Experience From -
Chris Scott , Dana Roueche#1 , Roy Morita , Rick Lewis , Dana Roueche#2 , Norm Yarger , Dina Kovash ,
Coming to ultrarunning from (and sporadically continuing with) a swimming background, I paid particular attention to Kevin (Setnes) and Don's comments on swimming as supplemental / replacement training. My twists to their suggestions:
Both are absolutely correct in the importance of stroke mechanics. If you're in need of such improvement, when asking for help, set an objective of only as much change as will help your fluid motion and general efficiency in the water. Working toward competitive edge-dom may require more time investment than your running self may want to incur. If your mechanics are so poor as to threaten whacking out your spinal column (Don's article), return to the basics of comfortably floating prone in the water and build stroke techniques from there. Generally, however, changes in body alignment while breathing, and a relaxed, long stroke motion (in freestyle) will improve most mechanics to a point permitting fruitful workout conditioning (this comment deriving from coaching masters swimming).
Kevin's: It's been my experience that getting (and staying) conditioned for swimming is appreciably long, with even one week away from swimming showing immediate diminishing of workout performance. As to use of fins, I found that 1/3 or 1/2 of my swim workout dedicated to fin intervals (not the short stubby ones competitive swimmers use, but something along the line of body surfer Churchill's) greatly improved both flexibility and running muscle conditioning (glut's and ham's especially) supporting my ultras.
Don's: I found it humorous that an ultrarunner would be encouraged not to "swim beyond the point" of fatigue. Unlike running, wherein extreme fatigue increases the opportunity for mechanical damage, except for shoulder joint jeopardy among the aging, swimming LONG has benefitted my running MUCH more than shorter interval workouts. While there's a certain satisfaction in completing a particularly difficult near-anaerobic swim set, its specific relationship to improved ultrarunning performance is further removed than comparable distance swimming.
Having said the above, I cannot cite any longitudinal studies confirming my assertions. One, I'd be surprised if any existed (combining ultrarunning and long distance vs. interval swim training), beyond anecdotal double/ultra-iron stories. Two, I encourage other swimmers-turned-UR'ers to comment on their own experiences. As with enjoying the solitude and workout of a long run in the hills, having a similar mindset when in the water is comparably engaging.
Happy Trails (& Laps)!!!
A few more comments on swimming as part of training.
I agree with the comments made about building upper body strength, aerobic conditioning etc. For me, I weight lift heavy, have been for years and find it far more effective in building upper body strength than swimming. As for building shoulders, I can military press a 205 pound barbell for 3 sets of 10. Far more shoulder strength than I would ever need for running or could ever get from swimming. If you want upper body strength, weight lifting will get you there a lot quicker and more effectively.
I find swimming does little for your legs which is what you are on for endless hours on the trail. I just think the time spent doing aerobic conditioning can be done more effectively combining cycling and run together. Proper swimming is more a matter of technique than aerobic conditioning.
With that said, I still enjoy swimming and still plan on continuing it as part of my training. I will put less emphasis on it but will still swim at least once/week to maintain my technique so that I can continue to compete in triathlons. Over the past year I was swimming 2 to 3 days per week and only running 2. The next year will probably see 4 or 5 days of running, a day swimming and 1 or 2 days cycling.
I have always been a big advocate of a large training base as the key to success in running 100 milers. I'm learning that a big part of the base has to come from time on your feet. Time on my feet can be with them in contact with the ground or on the peddles on my bike.
Swimming is a tough sport to get into for a lot of runners. Runners do not have enough body fat, especially in their legs, to help them float in the water. Unlike running, swimming takes a lot of technique. You can run faster by turning your legs faster and running like hell but it does not work that way when it comes to swimming. If you watch how runners kick in the water, it looks almost as if they are trying to run. I've seen them trying to swim in an almost upright position. Triathletes have learned to swim just by using their arms and hardly using their legs, so that they can rest their legs for the biking that follows. I don't think anyone "practices" running, but swimming requires practice.
Swimming is one of the best exercises for improving your overall fitness since there is very little impact. But for a runner, if he/she is swimming to supplement running, it seems almost counter productive. The two just do not mix, unless you are trying to become a triathlete.
Just my two cents. Food for thought.
Roy Morita wrote:
Swimming is a tough sport to get into for a lot of runners. Runners do not have enough body fat, especially in their legs, to help them float in the water.
Agreed, I have very little body fat in my legs. That means that when I swim, I have to work the legs quite hard. And the muscles I work are complementary to those I use in running, thereby stretching all leg muscles and keeping my lower body "loose". For me, personally, there is nothing quite as relaxing as a swim the day after a hard run.
Unlike running, swimming takes a lot of technique. You can run faster by turning your legs faster and running like hell but it does not work that way when it comes to swimming. If you watch how runners kick in the water, it looks almost as if they are trying to run. I've seen them trying to swim in an almost upright position.
I wouldn't say a LOT of technique, but it takes some. Solutions are to take an adult swim class, or ask someone who "knows" how to swim to show you. Or, like me, to figure it out = working out the details of being efficient in the pool. I watch my times and work to improve the way I move through the water in much the same way that I work to improve the way
I move across a particular terrain (pavement vs. trail, for instance).
On the other hand, running DOES take technique. There are many types of running: sprinting, medium distance running, long distance running, and endurance running to name just four. All four require a totally different technique and strategy.
From stride to foot plant, the way I run a 5K differs vastly from the way I run a 50K, as does the way I run various segments of a 50K. A 2-loop (25K per loop) 50K has many options for strategic planning to meet a certain time goal, all resulting in exactly how I position my body to run.
Triathletes have learned to swim just by using their arms and hardly using their legs, so that they can rest their legs for the biking that follows.
I agree - and I'm not yet a triathlete, but I have noticed that I use my arms at least equally for propulsion. If my legs are tired from a hard run the day before, I may use my arms almost exclusively.
I don't think anyone "practices" running, but swimming requires practice.
I disagree. Running in improper form results in injury. The only way to learn form is to practice.
Swimming is one of the best exercises for improving your overall fitness
since there is very little impact. But for a runner, if he/she is swimming to supplement running, it seems almost counter productive. The two just do not mix, unless you are trying to become a triathlete.
I totally agree on swimming improving overall fitness. If I'm in one of my "feeling fat" modes, I hit the pool for a mile. I get out feeling buff - although I suspect it is mostly internal.
I totally disagree that it is counterproductive. Swimming and running are perfect companions in an overall athletic training program.
Keeping in mind that I'm considering "running" as middle of the pack backwards - not the elites or front of the pack. For them, all that you've said is probably right on the money. We are all very different! :)
Roy Morita wrote:
Swimming is a tough sport to get into for a lot of runners. Runners do not
have enough body fat, especially in their legs, to help them float in the
Olympic swimmers don't have a lot of body fat either. Fat legs aren't what cause them to ride the surface of the water. What makes your legs sink is lifting your head too far out of the water. Picture a pencil floating on the surface, lift one end (your head), the other end sinks (your feet). The air in you chest helps keep you buoyant. If you press your chest into the water while keeping your waist straight, you legs will rise. Also, while pulling forward with your stroke, the drag of the water will push you legs to the path of least resistance, the surface. I have 7% body fat at my fattest, I'm 6-4, 195, have long muscular legs and they don't sink.
"Triathletes have learned to swim just by using their arms and hardly
using their legs, so that they can rest their legs for the biking that follows."
When doing freestyle, propulsion through the water comes mostly from the upper body not legs. Kicking is used to stabilize the body and counter balance the stroke. You are probably referring to the triathletes you may have seen on the Ironman coverage. Hard to generalize correctly from that, trust me, they are using their legs. The leg muscles you use for swimming are completely different than for biking, it makes no sense to rest them
and no one does. What you most likely saw was them using there legs efficiently in time with their stroke.
"But for a runner, if he/she is swimming to supplement running, it seems
almost counter productive. The two just do not mix, unless you are trying
to become a triathlete."
For a full year before finishing Leadville last August, I only ran 2 days/week. I filled in the rest of the time with 3 days of swimming and 1-2 days of cycling. If swimming was counter productive, someone should have clued me in, I would have dropped at the first aid station and saved all that energy from running for another 27 hrs.
For the last 5 months I've been averaging 100 miles/week, running 6 days and using the 7th day as a swim day. Swimming not only maintains/improves your fitness level but it works as a method of active recovery. I've never run this much for this long of a stretch, I can't prove that swimming helps but it certainly hasn't hurt. I don't know what trying to become a triathlete has to do with it, I'm training for Hardrock.
That means that when I swim, I have to work the legs quite hard. And the
muscles I work are complementary to those I use in running, thereby stretching all leg
muscles and keeping my lower body "loose". For me, personally, there is nothing quite as relaxing as a swim the day after a hard run.
This is the main reason I swim. It is great for recovery. I have had a lot of success swimming the day after an ultra as a recovery tool. I assume it is because it promotes circulation without putting a lot of stress on the muscles that are hurting. And technique is not important for this benefit. But I do agree that swimming well is a very technical sport.
I haven't been running well this year, but recently as my knee continues to heal I have been swimming and biking almost every day, while running maybe every three days. Many of you out there have mentioned swimming both on and off the ultra list to me individually, primarily it seems as a means of recovery after races and while injured. Water jogging is mentioned more often as a substitute for running. Is it the general impression that water jogging is better than regular swimming as cross training for running?
I have been swimming in a standard length lap pool at a health club location. The pool is only five feet at the deepest point. There is no life guard and it is very low key, which is perfect for me since I hadn't been swimming in years. Have had swimming lessons at various times, so after some panicky moments the first day while getting my breathing back in synch I'm really enjoying it. I'm doing the front and back crawl and elementary backstroke and want to get better at the breast stroke and side stroke. But mostly I am doing the front crawl, and trying to get to the point where I'm not stopping so often between laps to adjust the goggles, get water out of the swim cap, and other excuses.
Is this the way to go, just do lap after lap after lap? Is it a good idea to use different strokes for the endurance part? Is there any advantage to doing entire lengths without taking a breath? I plan to take more lessons and get to a deeper pool and maybe open water eventually. In the meantime, should water jogging be done without touching the bottom of the pool, or does it matter?
Most of the people using this pool are not at all competitive, and get in to do maybe four to six laps, or play with foam rubber apparatus, rubber duckies, and such. (Once I get in I tend to do 20-30 laps. It's hard to tell when enough is enough, because there is no pounding as with running during which you get specific signals about how the muscles are doing.) However, yesterday two women were swimming for a very long time nonstop. They were gliding through the water so efficiently that I couldn't help but stop and watch. When one of them got out I asked what kind of kick she was doing, flutter kick or scissor. She said she wasn't kicking at all, that it really isn't necessary! I thought that was interesting. I can't help but notice that the women tend to swim more quietly and gracefully than the men in this particular setting. Many of the men are thrashing and splashing and churning up a lot of foam. It's really funny.