Fit to Lifeguard: Staying in Shape for Peak Performance

staying in shape for peak performance

Lifeguarding is a physically demanding job. You have to be on your feet for most of the day often in hot weather conditions, and you need to be ready to spring into action at any moment. It might seem like all the hard work is behind you after lifeguard training and receiving your licence, but a lot of discipline and commitment is required once qualified. Lifeguards need to stay in shape to perform their jobs effectively every day. Here are some lifeguard exercise tips to keep yourself in peak condition for the job.


Lifeguard Training Exercises

Lifeguards should train regularly before and after hours at their pools, water parks or beaches. Everyone is different, so lifeguards need to find a workout routine that not only fits in with their commitments, but also one that they enjoy. They are then much more likely to keep their routines going for the longer-term.

Check out these different exercise options:


  • Swimming: If you are seeking a good workout swimming is the logical place to start. Being able to jump into the water and quickly swim to a person in distress is one of the most important responsibilities a lifeguard has. So, it’s essential you use the pool or beach regularly – and as a bonus, it’s free. Swimming is also an excellent total-body workout. Lifeguards can try a blend of swim training styles to stay fit. Sprint training, which means you will swim as fast as possible, helps you acquire the speed and technique you will need during an emergency in the water. Endurance swimming pushes you to improve your breathing and technique over longer periods. Make the effort to take a dip before or after your shift to get in some lengths0. You can also set aside time outside work to focus on swim training.


  • Running: Your job might not call for a ton of running, but if you work anywhere with shallow water, whether at a beach or pool, you may need to run through the water in the course of your job. Add running through shallow water to your exercise regimen to familiarize yourself with the extra work your leg muscles will need to do. As an exercise, jogging and sprinting can be excellent lifeguard physical training. Try to add a 30-minute run at 75-85% of your maximum heart rate to your routine 2 or 3 times a week. You can also try short 15-30 second sprints. Running on land will help improve your cardiovascular endurance in the water. Running is an excellent cardio workout. It helps improve breath control and lung capacity, both vital to being a lifeguard. If you’re a beach lifeguard, running on the sand adds an extra challenge. The soft sand will shift under your feet and push your leg muscles to work harder to pump and maintain overall balance.


  • Extrication exercises: Extrication refers to the actions lifeguards need to take when recovering a casualty from the water. Extrication is one of the most important exercises for lifeguards because it’s potentially lifesaving. This type of exercise often requires more than one lifeguard, and so can facilitate effective teamworking. You can do extrication drills using equipment like rescue tubes and rescue boards. These drills are designed to get lifeguards comfortable and efficient with the equipment. One lifeguard plays the role of a swimmer in distress, while one or more practice quickly reaching the person and towing them across the pool to safety. Time how long each exercise takes and work to improve that time. For example, see if you can reach a person 10 metres from the side of the pool within 10 seconds, and then tow them to a point of safety within 20 seconds.


  • On-land muscle training: Aside from running and using a rowing machine at the gym, there are plenty of other exercises lifeguards can do outside of the waterCompound exercises, those that work multiple different groups of muscles at the same time, are a powerful tool for staying fit. Some compound exercises for lifeguards include planks, which work your core, arm and leg muscles, and tower stretches, which work your triceps, deltoids and rotator cuffs. A plank involves holding your body in the top of a push-up position with a straight back. Or, try tower stretches with resistance bands. Stand on a band and lift both sides with your hands. Repeat several reps to work your shoulder muscles.


  • Rowing: Rowing is a vital lifeguard workout for anyone who works on a natural body of water, whether a lake or the ocean. That kind of lifeguarding role might require you to use a rowboat to reach a person in distress. Even if you work at an indoor pool, rowing can a be a fantastic way to stay in shape. This exercise provides a strenuous cardio workout and improves your upper-body strength. If you have access to a boat at your job you can do drills in the boat. If you don’t have access to a boat, you can find the same benefits on a rowing machine at a gym. If you are looking for a light rowing machine warm-up, aim for three-minute repetitions with 16-18 strokes per minute. For a more strenuous workout, increase the time and speed. Aim for 17-18 minutes with 26-28 strokes per minute.


It’s important to stay in shape as a lifeguard because the job can put demands on pretty much your entire body: when choosing exercises think about the whole body – core, back, arm, and leg muscles are all important. Staying in shape has plenty of benefits for everyone. Physical fitness means your overall health is better, plus you will enjoy an improved sleep schedule, less time being sick, decreased stress and general well-being. But, for lifeguards, staying fit is part of the job. Lifeguards can spend long hours standing, often in extremely hot conditions.


In case of an emergency at the pool or in open water, the lifeguards on duty needs to respond effectively. That means getting to the casualty quickly, and in a worse-case scenario, possessing the physical fitness to administering CPR for several minutes before the emergency services arrive on scene. In an emergency, there is little room for error. Lifeguards need strength, coordination and endurance to perform their most important job function: saving lives and keeping people safe. Find more information about lifeguard training. 

luke cunningham managing director at blue guard

Luke Cunningham

Co-Founder & Managing Director