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10 swimming pool games that are sneaky ways to squeeze in a workout


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Photo: Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill

Swimming laps is a fabulous, high-intensity, low-impact workout, plus a super-effective form of cardio. Still, logging time looping back and forth can get boring and tedious after a while.

Fortunately, there are other ways to get your fitness fix in the water—without even realizing you’re doing it. I’m talking about pool games, people.

Below are 10 aquatic activities that can keep you entertained and moving. Some games can be done solo, while you’ll need to grab your fitfam (or regular fam) for others.

1. Long-jump

For a full-body strength workout, try a long-jump contest. You can play this game solo—aiming for personal records—or compete against a friend. Stand on the edge of the pool. Trying different techniques, such as a squat jump or a doing a lunge in the air by pushing off with one foot, see how far you can launch yourself into the water.

2. Cannonballs

This one is another jumping contest, but this time, you’re going to see who can make the biggest splash by jumping in cannonball style. To perform a cannon ball, jump into the pool with knees bent and tucked up towards the chest; wrap your arms around your shins to stay in a ball. Variation: the can opener. To perform a can opener, hold one leg up to the chest and let the other leg hang straight down as you jump. For the biggest splash, lean slightly backwards in the air. (Careful not to hit your head on the pool deck by leaning back too far.)

3. Lap races

Kind of a no-brainer, but if you’re all alone and tired of swimming laps, then try timing yourself to beat your personal record. You can race yourself or others trying out different strokes. Try the classics like freestyle, breast stroke, backstroke, and butterfly. You can try high-efficiency strokes such as sidestroke, and elementary backstroke.

4. Floating object push races

Grab any floating objects such as a beach ball, kick board, or flamingo float. Swim and push the object ahead of you. First person to reach the wall at the opposite end of the pool wins.

5. Raft, inner tube, or pool noodle races

Everyone grab a floatation device and hop on! Then race each other from one end of the pool to the other by paddling, kicking, or perhaps, perfecting your high-knee technique if the what’s shallow enough.

6. Marco Polo

This is basically tag in the pool, with some fun variations. This person who is “it” must keep their eyes closed. They have to locate someone to tag by yelling, “Marco” and everyone else in the game responds with, “Polo.” First person to get tagged is “it” for the next round.

7. Octopus

Here’s another variation on tag. The person who is “it” starts in the center of the pool, while everyone else tries to swim from one end of the pool to the other without getting tagged. If you get tagged, you are also “it.” Those who are “it” all hold hands and create an ever-growing blockade across the pool until all players are tagged. The last person to be tagged wins.

8. Treasure hunt

This one can be done solo or with friends. Toss some coins into the pool and dive to the bottom to retrieve them. See how many coins you can pick up without surfacing for a breath. Variation with friends: Scavenger Hunt. Litter the pool with as many objects as desired. This can be a combination of floating objects like kickboards, or sinking objects like diving rings. Whoever gathers the most objects wins.

9. Chicken fights

Definitely one for the older kids or adults, chicken fighting is basically water wrestling with the added twist that the wrestlers are perched on top of other peoples’ shoulders. To play, you need four people divided into two teams of two people. One person from each team climbs onto his or her teammate’s shoulders. The people who are sitting on shoulders then wrestle each other. The object is to knock the opponent off their teammate’s shoulders and into the pool. This game can obviously get a bit rough and dangerous without some decent ground rules for safety, so make sure you set them in advance.

10. Keep away

A sponge ball is a great pool accessory, but any ball or soft toy will do for this game. This keep away game, AKA Monkey in the Middle, is the same game you’d play on land. However, trying to run toward and away from each other to get or keep the ball away is an added challenge with the resistance of the water. Great exercise!

When you’re packing your pool bag, make sure to include lots of natural sunscreen and a swimsuit you can actually be active while wearing

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