My Firsts, running

My First Time: Swim Training

The whole idea of swimming as exercise never appealed to me.

I love being in the water, especially the sea, but I never fancied the idea of Swimming as Exercise. You have to get wet and cold; you risk picking up a virus, you have to be half naked in front of a load of strangers, and you smell of chlorine for hours afterwards, even after showering. A big pile of nope.

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Nonetheless, I received a plea from my sports massage therapist when I text him an update on my injury (could barely walk, cramp and ‘tearing’ pain in my left arch). For the love of God, he said, please swim. He could do everything in his power, but it was worthless if I refused to rest. As in, no running, no cycling, no gym (which I had sneakily tried to get away with against his advice). Yoga, swimming or bust. It had to be swimming if I wanted to maintain fitness for my Half Marathon.

And so I decided to make myself like swimming. Or at least try. I told everyone in the office I was heading to the pool that night, to give myself some accountability, then I set off with a sense of dread and incredibly low expectations. My biggest concern was that I didn’t know if I could swim properly, meaning with any form of efficiency or elegance. Backstroke was my stroke of choice in my school days, but that was hardly practical in the shared lane of a public pool. I hadn’t swum crawl in years, and was convinced that I would flounder around like a baby elephant if I even tried.


The commute was shit: full of passive aggressive Londoners, leaving my nerves a little bit frayed by the time I reached the leisure centre. Swimming had better work on me like running does, I thought.


I got lost en route to the changing rooms. Great start. I eventually found my way and slowly got changed, procrastinating all the while. Everything felt very foreign: I felt exposed in my swimsuit, and I wasn’t sure I could do this. I got to the pool and put on my goggles, but they snapped immediately. Shit. So I eschewed self-consciousness and strode to reception in my half naked state, brandishing a ten pound note at the receptionist until I got some swimming goggles. (It didn’t go down quite like that, but I essentially had to hover by her till she noticed me- I didn’t want to go round to the entrance in my swimsuit!) Goggles bought, I finally made it into the water, a good half an hour behind schedule.

Expectations were low; my aim was to swim for an hour, although I’d settle for half an hour if it was really tough. After 25 laps of easy breaststroke, I decided to take the plunge and switch to crawl. It was hard. My body couldn’t remember how to coordinate itself, and I felt like a lumbering bear, struggling to sync my breathing and stroke. As I stopped to take one of many breaks I asked myself why the fuck anyone would do this.

It’s just as bad as… well… running.

And then I remembered, this is how running felt at first; awkward, uncoordinated and all bit foreign. But I got better with practice, and running gradually got easier until it became second nature. So of course, I persevered. Whenever anyone asks me about taking up running, I always say there’s a stage at the start when you’re a bit shit and running is really hard. But get past that, and you’ll make huge strides (pun intended). I decided that it had to be the same with my new water-based cardio.


Does anyone watch Scandal? Olivia Pope is an all-round badass, and she swims. So I channelled her for 10 laps or so. Then I thought about Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. He has an amazing body, so I thought, maybe swimming is a good workout after all. Then I just thought about his abs for a few lengths. A few happy lengths.

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Thankfully I’d been right about swimming: it did get easier. I got used to regulating my breathing and figured out my centre of gravity so I could float better and swim more efficiently. I even got my arms working hard, and every once in a while would manage to speed ahead and overtake other swimmers in my lane. My form was by no means optimal, but as I looked around at other swimmers, I realised that theirs wasn’t either. And after all, if the swimming pool is where they send injured athletes, it must be pretty hard to do any serious damage.

I finished up with a final 25 laps, alternating between breast stroke and front crawl. This combination definitely worked better, as I could push during crawl, and recover with breast stroke. All in all, I swam 76 laps, an equal split of both strokes, in 90 minutes. Not bad for a first timer. I got home and ate pretty much all the egg-fried rice I could find. What is it about swimming that makes you so hungry?

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What I wish I’d known

I did a shit ton of research on swimming workouts for runners. So much in fact that it merits its own post. Keep an eye out for a it next week!

  • Swimming is great for active recovery- recovery can be improved by up to 14% when swimming is incorporated into an active recovery routine.
  • It will take a while to get used to the act of swimming, even if you have a good level of fitness.
  • Be well prepared- definitely get a swimming cap and a good pair of goggles if you want to do it properly
  • There are three main workouts- more information to follow:
    1. Sprints (for speed)
    2. Distance (for endurance)
    3. Deep water running (for whatever you want)
  • If swimming crawl, breathe every third stroke. If you breathe on even strokes, you may develop imbalances from only lifting your head out of the water on one side.
  • It gets easier! I now drag my ass to the pool with considerably less dread than previously.

Do you incorporate swimming into your training? Any tips? And can someone tell me why swimming hanger is so intense?!

Lots of love



16 thoughts on “My First Time: Swim Training”

  1. I don’t know why simming hanger is so intense, but I totally get that too. I think some people say it has to do with the way the body metabolises in colder water, making the exertion feel like more? Or the way the body works, it doesn’t shut down the bowels like running does?
    Either way, I liked your description of the first swimming strokes to the first running steps. It is very similar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! I do feel that now (I think I’ve been ‘proper’ swimming 4 times now) I’m getting the hang of it. By length 50 my stroke seems to be slightly more coordinated. I guess it’s just one of those things! I’m incredibly grateful for the persistence running has given me- I would have just abandoned swimming really easily a few years ago!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I swim too and find it makes my body feel great the day after running. I watched YouTube videos to figure out how to move and now I’m breathing every third stroke, like you mentioned. I do smell like the pool all day but I’m getting used to that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a lot of laps, I think swimming is one of the hardest sports because until the technique is spot on it’s really hard work on your lungs !!! Well done, I’ve never managed to crock front crawl so hats off to you

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Trust me I’ve been researching tris! The thing that puts me off is that the swim start is meant to be chaotic, bodies flailing around everywhere, kicking eachother in the face 😛 Not sure I’m there yet. But believe me I’m tempted! I’m still not 100% loving swimming, but I’m determined to stick with it for the foreseeable future until my injury improves. Running has really given me the persistence to see things through, which I’m very grateful for.


  4. Great job! I love to swim, but have kind of gotten creeped out this year about the pee I the pool. I heard on the radio that the stinging you get in your eyes is die to the urine not the chlorine!! Haven’t been swimming all year since I heard that!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well I think you’ll be in a better pool situation than me. Sounds like your pool is mostly for people who want to swim laps. My pool is for kids….then there is one lane on the side for laps.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My sentiments for swimming are quite similar. I swam in high school because I got injured during cross country, it was awful. But like you said you get used to it. I haven’t swam in a quite some time. but I know it really helps with maintaining your cardio for running. I also like it because it is a pretty mindful exercise in my opinion. Since you’re under the water you have to be mindful of rhythm and when to take a breath. It’s all feel, since you can’t see your pace like running. So its good mental practice as well. Hope you’re starting to enjoy it! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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