Out of running due to injury or because you’re off on holiday? Don’t panic. Discover how you can use swimming to overcome injury and stay fit for running

Swim with a training focus

In order to reap physiological benefits from swimming that are transferable to running, you need to challenge your body to a specific workout in the water. Get your heart rate up; don’t just go for a gentle up and down of the lanes.

GRTW running coach and swimming champion, Katie Wright, recommends the following speed swim set.

200 metre sets – that’s eight lengths of a 25 metre pool – are great if you want a higher heart rate session and the number of repetitions you do can be tailored to your fitness level,’ she explains.

  • Start with 100 metres at 60% of your perceived effort rate.
  • Then go straight in to 100 metres at 80% of perceived effort rate.
  • Follow this with 10 seconds of recovery and repeat for eight to 16 repetitions depending on your fitness level.
Swimming helps to build core strength, alongside stretching out a tight runners body

Swim strength and stretch

Swimming helps you to stretch and can improve your mobility, while still requiring engagement of the core muscle, all which will benefit you hugely as a runner.

‘Much as running requires hip drive, so too does free style swimming as you rotate through the swim stroke in the catch phase,‘ explains GRTW founder and run/tri coach, Rachael Woolston. ‘It also requires strong core engagement, to help prevent your legs dropping and creating drag through the water.

‘All of this is transferable to running, with the added benefit that it requires you to work in different planes of movement, helping to improve spinal rotation.’

Aqua therapy

Studies have shown that aqua jogging can help runners maintain running fitness for up to four to six weeks. And anyone who has ever done this will know why; it’s hard.

Using a weighted belt, you ‘run’ up and down the pool, with the water taking the pressure off muscles while creating resistance that will work your muscles and aerobic fitness keeping you in tip top form for returning to the roads and trails.

Keeping a positive mental outlook

For more runners, the worst thing about injury is the effect it can have on your mental well being. Not only are you worried about your goals and waning fitness, but for many athletes, running is a form of mental relief. Switching your focus to learning a new skill or technique, such as swimming or trying open water swimming helps provide mental focus and puts you back in control.

GRTW founder, Rachael swimming in February

‘After Ironman Austria in 2019, I suffered a spinal disc extrusion and was told not to run, strength train, cycle or even do yoga for three months by my physio,’ explains GRTW founder Rachael Woolston. ‘I switched to open water swimming which gave me a focus.

‘And because I was doing it through winter, it certainly built up my mental resilience, similar to running hard sessions!’

So if you are injured, focus on your rehab to help you get back from injury faster, rather than just ‘resting.’ The likelihood is, the break will do you good and you will come back stronger.

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