Cross Sport Training: Swimming & Running
Swimming and running are among the best cardiovascular training practices. When those two disciplines are combined in a competition, it is referred to as an aquathlon. Add cycling to that sequence, and it’s a triathlon.
Training with swimming and running together is great for all endurance athletes — especially aquathletes and triathletes. This guide will explore the many advantages of that training model and provide tips to help maximize your results.
Benefits of Swim-Run Training
Swimming and running have numerous individual benefits:
- Swimming is an impact-free activity. It leaves joints stress-free. Furthermore, arm strokes activate a full range of motion in the shoulders and also recruit most upper-body muscles, including the arms and pectorials (something that running can’t do).
- Running is arguably the best conditioning training you can pursue, and it is a great compliment to a swim workout. The fact that you can essentially run anywhere makes it an extremely versatile and convenient sport.
Train for Transitions
The three legs of a triathlon follow a running-cycling-swimming sequence. Though aquathlons don't include that middle leg, they do feature a triathlon-like transition between events, so practicing your transitions during training will improve your performance come race day. Quickly changing outfits can be difficult, so it's still good practice to hurry out of the water and switch clothes.
The Bare Necessities
When you set up your transition, try to be as minimalistic as possible. All unnecessary equipment or attire will only clutter your transition area and inevitably slow you down. Stick to the essentials to ensure a fast transition.
A great way to reduce transition time is to wear your running attire under your wet suit so you don’t have to spend time changing. Triathlon suits fit tight and work very well beneath a wetsuit.
If you are training for an aquathlon, consider the equipment that you will use, which should be minimal:
- Swimming requires goggles, a wet suit (depending on the water temperature), and a swim cap.
- Running requires nothing more than your shoes, running clothes, and bib belt.
Place your running transition gear on top of a towel so you have a marked area for your belongings. Use that same towel to dry and clean your feet in case you picked up any rocks or sand while leaving the water.
Speeds May Vary
While training for swimming and running, think about changing your speed and intensity across workouts. During some training sessions, work on maintaining a consistent speed for long distances; on other days, focus on mixing up intensity levels:
- A long-distance swim followed by an hour of jogging is a great consistency-based workout
- Mixing up distance runs with sprints or intervals is a great way to evoke muscle confusion and increase the effectiveness of your workout
In essence, the key to successful swim-run programming is balance and a constant variation of the two exercises: Fast, slow, long-distance, short-distance, sprints, and intervals should be implemented in as many combinations as possible.
Pick Your Location
While swim training requires a pool or large body of water, running only requires the ground. Pick your location decisively, keeping in mind that you need room to transition and run. It’s wise to consider changing locations as often as possible so you’re well-practiced at transitioning in different situations and environments. You should always train in the type of environment in which you’ll compete — meaning not just in a swimming pool.
Combining swimming and running is a great method of training for triathlons and aquathlons. The changeover between events allows you to focus on your transitions (although out of traditional triathlon order). Swimming and running will not only provide conditioning, but it will also stretch your muscles and improve lung capacity. Heart-rate efficiency will undoubtedly increase, as well. All of this makes this workout combination a great one-two punch for triathlon training!