Swimming: Effective Cross-Training for Runners

Athletic man swimming.

Swimming is one of the healthiest endurance sports you can do, but many people are not big fans of this technically demanding sport. If you ask runners why they don’t include swimming in their training, you often hear reasons like “swimming is boring” or “swimming makes me run slow.”

In today’s blog post, I will show you how runners can benefit from working swimming into their training and also offer a sample workout for beginners.

man swimming

Positive training effects of working out in water
Swimming is a very efficient way to train the musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems, the metabolism and the brain. Of course, this sport isn’t meant to replace your running workouts, but it can be a very beneficial supplement to your training. Why? Because muscle imbalances caused by regular running can increase risk of injury. Swimming improves your body’s muscular balance and flexibility. The front crawl (aka freestyle) and back crawl (aka backstroke) are great for leg coordination and are easy on your knees and shoulders. When you swim, your heart rate is 10-15 beats lower than it would be by an equally intense running session. This relieves some of the stress on your cardiovascular system.

Young woman diving in a pool.

Swimming, aqua jogging and water aerobics are perfect cross-training workouts, especially during high-intensity or high-volume training stages. The water’s buoyancy reduces the stress on your muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints. This is why exercising in water is a good form of training for rehabilitation, physiotherapy and strengthening and maintenance training.

Sample workout for runners (25m pool):

1. Warm-up on land (2-3 minutes):  

  • Forward and backward arm circles
  • Hold a long towel in front of you with your arms straight. Raise the towel from your hips, over your head, behind your back down to your buttocks, and then back over your head down to your hips
  • Arm circles in opposite directions

2. Warm-up in the water

  • Swim 300 meters – change strokes every lap in the following order: breaststroke, back crawl and front crawl

3. Technique drills: 50 meters each

  • Breaststroke arms and front crawl kick
  • Front crawl arms and breaststroke kick
  • Back crawl arms and breaststroke kick
  • Front crawl kick with arms extended to the front
  • Back crawl kick with arms stretched above the head
  • Front crawl sidekick, top arm (right) close to the body, bottom arm (left) extended to the front
  • Front crawl sidekick, top arm (left) close to the body, bottom arm (right) extended to the front
  • Front crawl kick and one arm stroke (alternate arms right/left), passive arm extended to the front
  • Front crawl kick and one arm stroke (alternate arms right/left), passive arm close to the body
  • Catch-up front crawl, alternate arms right/left, passive arm extended to the front                   
  • Front crawl sidekick, pull only with the top arm (right), bottom arm (left) extended to the front
  • Front crawl sidekick, pull only with top arm (left), bottom arm (right) extended to the front

4. Swimming intervals:

  • Swim 6 x 100 meters front crawl or back crawl at a fast pace
  • Rest for 30 seconds every 100 meters

5. Dive & swim: 50 meters

  • Dive as far as you can. Then swim the rest of the 50 meters at an easy pace. Repeat the exercise 4 times

6. Cool-down:

  • Swim 200-300 meters at an easy pace in a stroke of your choice

My tip: Have a personal trainer or swimming instructor show you how to do the strokes and training drills. It is worth the money and makes it easier to get started swimming.

You want to learn more about crosstrainings? Check out the article about the best strength training for runners.

Sleep well, eat clean, train smart!
Your personal trainer and Health-Co@ch Sven

***

RATE THIS ARTICLE NOW

Sven Friedrich Sven has been working as a personal trainer, conditioning coach and sports therapist for many years. He is also an expert on fascia and nutrition. Sven's motto is "Stay focused and go for it." View all posts by Sven Friedrich »

Leave a Reply