5 Reasons to Try Swimming

Friday 5Lots of people do it.  People are talking about trying it.   And yes, even some of us Salties have talked about trying it or getting better at it.  It can be somewhat intimidating to those of us who prefer our endurance activities on land. Yes, I’m talking about swimming.

Sure, Salty Running is all about running and getting faster, but we also respect cross-training and those of us who attempt the craziness of triathlon and other endurance sports.  As we look for ways to maintain our running fitness, get faster, stay injury-free, and (gasp) get older, we need to think about ways we can continue to do the sport we love so much.   Swimming is an excellent way to build endurance and work muscles that aren’t used in running.  Don’t turn your back on swimming just because you’re intimidated or feel like it’s not a good workout.  Here are five reasons to consider swimming as a great cross-training activity.

Olympian Swimming pool in Sea Garden, Varna, B...
Don’t feel intimidated; look at this view! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1).  Swimming is one of the few sports that uses ALL of your muscles:  Core, triceps, biceps, calves, feet, quads, even the muscles in your face.  Running uses quite a few, but the same ones over and over again.  You never hear of too many overuse swimming injuries, do you?  With every stroke, every muscle group works, creating a full-body workout without breaking a sweat.   And if you’re outside, you can enjoy the sunlight too!

2).  Low impact:  I read once that swimming is the perfect complement to running because you use all of your muscles with no impact.  And, it really works your core without the burn that several crunches cause.  Enough said!

3).  Recovery and cross-training:  The day after a long run or long workout (like those crazy bricks I do), I find that a recovery swim works wonders for my legs.  I swear that I hear my legs sighing relief and can actually feel the inflammation subsiding.  The low-impact exercise promotes blood flow to tired muscles without that pounding.  On these days, I usually don’t do intervals or have time expectations, and I find that it’s purely wonderful.  How many readers have gone to their sports doctor when a running injury occurs and are told that one of the few cross-training exercises to do during downtime is swimming?  It’s simply because you can still work your muscles without pounding them.  If you already incorporate swimming into your cross-training, it’s easier to swim more when those annoying running injuries pop up.

4).  Feel the burn:  If you think running intervals hurt–try swimming as fast as you can for 25 yards (or whatever distance the lap lanes happen to be).  The lack of oxygen will give your muscles a burn that you haven’t felt before.  You may even feel like your lungs will explode, but the next time you run those 400 meter intervals, you’ll be thankful for the oxygen!

5).  Long, lean and form:  As runners, we hear that we need to stay upright, lean and practice good form.  Conceptually, swimming follows the same principals.  You want to stay straight and not cross over when you stroke.  You want to keep a strong core which helps you stay upright, or in swimming terms, stay long.  Unlike most techniques with swimming, this way of thinking can easily cross over into running:  long, lean, strong core.  Why not practice this technique without additional pounding to those muscles

Here is my view of the Flatirons while I swim.  Who wouldn't love this?
Here is my view of the Flatirons while I swim. Who wouldn’t love this?

I will be the first to admit that running fitness doesn’t automatically translate to swimming fitness, especially if you’re new to swimming.  I started swimming over six years ago because of a bad stress fracture to my left tibia.  Swimming and upper body lifting were the two activities I was cleared to do.  I remember my first trip to the pool.  I never swam as a youngster, and could only swim to save myself.  I thought 10 laps would be easy, but half-way through the first lap, I thought I was going to have a heart attack!  I almost gave up, but I took some lessons and found that it was so challenging, I wanted to keep trying it.  Don’t be afraid to give it a try–I promise that your mind and muscles will benefit You don’t have to swim 2 miles at a time to reap the benefits of swimming.  Any time in the water is a benefit, even if you just do a few laps with a kickboard.


Do you swim or have you thought about trying to swim?  If not swimming, are there any other cross-training activities that you do?

Native Ohioan now living in Boulder, Colorado. I love to run, tri, train, eat good chocolate, drink good rum, and laugh (a lot). I am a CPA by trade and work for Newton Running.

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  1. I love swimming and started doing it more when I was injured and would definitely like to make it a permanent part of my training schedule

    1. That’s great to hear. Sometimes, it’s tough to balance the running with x-training, so good luck with that! I’m not a strong swimmer, but I find that it helps my muscles recover after a really long run or multiple brick day.

  2. After a skiing injury earlier this year, the first activity I was cleared for was swimming. I too began taking lessons, never having truly mastered the crawl. It can be frustrating that the endurance of running doesn’t transfer to swimming. I am still working up to it lap by lap. Now, I’ve incorporated swimming as ongoing x-training. I’m hoping it will help get me back to my previous running pace without the miles of pounding. We’ll see.

    1. Sounds like we got started in a similar way. I thought the fitness would easily transfer, but it certainly did not. I thought my heart was going to explode. But, I kept with it. I’m still in the bottom 25% of my age group in tris, but each one, I move up a little farther, and that’s one of the things that keeps me going. Good luck!

  3. I’ve never really liked swimming, but I am going to start swimming to cross train this winter. I currently switch off between running and cycling. If I get swimming down, maybe I’ll attempt a triathlon in the spring!