Swimming for runners

Swimming for runners

I’ve been swimming a lot, these last few days, as I holiday in Bangkok, mainly because the building has a pool, so there is no effort required at all. No crazy Delhi traffic to drive through to get to a pool, which is my standard excuse for not swimming regularly in Delhi (where I live).

I realised that I have been sharing swimming updates on my running Instagram feed as cross-training, and decided to check if this is indeed true, or was I simply showing off a little?

Is swimming indeed good for runners?

Does it “count” as cross-training?

After just a couple of seconds online, I think the answer is an unequivocal YES.

“In fact, runners looking to boost strength and lung capacity will find swimming is an excellent form of cross training.”

Great news from mapmyrun.com

Swimming is officially great for runners,


Of course, like anything one researches, there are a zillion different suggestions as to which stroke is the best/most efficient/most useful – and sadly none of them appears to be breaststroke, which is my go-to stroke.

I even read a few scary comments suggesting that the leg kick of breastroke was actively bad for my knees, so I need to re-think that a little.

But what is undisputed is that swimming is good for we runners.

I posit that it is actually great for every single person, but for runners especially, swimming works its magic in so many ways.

So what benefits exactly does swimming offer us?

Back to mapmyrun.com:

“Runners benefit from swimming because it is an effective cardiovascular exercise that is not weight bearing,” explains Dr. Leesa Galatz, orthopedic surgeon and system chair of the Department of Orthopedics in the Mount Sinai Health System. “Runners are constantly loading lower extremity joints and spine, and swimming offers the ability to maintain fitness level in a setting where joints are relatively unloaded, allowing joints to rest.”

According to Natasha van der Merwe, a professional triathlete and coach, there are 4 main benefits that athletes will get from swimming:

1)Improved cardiovascular fitness with minimal stress on the body – which ties in exactly with Dr. Galatz’s assessment (above).

2) Swimming helps the body recover from runs since the movement and cold water facilitate blood flow & recovery. (Good to know, since the water temperatures here in Bangkok are downright chilly )

3) Swimming can increase oxygen and lung capacity

4) Swimming works and strengthens different muscle groups that are not used in running

So far, so good.

So far, very good in fact.

Except for the little question of which stroke is the most beneficial.

Back to Dr. Galatz, and I quote:

“Depending on the stroke, swimming engages upper & lower extremities. Most swimmers perform freestyle or crawl, which engages deltoid, latissimus doors, pectorals major and rotator cuff.

And my go-to stroke, breaststroke?

It appears that it’s not quite as efficient as front crawl, for example, especially as far as leg movements are concerned.

I double checked the forum which scarily mentioned potential knee damage due to breast stroke, and since the discussion ended in rather childish name-calling (what is wrong with people’s online manners?!) I decided to write off the knee comments as silliness too.

Leaving aside the technicalities of which stroke is the most beneficial, the undisputed truth is that swimming is relaxing, and for those of us who love being around water, there is nothing quite like it.

A minimal-stress, relaxing form of cross-training – sounds pretty darn perfect to me!

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