I started swimming competitively when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Since then swimming has at different times drifted in and out of my workout regimen. I have always felt that swimming was a good way to stay fit, but it wasn’t until I started running and training for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in 2006 that I really recognized the true value of integrating swimming into an overall fitness plan—specifically a fitness plan including running loads of miles.
Swimming and running compliment each other in so many ways it really should have been clear to me earlier on that paring the two was going to be very beneficial. Lets look at some of the ways that swimming and running work together to provide maximum results.
Impact: Let’s face it, running is a high impact activity. Every step has an impact on the whole body and this can, over time, take its toll. Adding swimming to your fitness plan allows for an intense cardio workout without the impact. Having these low impact workouts will provide more opportunity for rest which will allow you to not only run better on your run days, but run longer and more injury free over all.
Upper Body vs. Lower Body: I don’t think anyone would ever claim that running is a strenuous upper body workout. Mainly, running works your trunk and lower body, leaving the upper body out of the mix. Swimming brings the upper body back in to focus and allows you to create a more balanced physique. In addition to a great upper body workout, swimming provides a solid lower body workout (think of kicking for laps and laps around your pool), again improving your running by providing more power and endurance.
Lean vs. Bulk: Distance runners and swimmers have a remarkably similar body structure. Neither are looking for bulk. Bulk and excess muscle will slow down a runner and sink a swimmer. What both sports are looking for is strong, lean, flexible muscle and low body fat. These are the things that make fast runners (distance runners at least, I think sprinters are a little different) and highly competitive swimmers. Compare athletes like Paul Tergat (running) and Michael Phelps (swimming) – very similar body structure. The activities of both swimming and running promote this body type – they both burn huge amounts of fat, and build strength while reducing bulk.
Resistance: We all know that resistance training is good, right? Adding a little lifting to our workouts adds muscle, makes us stronger, and thus a better runner. Now think of being able to do resistance training for an hour or more straight without changing weights or messing with machines and working every muscle in your body. That is what swimming provides, consistent resistance training without the headache of a weight room. Keep in mind, weight training is good too, but swimming will help.
Bottom-line, swimming and running just work well together. They complement each other very nicely and each helps the other. For me, this is the best combination possible.
What do you think? Do I have you itching to get in the pool? If you want some help putting together a beginning swimming workout, let me know. I’d be glad to help. As I said, I have many years of swimming experience and would be more than happy to help you get started. Leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you!