4 reasons runners need to start swimming

This content was created in collaboration with Speedo

Is your training stuck in a rut? Consider using the pool to power yourself out of your plateau. This Summer, Speedo is offering free 60-minute swim-fit sessions to adults looking to improve their front crawl prowess. Head to speedo.co.uk/dive-in for more details.

But how can swimming help you boost your performance out of the pool and on the pavement? We spoke to runner-in-training and presenter Gethin Jones after a six-week swimming programme to discuss the benefits of getting swim-fit.

1. Active recovery

“It’s always been in the back of people’s minds, that swimming is great rehab, hydrotherapy and so on,” says Gethin. Swimming’s low-impact nature makes it popular with knee injuries, but prevention is far better than cure. If you’re fretting about the impact of the street on your joints, consider swapping one run a week for a session in the pool.

Swimming’s full-body cardiovascular workout keeps your heart rate up, while taking the stress off your joints for a longer shelf life. Perhaps that’s why the journal Human Kinetics found that swimmers are 50% more likely to live longer lives than non-swimmers.

2. Turn weakness into strength

One of the biggest factors preventing runners taking on multi-disciplinary events such as Ironmans and Triathlons is your specialisation – a double-edged sword. Team participation allows you to cherry-pick stronger members for specific stages, but that’s no reason not to dive in the water with your team mates.

“When I learned the techniques – bilateral breathing patterns, and so on – I was doing 3, 4k, which is ironman distances,” says Gethin. He began testing his number of breaths to the distance he travelled and the time he took to complete a set distance. Thanks to the tips from his Dive In coaches Gethin was able to shave 7 seconds off his time, completing the same distance in 6 less strokes. Gethin was travelling further and faster with less effort, essential for any multi-disciplinary event.

3. Improve your body’s efficiency

As well as providing active recovery, swimming boosts performance outside of the pool. It relies on your staccato breaths during front-crawl lengths. Swimming’s total-body workout is performed using less oxygen, forcing your body to work with the oxygen it has.

Over time, your body’s oxygen efficiency (or V02 Max) improves your running economy after just 12 sessions of swimming, according to the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine in Science. “The lung capacity was incredible,” Gethin agrees. “I was training with a friend who I usually run with, and I just wasn’t getting tired. I was miles ahead of him!”

4. Resistance training

Another way swimming can boost your running performance is by supporting the development of muscle power. With water 800% denser than air, front crawl’s constant flutter-kicking will help develop strong calves and strengthen the muscles around your joints, providing more driving power in your legs.

“Swimming also requires you to keep yourself horizontal, engaging your core,” Gethin adds. The result is a muscular physique capable of burning oxygen more efficiently, a prospect difficult for any runner to turn down.

For your free 60-minute swim-fit session, go to speedo.co.uk/dive-in to find your nearest participating pool.