Does Swimming Help with Running?

Swimming and running are both popular forms of cardiovascular exercise, but you might be wondering: should swimmers run? The connection between these two activities might not seem obvious, but incorporating swimming into your training regime can provide some surprising benefits for runners.

Does Swimming Help with Running

Swimming is a beneficial cross-training exercise for runners due to its low-impact nature, providing a welcome break from the constant pounding on your knee joints from running. Moreover, swimming works your upper and lower body muscles, giving you a more balanced full-body workout than running alone. From its cardiovascular benefits to active recovery and injury prevention, runners should consider swimming.

This article will show you how swimming benefits runners, and why it’s worth taking a dip in the pool to boost your running game.

Is Running Good for Swimmers?

Cross-Training Benefits

Swimming is an excellent way to provide your body with cross-training benefits when you’re a runner.

By incorporating swimming into your routine, you can give your joints a break from the repetitive impact of running. Since swimming is a low-impact exercise, it can help reduce the risk of common running injuries.

It also helps strengthen different muscle groups as well as enhance cardiovascular fitness, and these benefits may transfer over to your running performance.

Muscle Groups and Balance

While running primarily engages your lower body, swimming provides a full-body workout. By developing strength in your upper body muscles, swimming serves as a great complement to your running and can enhance your overall performance.

This muscle balance is vital for maintaining a consistent and efficient stride when running. Swimming may also help improve your body coordination, which can contribute to better running performance.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Physiologically, both swimming and running improve cardiovascular fitness, promote muscular endurance, and require efficient breath control. While they engage different muscle groups, they both contribute to a strong core which is essential for running.

Swimming is also primarily a cardiovascular exercise that can improve your cardio fitness, especially when performed as high-intensity sprints. This cardiovascular benefit transfers well to your running endurance and can boost your speed during races.

Improving Running Form and Performance with Swimming

Incorporating Strokes and Techniques

All swimming strokes can benefit runners as they work different muscle groups. For example, the freestyle stroke works on your arm and shoulder muscles, while the backstroke focuses on your back muscles.

However, freestyle or front crawl is often preferred for its rhythm and efficiency, while breaststroke can be beneficial for those needing a more gentle option due to injury or discomfort.

To be clear, if you want to get better at running, you should specifically do exercises that train your running technique, e.g. running underwater. Swimming should complement your running workouts, not replace them.

Kicking and Propulsion

When you swim, the majority of your propulsion comes from your legs, which also play a vital role in running.

Swimming can help improve the strength and flexibility of your leg muscles, particularly through kicking exercises. Working on your kicking technique in the pool can lead to stronger, more efficient strides when you run.

As you develop better control over your ankle and foot movements during swimming, your running form will also improve.

Oxygen Use and Endurance

Swimming requires efficient oxygen use and breath control, which can contribute greatly to your endurance while running.

As your lungs and cardiovascular system adapt to the demands of swimming, your body becomes better equipped to handle the stress of running long distances.

Plus, swimming is a non-impact exercise, meaning it provides a much-needed break for your joints while still challenging your cardiovascular system.

Incorporating swimming into your training routine will help increase your stamina and enable you to run longer distances with less fatigue.

Injury Prevention and Recovery

Low-Impact Exercise Benefits

Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise that can benefit runners by reducing the risk of injury. When you swim, your body is supported by the water, which means there’s less stress on your joints and muscles. This can help you avoid joint pain and other running-related injuries.

Plus, the buoyancy of the water allows for recovery and injury prevention, making it an ideal cross-training activity for those prone to injuries from high-impact exercises like running.

Strengthening Joints and Ligaments

In addition to providing a low-impact workout, swimming can help strengthen your joints and ligaments.

When you swim, the resistance of the water requires your muscles to work harder, leading to stronger joints and ligaments. This can improve your overall running performance and help protect you from injuries.

According to Scott Dickens, former Canadian Olympic swimmer, swimming is used for injury prevention, recovery, and building muscle without a lot of risks.

Active Recovery and Rest

Incorporating swimming into your routine as an active recovery activity can help your body recover faster from running.

Swimming promotes blood circulation, which can speed up the healing process of your muscles and tendons.

In fact, one study found that swimming for recovery was associated with lower levels of c-reactive protein, a biomarker of inflammation, 24 hours after an interval run.

So if you’re looking to maintain your fitness while giving your body the rest it needs, consider adding swimming to your regular training regimen.

Does Swimming Burn as Much Calories as Running?

Swimming is a fantastic option for weight loss, as it efficiently burns calories and targets multiple muscle groups.

For example, a 30-minute swim session can burn between 200 and 350 calories, depending on individual effort and body composition.

By engaging your core, arms, and legs simultaneously, swimming provides a full-body workout, helping you achieve your weight loss goals while complementing your running regimen.

This is comparable to the amount of calories running can burn, assuming the same individual effort and body composition. So if you want to give your knee joints a rest but still want to get a great cardio workout in, then definitely consider swimming.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I balance swimming and running in my training schedule?

Balancing swimming and running in a training schedule involves incorporating different types of swimming workouts on non-running or easy running days. This can help optimize recovery, improve performance, and prevent burnout.

Can I go swimming and running on the same day?

Yes, you can run and swim on the same day. However, you should give your body time to rest between your swimming and running sessions. Also, you need to do lower intensity sessions otherwise you run the risk of overtraining.

Is swimming a good recovery activity after a long run?

Low-intensity swimming is an excellent recovery activity after a long run as it helps loosen up the muscles, promote circulation, and provides a low-impact, full-body workout.

How often should I incorporate swimming into my running regimen?

The frequency of incorporating swimming into a running regimen can vary based on individual goals, fitness levels, and the time available. However, 1-2 swimming sessions per week is a good starting point for most runners.

What are the common challenges runners might face when starting to swim?

Common challenges for runners starting to swim include mastering the correct swimming techniques, addressing muscular imbalances, and overcoming fear or discomfort in water if they have little to no experience with swimming. However, with time, proper coaching, and practice, these can be overcome.

Do I need any specific swimming gear to get started?

Recommended swimming gear for runners includes a quality swimsuit designed for training, swimming goggles for clear vision and comfort, and a swimming cap to reduce drag and protect the hair from chlorine.

Will swimming add unnecessary muscle bulk that might slow down my running?

Swimming, especially when focusing on longer, endurance-based workouts, typically doesn’t add unnecessary muscle bulk. The resistance provided by the water is simply not enough to lend to significant muscle gains.