How Can Swimming Benefit Runners?

by Jim Richardson | Last Updated: October 28, 2020

Being a runner, you’re probably focused on training for your next race by clocking up miles, but should you consider spending some time in the pool? Research has shown that swimming is one of the most effective cross-training workouts for runners, improving their fitness with a low impact sport which is great for recovery.

Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

‘I started swimming again when I was considering doing a Triathlon’ explains Jason Scott, a runner who recently discovered the benefits of swimming.

‘What I didn’t expect was the boost that swimming gave my running. It increased my endurance, gave me better oxygen capacity and has reduced my injuries’.

How swimming helps runners? 
Swimming can improve a runners performance in a number of ways:

When you’re running you probably don’t think too much about how you breathe, but better breathing equals better performance, because it means more oxygen for your muscles.

Swimming teaches you that there is a real skill to breathing while maintaining perfect form and maximum exertion. You need to breath in rhythmic cycles in time with your body rotation and stroke pattern.

While you can read about how to do this, you might want to consider some kind of lessons or joining a swimming club.

Take the time to learn rhythmic breathing in the pool and you’ll soon see results on the track.    

Helps you to balance yourself
Balancing yourself is one of the most significant aspects of running. And guess what? Swimming lets you achieve exactly this goal. Swimming is perhaps one of the best complements to body building and weight lifting. It plays a vital role in increasing the strength of your upper body.

Now, most runners do require this upper body strength, without incurring any additional stress and one of the best ways to achieve this is by swimming. Unlike the tedious aerobic exercises, this is one fitness regime that will not merely pull in your energy, but will also ensure that you are relaxed and you enjoy doing this all way round.

Just like the upper body fitness regimes that allow the cyclists to get better control of their bikes, as a runner, you will get to control your stride better, with swimming. You will be well balanced as you run and your body too will be fit and active all way round.

The key to being a successful runner is complete and consistent flexibility. Irrespective of your pace and skills, you can never master the varying running techniques unless you are flexible enough, and swimming helps you exactly in this particular environment. Swimming will help you in developing both your upper and under-body level of flexibility.

As you kick properly, particularly with your fins, your ankles will be compelled to be tad more flexible. Your ligaments too will end up being stronger and your tendons will be designed to support stronger and heavier ankle movements. The flexors of your hip will gain better flexibility and you will enjoy the sport while also improving your overall level of running, at the same time.

Most coaches and swimming experts are of the opinion that owing to the sport’s heavy reliance on technique and skills, anyone with the knowledge and expertise of good technique will be able to out-perform a well-trained athlete owing to their exceptional abilities. The sport doesn’t take much time and all you need to do is be consistent. It is highly recommended that you learn a proper from via workshops, group lessons, individual lessons or clinics, if you are really willing to make swimming one of the most effective workouts.

Getting started with swimming
When it comes to swimming, the sport gives you the chance to enjoy way more variation, in terms of workouts, when compared to running. Based on what exactly you have decided to work on, you will have to follow a specific drill or technique. For instance, if you are willing to enjoy a good workout for your legs, try experimenting with various strokes. This can range between anything from breast, back or even freestyle. Owing to the pattern of your kicking, try targeting and engaging the various muscle groups.

Again, if you are trying to partake in a workout which will give your legs some rest, then you can always accommodate a session, that will leave your legs completely out of the equation. You can always place your legs while swimming, following only the pull movement. Here, you will be required to pull the legs right behind your body and in the process you won’t even have to try any active kicking.

Not only will it improve your pace, but at the same time, it will also help you to rest your legs, because during the process, it is only your upper body, which will be at work. You will therefore get a chance to focus completely on your deltoids, the trapezius and the lattissimus dorsi muscle groups.

Now, while swimming, once you have figured out the stroke of your preference, you can now focus on the intensity. If you are interested more in aerobic exercises, a good idea would be to swim along steady laps for a particular period of time. Again, if an-aerobic exercise is what you are vying for, try performing the pool sprints. This is not really different from the intervals you have performed on your running track as it will require you to surge for a specific distance. So, in this regard, if you are doing about ten sprints for fifty meter, while keeping a recovery of thirty seconds in between, you can slowly increase the number of intervals till you become really strong and comfortable with the exercise and its pattern.

Pool running
Besides running on track, running on the pool or aqua jogging is considered to be one of the best workouts for all running enthusiasts. It comes up with the best results, when you do it avoiding any impact. In other words, if you are an injured or an over-trained athlete, you can get some added mileage from this workout without affecting your legs or wearing them out. This can serve as one of the best breaks for your leg.

While performing this exercise, you can always use a pool running belt for staying afloat. The best part is, you will be able to do the same exercises that you would have done on road or track with this running belt. For instance, if you had planned for eight workouts of four hundred meters, and if you usually ran four hundred meters in ninety seconds, all that you need to do is surge in your pool for that particular amount of time. At the same time, if you are looking for a short and less tedious exercise, try jogging in the pool at a really relaxed pace for around thirty minutes. The best benefit of trying this workout is simply the fact that it gives you both the perks of aerobic and anaerobic workout while working on the same way in which running does.

The best part, however, is the fact that pool running will give you the rare chance of focusing on your form in a really slow motion. Now, owing to the resistance of the water, you will have better understanding about the position of your arms and legs, than you would have had while you practiced on dry land. Try to drive your knees and your arms, keep your shins engaged by placing your toes pointed in a forward direction. While you do this, utilize your lower back along the forward lean of your entire torso.

This will play a vital role in strengthening the different muscles that contribute to your good form. Likewise, it will also ensure that your body is well trained for internalizing what exactly it feels for having better and more efficient runs.

Flutter kicks
Flutter kicks too an excellent way to build the form that you need for running. It also plays a major role in helping you to build your abs. For this exercise, simply lie on your back.

Now while keeping your hand under your back, slowly start putting your legs a couple of inches above the ground. After this, make short motions of kicking like the way you do while swimming in a back-stretch style. Try this exercise 10-15 times, in set of 2-3. This will not only tone your thighs and tummy, but also build your ab muscles.

Dolphin kick
Building strong abdominal muscles are imperative for your overall running and fitness regime and one of the best ways to do this is by performing modified or supported dolphin kick. To perform this exercise, hold on to the edge of the pool wall and allow your body to float back, so that your stomach is in the pool.

Bring your knees in towards your chest and kick out to the back. You can perform one to two sets of ten to twenty repetitions of this exercise. Once you do this every week, you will observe a marked change in your overall fitness and energy levels while running.

Cross Country skiing
Cross Country skiing is a great exercise for working your upper and lower body at the same time. To perform this exercise, get to into chest deep water and then simply place one foot at the front of you and the other foot at the back of you, while keeping your knees slightly bent.

You can also position your arms and alternate the positions with your elbows slightly bent. To carry out this exercise, simply jump and switch. If you are looking to add a toning effect, you can also hold a dumbbell in each hand, for working the chest in your back. You can perform this exercise for one to two sets of twelve to fifteen repetitions.

In other words, it can be said that the cross country skiing works into moving your limbs in the sagittal plane of the movements. This sagittal plane divides the half of your body in midline while it moves your limbs and spine in a forward and backward motion. For a complete and well rounded session of work out, you will also need to involve motions that move out along the sides in a frontal plane, mostly like a jumping jack.

Cross country skiing is an excellent water aerobic exercise because it completely tones your body and also because it does not impact your joint in any way. In a regular aerobic workout, even when you follow the same exercise, your joints are impacted in a certain shock movement. But as you perform this aerobics in water, it does not really have any gravity to force your body to weigh down up to the joints. According to most experts, the buoyancy of the water reduces the impact on your joint by eighty five percent. Likewise, it also plays a vital role in keeping you lean and fit all way round.

Try these exercises to improve your overall fitness and to perform for longer hours on the track.

Have you added swimming into your training? Do you think swimming can benefit runners?

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