Cross-training, or “engaging in two or more sports or types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in one’s main sport,” (Dictionary.com, 2020) is incredibly important for well-balanced health and muscle development. For runners, cross-training can take on many forms, each with their own specific benefit for your body and to becoming a better runner.
Swimming is one of the best exercises for someone who is an avid runner. Since swimming is a non-weight bearing activity, it relieves stress on your joints while providing a good cardio and muscle-building workout. Still not convinced? Here are some major benefits of swimming for runners:
- Alleviates joint stress – When you run, your knees and joints take a pounding from the pavement. Swapping out one of your runs for swimming will give your joints a break! The water’s buoyancy helps alleviate stress on your joints.
- Swimming is great recovery for injuries – The water helps protect your joints and your injury and safely lets you keep training even through several different kinds of injuries. This is a great way to strength train your injury back to health safely.
- Versatile workout – In the water you can focus on cardio or you can focus on strength, you decide what your body needs. Not only is the pool great for swimming laps with different kinds of strokes that work different muscle groups, but you can do many different strength exercises standing in the shallow end of the pool or doing a deep water exercise class. The resistance created by the water will work muscles that you body doesn’t normally work when running. These muscles support you when you run, and are often neglected by most runners, so it’s important to focus on keeping them strong.
- Improves cardiovascular performance – Learning how to breathe and how to use your oxygen more efficiently while swimming laps is shown to improve your cardiovascular performance. No other sport restricts your breathing and holding your breathe and learning when to breath strengthens your lungs.
- You can isolate your muscle groups – If you want to strengthen your legs, kicking in the water is a very effective method. Since water is denser than air it provides the perfect resistance to build those muscles. The same is true for other muscle groups, including abdominals, back and upper body.
- Swimming is a great recovery tool – After a big race or run, swimming helps reduce inflammation and gives your joints that much needed break. It also lengthens your muscles which improves flexibility.
If you haven’t tried it yet, consider adding swimming to your workout regimen. Whether you are training for a race, trying to improve your distance or time, or just because it’s an activity you love to do, every runner can reap the benefits that swimming has on your overall health.
Katie Schalk is the Wellness Coordinator at the Neenah-Menasha YMCA. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education and Health with an emphasis in coaching from Luther College. She has several national certifications from the National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA), is Nationally Certified in Mastering the Marathon, a Certified LiveStrong Instructor, a Blue belt in Krav Maga (Israeli Military Self Defense) and Karate, and has a knee injury and prevention specialist certification. Katie loves helping people become their best self. If you would like to talk to Katie about how to improve as a runner contact her at [email protected].
The YMCA of the Fox Cities has pools at 4 locations: Appleton YMCA, Fox West YMCA, Heart of the Valley YMCA and Neenah-Menasha YMCA. Currently pools are open to members only by reservation for lap swim, water walking/running, and family swim – times/reservations available on website or app. Members and the General Public can sign up for swim lessons.