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Does Swimming Help Running?

Does Swimming Help Running? Hollie Sick FueledByLolz

As runners, we know that running more helps us run faster and farther. But did you know that cross training with swimming can help build strength and endurance in ways that running can’t? You don’t have to be injured to add swimming into your running routine.

What are a few reasons runners should cross-train with swimming? 

  • Endurance. Like running, swimming is a cardio-based activity that will build endurance.
  • Low Impact. This doesn’t mean cross-training with swimming is easy. It can still be a challenging workout, but it isn’t as hard on your body.
  • Different. Swimming, even when you challenge yourself to work out seriously in the water, is still a nice diversion from a day-to-day running routine.

What Are The Benefits Of Swimming For Runners?

Less Impact:

You can swim hard, but it doesn’t stress your body in the same way that running does. The water’s buoyancy can counteract the effects of gravity. This reduces the pressure on your body, eliminates the pounding on weight-bearing joints, and alleviates stress on your muscles, tendons and ligaments.

As a result, swimming a couple of times a week reduces the chance of injury. Even just swapping one easy run for an easy swim has been proven to have positive benefits. You don’t have to be a “good” swimmer to take advantage of that.

Swimming Is A Full Body Workout: 

While running primarily works the lower body, swimming is a full-body workout that uses every muscle. If you’ve never swum before, you might experience soreness in muscles that you never even knew existed.

Helps Focus on Breathing:

Improper breathing is a problem in almost every sport, especially in running. Runners can get away with it because there is nothing preventing you from breathing. With swimming, however, being in the water requires you to breathe properly. 

When you swim, you don’t have the luxury of being able to breathe whenever you want. Your body must adapt to working out with less oxygen. Research has shown that swimmers have some of the most powerful lungs. You don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer, but swimming regularly will help everyone develop stronger lungs.

Runners who include swimming in their workout routine learn to expend less energy while inhaling and exhaling. Being able to control your breathing in the water also helps strengthen muscles and lungs.


Many runners also find they become more flexible when they incorporate swimming into their workout routines. Runners use the same motion over and over. Too much repetitive motion builds up muscle strength but also can weaken those muscles that are not being used. Weaker muscles can lead to an inability to move joints as effectively as possible. It also makes one more susceptible to injury!

Flexors and extensors are the muscles associated with joints. They also determine how much a person can move. Swimming can help elongate these muscles, which leads to greater joint flexibility. Runners with better joint flexibility are less likely to suffer from common injuries, such as calf and ankle problems.

How can you get started with swimming?

Going to the pool might be intimidating for some. For others, going to the pool and swimming back and forth is boring. Some easy swimming workouts, no matter your swimming skill level, include:

  • Odds Easy/Evens Hard: Swim easy on the first lap, followed by swimming hard on lap two, and continue that odd/easy pattern as long as you can. You can take as much rest as you need between laps, but the eventual goal is to build your skill and endurance so that you can continue swimming straight through. This alternating pattern will help stimulate your mind.
  • Incorporate Kick: We know, of course, that running uses your legs. Instead of swimming using just your arms and upper body, incorporate a kick workout in the water. An easy, to include, kick set is 8X25 as hard as you can. Take as much rest as you need between laps to do it again. 
  • Build: Start your lap easy, but build into a fast sprint. By halfway down the pool, you should be working hard (much like how you feel during a 5k road race). When you get to the flags above the water, you should be moving as hard as you can possibly go until you reach the end of the pool. Make sure to take enough rest to be able to do this more than once.

How can you get the most out of your swimming workout?

If you are looking to build strength and endurance, you want to spend regular and consistent time in the pool. You can’t expect to see results by just getting in the pool once a month.

Unlike running, a good swimming workout, to be effective, involves a set of pre-determined elements. What I mean by this is most swimmers do not just go “swim for an hour,” and then they are done. They might do an easy 200-meter warmup, followed by some faster work, such as 12X25-meter swims, maybe incorporating some kicking and pulling. You are working your body in different ways, and you’re increasing your heart rate by doing various workout elements within a swim.

Does Swimming Help Running? Swimming is a great workout that can be incorporated into any runner’s routine. You don’t have to be “good” at swimming to get the benefits, and you’ll probably find yourself getting stronger and improving your running.


Hollie is a runner, hiker, swimmer, residing in California. She has worked in run specialty for nearly 8 years and has fit hundreds of people for shoes. Outside of the running world, she enjoys the general aviation world, her two cats, and spending time with her spouse.