The most common injuries among runners involve the joints. Knees. Ankles. Even tense shoulder and back pains can become chronic. Part of this is from running continuously on hard surfaces like concrete and asphalt. A quick fix is to consider switching to grass like the Brownlee brothers did for their training. They are top Olympian triathletes.
If switching surfaces is out of the question, one activity that can have a major benefit on your injury prevention is swimming. After personally adding swimming as part of a cross-training routine, long-distance running has become pain-free in less than two months.
Here are the eight reasons why swimming is a runner’s best friend:
Low impact to joints.
No hard surfaces. No uneven terrain. Just you and the water. Your joints will thank you for taking on the one sport that doesn’t involve a hard surface. As you age, swimming gives you a pain-free alternative to the standard walking routine.
Resistance from water density.
Your entire body is pushing against water pressure. This has a small, beneficial weight-bearing effect on all of your muscles. Who needs dumbbells when you have the local swimming pool to strengthen your muscles? Just kidding, but you could see significant strength gains from a consistent swim routine. More on that in a bit.
Excellent full body stretching.
For those who are not fans of stretching, light jumping exercises in the pool can become the makeshift replacement. Even slowly moving your arms underwater can be beneficial to your stretch. Try a gentle breaststroke movement to warm up before a more moderate intensity.
If you stick with any of the four main swim strokes (freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke), you will begin to see some shoulder strength. This is great for running, because we often forget to strengthen our upper body. Just be careful not to repetitively use the same stroke. Shoulder injuries are common in swimming. Switch it up session-by-session.
All-around body movement.
All of the different swim strokes require movement of your arms and legs. Now that’s workout efficiency. Runners are often not working out their arms, which can actually negatively impact their performance. Don’t forget that your arms move in the run, and they help with forward momentum and balance. Swimming can help with all of this.
Your back will see benefits with more twists and turns from swimming. Again, the water resistance is great for strength over time.
With constant kicking in the freestyle swim stroke, you will see significant leg strength over time. This is only positive for runners. Also try the backstroke for a different kicking approach, working the legs a different way. Variation is key.
Let’s face it, running every day is only reserved for the maniacal ultra runners who have built their endurance strength up over time. Beginner runners should be switching up exercises to avoid run fatigue. Swimming allows them to get the cardio in while taking a break from the run.
Swim a minimum of 2-3 times per week between runs to see some relief to your joints. You will see tremendous benefits to your entire body if you stick with it.
One way to keep yourself accountable with consistent swimming is to purchase a year-long pass to your local community pool. By putting in the investment up-front, you are more likely to stick with the new routine. Choose a nearby pool to make it an effortless decision to go.