Swimming for Runners 101

Under strict instructions from my sports massage therapist, I have taken up swimming. I do it with the attitude of a sullen thirteen year-old, but I do it nonetheless. Given that I am a newbie to ‘proper’ swimming, it’s been a steep learning curve, and I thought I’d share my findings with you.

General Facts I’ve Learnt

1. You sweat when you swim. For many years no-one was quite sure about this, but now we know. This means you need to hydrate properly, as you would before/during/after a run. (Side note- it kind of grosses me out to think you’re swimming in other people’s sweat!)

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2. You need to stretch. Because swimming is zero impact, and never feels too difficult, I conveniently chose to ignore stretching. I now have a very sore neck and back. Here are some good stretches for swim workouts.
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3. Breathing is very important! It’s hard to get the rhythm of breathing right, but in crawl, I’ve learnt to breathe every third breath; this means avoiding shoulder imbalances that would be caused by breathing on even strokes.
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Training for Runners
1. Sprints
  • (e.g. Warm up: 100m easy; followed by 100m fast, 50m easy; repeat, and then cool down; 100m easy.)
  • Comparable to a track session; great for speed and cardiovascular training.
2. Distance
  • (e.g. 20×25 at a medium effort, followed by 2 min rest. Repeat!)
  • Good for building endurance, much like a Long Slow Distance run.
  • You only need to swim a quarter of the distance you would cover on the road to get an equivalent workout.
3. Deep Water Running 
  • Pretty much what it sounds like. Running, but in water.
  • Make this equivalent to your runs by matching time, not distance. For instance if a 6 mile run would take you an hour, run for an hour in the pool.
  • You need an Aqua Jogger belt for this, to allow you to float in the deep end. Whilst you can practice deep water running in the shallow end, this still has some impact on your legs and therefore isn’t as beneficial.

I may post more about swimming in the future as I continue my foray into the sport. Although I bitch and moan my way through most of my swim workouts, I’m starting to appreciate that swimming, along with other activities such as yoga and cycling, is making me a more well-rounded athlete, and I can only be grateful for that.

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That’s all for now folks! Do you have any tips you’d give to a runner-turned-reluctant-swimmer like myself? 
Lots of love
Pippa
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11 thoughts on “Swimming for Runners 101

  1. Swimming is hard and aqua jogging is no joke. After a stress fracture last year, I took to the pool until I could handle stair climbing and cycling. My daughter is a competitive swimmer, so she gave me alot of unsolicited advice on my form. Having access to swim coaches is really helpful. I did a couple of form-check lessons with one of her coaches to nip any bad habits early. While being injured was no fun, swimming can be done well beyond my running years…so it was good to get some swim experience under the belt.

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    1. Swimming is such an intense workout- you’re right! I haven’t done deep water running yet since I don’t have the confidence yet to do it and have people maybe look at me like a weirdo! I may try to find a swim coach, or informally ask someone about my technique. I spent a lot of time on Youtube figuring it out, and I can definitely feel my crawl getting stronger! The only thing that sucks about swimming is I generally avoid it when I’m coming down with a cold (as I am right now) so I’m missing workouts!

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  2. This was really useful as someone who’s using swimming as cross training to build fitness while recovering from a running injury. The long and slow I can do but I never thought about speed sessions in the pool before, time for a new challenge!

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  3. Ok that sweat thing is super gross and really makes me appreciate all the chlorine they pump into the pool and make me want to vomit a little when i think about swallowing pool water accidently.

    Swimming is no joke. 2 laps at half to 3/4 speed and i am dying. i really need to work on my stamina in the pool.

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  4. Hi Pippa. As someone who battles between wanting to swim and run I found this interesting. I love swimming, possibly a bit more than I love running but it’s close.

    Couple of bits I would add in to this

    1) Vary your workout. The same way runners don’t run the same routes week in week out, you shouldn’t swim the same sessions either. I use Swimplanner.com to come up with new training schedules for me. It uses time trial results to set you drills and core sessions and you can set the length of time you have to train e.g. 30-45 mins or 45-60 mins.

    2) time trials. It’s unlikely that a casual, cross training swimmer will enter any races so it’s important to bench mark against yourself. Chose a distance, stretch, get warmed up and swim it to your max. I usually do 400m, 1000m and 1600m to get a good cross section of performance.

    3) kit. Spend a bit more on some decent kit. The same as running. You can’t expect a mile in the pool to be any kind of fun if you’re swimming in baggy swim shorts (lads) or if you’re constantly adjusting a bikini (lasses, or lads). Also a kick float will give your hip flexors and hammys the best workout you can imagine. Don’t expect to be able to do more than 25m for the first few goes though. It’s surprising how weak our leg muscles are considering we’re runners. And for God sake, get decent goggles that don’t leak or steam up.

    4) watch videos of stroke technique and replicate where you can in the pool. Like running it’s hard to fix bad habits and they start to form quickly!

    5) if you can partner with a buddy then great but it’s easier I find to swim alone. You chat less and your rests between efforts are shorter meaning you’ll push yourself.

    Sorry, I’ve rambled a bit but it’s an awesome way of working out. I took nearly a year out of running and swam instead. I only lost 1 minute over 5km distance during that year because of the leg training, core work and effects on the cardiovascular system.

    Jake

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    1. Thank you for such a detailed response! I definitely need to buy some new goggles since mine piss me off- they’re absolutely useless! Also I spent quite a lot of time on youtube looking at stroke- I might not have the best technique but at least I know what it should look like!

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      1. Nice one. I can recommend Speedo Bio Fuse, had mine 2 years and have only just started fogging up. I wish I could swim more but a work out takes a minimum of an hour plus travel time and it’s just not feasible.

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