Running, swimming and cycling seem to go hand in hand. They are all individual sports and require that same amount of perseverance, grit and determination. Here I’m going to look at how swimming can be used as a means to supplement running and enhance running performance whilst providing an alternative way of training.
How Swimming Can Aid Running
Improves Aerobic Fitness
Swimming and running are both very similar in that they demand a lot from the cardiac muscle (the heart). The heart has to continue to work hard to pump blood around the body to provide oxygen to the muscles in order to release energy for muscular contractions. If you feel too tired from running, swimming gives you another great alternative to improve that aspect of your running fitness which will ultimately contribute to quicker running times over distances further than 400m
Provides A Mental Break
Running can be rather monotonous, placing one foot in front of the other, over and over and over. Some will continue to enjoy it whilst others may find it a bit tedious or boring. Fortunately, one way in which swimming can help to maintain your motivation for running is by providing you with a mental break. Swimming gives you another way to train which will help to improve your running by working your whole body and your heart.
There’s only so much training one can do without getting injured, and some people are more prone to injury than others. When swimming there is zero impact since you are not hitting the ground with such high amounts of force. This means there is less damage to the muscle tissue in the legs so the body is able to recover quicker.
For that reason, some athletes will swap out some of their runs with swimming so they don’t tax or demand so much of their body and can recover better for the other important workouts that are planned for the following weeks.
Improves Muscular Endurance
If performed for long enough, swimming will improve the muscular endurance of your legs, arms and back due to the repeated contractions of those muscles. In the long term, this will improve the ability of your muscles to repeatedly contract with a good amount of force for a sustained period of time. If your muscular endurance is not so good, you will find the force of your muscular contractions is reduced as exercise continues.
Increases Core Strength
Swimming is a core body exercise involving the movement of pretty much every single muscle in the body to work and move against the resistance of the water. It works your legs, arms, hips and torso. Ultimately, this will lead to a body which is stronger all around which has the potential to reduce your risk of injury.
Whilst it’s easy to think that running is just the legs, the upper body and arms also play an important part in running when it comes to maintaining good running form, particularly when you are fatigued. Strengthening a variety of core muscle groups in the pool will help to improve your posture and running form so you can stay strong during the whole run.
Swimming can act as a great recovery aid for running by providing a low impact alternative to running and as a substitute for recovery runs. The pool provides a way of getting in some low impact aerobic activity to help stimulate the development of aerobic fitness without the same intense damage to the muscle fibres as you’d get from running.
Furthermore, swimming can be a great way to ‘cool off’ and relax providing a form of stress relief, even when the water is cold which will reduce stress potentially aiding recovery. By reducing stress, the stress hormone cortisol is reduced allowing your body to focus on recovering for your next workout. It’s a great form of active recovery.
Better Breathing Control
When you swim you can’t breathe whenever you want. You have to time your breaths at the right moments otherwise you end up trying to inhale a gallon of water (which isn’t pleasant). This forces those who swim to learn how to breathe rhythmically i.e. every 3 front crawl strokes. This translates to better efficiency whilst running by having better control of your breathing.
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