardio (although both have their place in any fitness program).

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The Swim and Trim HIIT workout

Warm up: Swim a couple of laps at a slow pace, you should feel like you can sustain this pace for a long period and be relatively comfortable.

Sprint: Use freestyle stroke to power through the water as fast as you can for 30 seconds.

Low Intensity: Take the pace down and change your stroke if you prefer to a lower intensity stroke such as breaststroke. If you’re a beginner keep the low intensity pace for 90 seconds, before sprinting again for 30 seconds.  If you’re looking for more challenge, keep the rest period to 45s – 60s in between sprints.

You can play with the rest times and sprint times to suit your level of fitness. What you’re aiming for is to feel totally blasted after the sprint, but recovered by the time the next sprint comes around so you can give it your all. If you’re still puffing after 60s rest or 90s rest, extend your rest period. If you find the sprints too easy, increase the pace or the time slightly.

Keep cycling through sprints and rest for 15-20 minutes.

For extra credit:

If you really want to whack up the fat burn, steady state cardio after HIIT is thought to help eliminate the fat that’s released into the blood stream during the HIIT portion of the workout, by burning it off. So follow your HIIT swim with a slow and steady swim to increase burn.

If you choose to add steady state swimming afterwards, aim for an additional 15-20 minutes. Your total workout shouldn’t be longer than 40 minutes.

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You can do this workout 3-4 times per week or use it as a cardio day with other types of workout. Happy swimming!

Looking for a good public pool? Hong Kong has tons to choose from. You can find the schedules for the public swimming pools listed here.

Elle Kealy is an international business coach for fitness health and wellness professionals looking to launch their businesses with a bang and women’s fitness expert, personal trainer and nutrition coach helping women around the world eat better and feel fantastic in just 90 days or less. For more information on working with Elle visit


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