Swimming for Runners

Life, Running / Monday, July 3rd, 2017

So, As I’ve written about previously, I was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in my tibia. Insert sad face emoji here.

My orthopedist talked me through the recovery process at our last appointment, which includes a lot of rest and listening to my body. He told me that pain is my best guide; If I try something and it hurts, don’t try it again for at least 1-2 weeks. Since I ran on my injury for so long, I’ve got to be particularly careful.

Me and my pal, pre soul-cycle! I see why people love soul cycle, but I think I prefer the YMCA:)

With other running injuries I’ve had, I’ve been able to cross train by hitting up a few spin classes at my YMCA and maybe hopping on an elliptical. I’ve found that these two favorite cross-training methods cause my leg to throb during and after my workout, so they’re a no-go for at least another week.

The only exercise I’ve found that doesn’t aggravate my injury is swimming. Which, admittedly, has never been my favorite.


I pulled out an old one-piece a few weeks ago and actually went into the pool at my gym for the first time ever. It took me two 30-minute sessions to even put my face in the water, and another two to make it more that two laps without needing the kick board.

But soon I got it! And it’s awesome! It’s so nice to feel confident in the water now. And I’ve found that I’m able to really turn off my brain while I’m swimming, which is super meditative.

It’s not easy to make the switch from running to swimming. Swimming is a lot more of a whole-body experience. You need to focus on your breathing way, way more, and the strokes take a lot more practice than just putting one foot in front of the other. If you’re considering adding some swimming in as cross training, or if you’re injured like me and want to keep your fitness levels up, here are a few tips on how to make the switch.

    • Buy a decent bathing suit. Bikini’s fall off and cheap one pieces often fit, feel, and look like cheap one-pieces. I spent a whopping $22 buying this Speedo swimsuit from Amazon and it was SO WORTH IT! I got it in black, and make sure to size up!
    • Buy decent goggles. I started off trying to go without goggles, but that made me really reluctant to put my fave in the water, which in turn made my strokes inefficient and ineffective. Then I got a pair of dollar store goggles, but they fogged up something terrible. I grabbed a pair of $15 fog-resistant goggles from my local Dick’s Sporting Goods store after a couple of fogged up swim sessions and I’ve been super happy with them!
    • Don’t bother buying a nose clip. No matter how badly your sinuses sting when you get water up your nose the first few times you swim. Just learn to structure your breathing around your strokes and you’ll be all good.
    • Don’t be ashamed to use the kick board. I had to use a kick board for every other lap my first 2-3 times at the pool. It helped me to work on my kick strength and form without getting totally body exhausted. Now I just use it to warm up and cool down.
    • If you’re doing a lot of breast stroke, your knees will tweak out. I found it helpful to pepper in some freestyle and backstroke. Your knees get used to the movement pretty quickly, though!
    • You will feel super out of breath when you’re first starting out, too. Try to identify if you’re holding a lot of tension in your neck and chest; I used to do this and it totally constricted my breathing. Also, try to focus on figuring out where and how you need to breathe in order to get yourself feeling good. For example, I can only breathe on the left side during freestyle; that’s just me. Thats what I need to be successful.
    • You’ll feel like you don’t know what to do in the pool. This was the hardest thing for me. It took me a few sessions to work out how to fill 30 minutes in the pool. Here’s what I like to do:
      • 2-3 easy laps of breaststroke to warm up
      • 1-2 laps with the kick board to activate the glutes.
      •  30-35 minutes moderate pace freestyle laps (I sometimes do a length of breaststroke or backstroke when I need a rest)
      • A few easy laps to cool down at the end.
    • You will feel like you look like an idiot for the first few sessions. I kept scrutinizing the swimmers in the next lane and wondering “do I look like them? Do I look like I know what I’m doing?” You’ve got to push past these thoughts if you’re going to get any better, though. Don’t let self-doubt derail your work!
    • Ladies: You will scrutinize how you look in a one piece. They’re high cut and VERY tight. accept it and move on; once you’re in the water, everything will work out.
    • You will set an alarm every morning, even on the weekends! Even on vacation! If I want a lane to myself at the YMCA, I need to be there by 6:45am. If I want to take a swim in the lake, I need to do it before 9am, when there aren’t too many crazy boaters around to run me over.
    • Your upper body will hate you a little bit. When I’m running, I always tell myself to do some upper body training, but I often skip it. Swimming forces you to use all your muscles, so your shoulders and back might get a little sore. It’s NOTHING compared to the post-long run muscle aches, though, so don’t worry too much about it!

I hope these tips are helpful to anyone out there hoping to do a little swimming!

Now you tell me…

  • Are you a strong swimmer?
  • Is there a specific workout or routine you do while you’re in the water?
  • Any gear recommendations? (my goggles give me awful raccoon eyes!)




*This website contains some affiliate links/ads, clicking and buying through these links will give me a small commission to help keep my site running, but will be no additional cost to you.  

11 Replies to “Swimming for Runners”

  1. I love how thorough you were while writing this! I’m also so happy that you found an exercise that works for you while your body heals 🙂 I’ve never liked the idea of swimming (because I feel like I’m just naked in public being in a swimsuit), but once I get into it, it’s so hard to get me out of the pool. It’s so relaxing and you don’t even realize how much your body is actually doing. Great post! <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *