Swimming Training Can Help Us Be Better Runners

Lifeguard Training

Running is one of those sports in which, although we would like to spend more hours or increase our kilometer goal, our physical capacity limits us. Whether through injury or fatigue, over time our bodies tell us when to stop.

But let’s say we’re looking to improve our fitness or recover from a tough race without hitting the pavement any more than we already do. Besides running , there are many more activities that a runner can do to increase his strength and endurance. Although yoga and a regular strength routine are always recommended, swimming is another form of cross-training that is very beneficial for runners.

For more context, we asked open water swim coach Bryan Mineo how runners can add a swim routine to their workouts. The vast majority of The Swim Mechanic founder Mineo’s clients are triathletes who are balancing a full training program that includes swimming, cycling and running.


“Initially, swimming with Lifeguard Training sessions should come after long race days to serve as an active recovery, to remove the overload of kilometers from the previous day. While these swim workouts aren’t the main training sessions, they are a nice midweek break for your feet.”

However, active recovery isn’t the only benefit swimming brings to runners. The full-body movements that proper swimming technique requires strengthen muscles not used by running, alleviating muscle imbalances and ultimately helping to protect the runner from injury.

Swimming also helps improve cardiovascular fitness by working your heart and lungs without all the wear and tear of running.

“Swimming brings a greater awareness of our breathing and how we regulate it during effort,” Mineo tells us. This is incredibly useful when we have to train or race outdoors in difficult or technical conditions.”


Even if we have the urge to jump into the water and start swimming hard, Mineo recommends a more patient approach for runners who are starting to incorporate swim training into their plan.

It sounds simple on the surface, but swimming (just like running) is a technical sport and requires a bit of a learning curve when it comes to getting proper freestyle technique.

Right off the bat, we shouldn’t swim as fast as possible: in addition to leading to bad habits, intense swimming with poor mechanics can cause injury.


So what is the specific swimming training plan for runners? The Swim Mechanic provided us with a basic structure that can be adapted to one’s specific intentions.

“I always recommend a balanced dose of aerobic and anaerobic effort in the water, with the focus on using swimming to complement the runner’s plan; specific intervals become less important and the most important metrics to work with are distance and time in the water,” Mineo explained.


200 meter warm up

8 x 50 meters, the drills that each one chooses

+ 100 meter kick

1,000-meter freestyle, divided into more intense 50-meter + 100-meter efforts, or continued aerobic swimming

100 meter recovery


If you’ve ever stepped on a treadmill, you know how monotonous and boring (yet effective) it can be. While swimming in open water is much more appealing, the sensation of swimming in a pool can be similar to running on a treadmill.

In addition to fins, to start swimming we need a minimum of equipment: a chlorine-resistant swimsuit, goggles, earplugs and a swimming cap.

Mineo suggests things as interesting as the use of short fins ( Laguna Fin Co. or DMC Fins have good options) for drills and kicks; This provides strength and greater ankle plantar flexion.

However, to get the most out of your swim workouts, tracking and monitoring your swim metrics is key. With a heart rate sensor like the Polar Verity Sense , placed in the swimming goggles, we can monitor our heart rate while swimming; We can also use a multisport waterproof watch, such as the  Polar Vantage V2 or Polar Vantage M2 to track distance, pace, strokes and heart rate in real time while we complete our pools or swim in open water.

If we also track our runs and other training sessions, we’ll get a full summary of our training in the Polar Flow web service as we start to include swimming in our plan. This helps us keep things in perspective: let’s remember that we’re supplementing our running-specific training with swimming, not impeding good running performance for the sake of a good swim.