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Swimming for Runners

Swimming for Runners

If you have followed my blog since it’s birth in 2010, you may remember I was a swimmer. Not just a swimmer, but I swam competitively for college.  After college, I was done. Swimming is a hard sport and to improve at the college level, and you are usually in the pool anywhere between 2-4 hours a day. After college, I had no interest in staring at a black line.  I was burned out.

Truthfully, I didn’t think I would ever reach a point that I WANTED to swim again. I’ on and off in the last decade, but nothing competitive and usually not unless I was injured. This is the first time I’ve realized…hey, swimming isn’t “too bad.”

I’m always thankful that I learned to swim at a very early age because it’s not as easy as an adult. I’ve taught swim lessons before and learning when you are older is much more difficult, although not impossible. I’ve taught the mommy and ve me kids classes, coached swim team, and once showed an 80-year-old woman how to swim.

So if you are a runner, or someone wanting to benefit from swimming…what should you do?

First Get the Right Equipment:

Like running, swimming that expensive (minus the pool). You need a swimsuit (make sure it doesn’t move when you swim), swim cap, and goggles.  There are a couple of pieces that are a bonus such as a kickboard or pull buoy.

The goggles I used almost exclusively through college are the Speedo Vanquisher. 

They aren’t designed for swimming in open water, but they are great the pool and minimally fog up. I used them for a decade and never had any issues.

Many people asked about swim caps.  Why use a swim cap? Swim cap allows you to stay more streamlined as well as protects your hair. It might seem silly to wear, but it’s the swimmers’ norm to make swimming a lot easier and keep your hair in better condition. There are all different kinds. Latex is the cheapest and stays put on your head. If you use gel or hair product, this is usually the cap I recommend. Silicone is a lot more gentle on the hair and doesn’t rip hair out, but it will slide off and won’t stay put if you use hair product.

Pool Running:

Pool running is just how it sounds; you run but in the pool. There is more to it, though.

Since your feet don’t touch the bottom of the pool, there is no impact. This means it’s a good option if you are injured with a stress injury. It’s easier to pick up if you haven’t spent much time in the pool.

The funny thing about pool running is that it doesn’t resemble actual running. The point of it is to get your heart rate up. Just always keep moving! Pool running (versus swimming laps) is what is going to be most beneficial to runners. We don’t horizontal run (LOL if you get it), so while swimming laps might be more enjoyable, pool running is what will help actual running and build fitness and maintain fitness for running.

Use a pool belt when pool running. It will help with proper form. Without a pool belt, your focus changes from form and jogging to treading and staying above the surface.

I like this video with Jeff Galloway. He teaches exactly how to pool run. You want to get a bigger range of motion than you would in land running and just keep moving.

Here are a few workouts.  Keep in mind, you will only benefit by putting the effort in, and no one can do that for you. You can half-ass pool running and float there, but you won’t get a workout in. You can text while on the elliptical, that is different than putting the effort in and getting your heart rate up.

30 Minute Workout:
5 minutes easy jog
10X 2 minutes alternating hard, easy. Focusing on getting your heart rate up.
5 minutes easy jog

Workout 2: 30ish minutes
5 minutes Easy
Cut the pool in half so you are jogging back and forth on the deep end side (or where you can’t touch the bottom)
10X one side. Sprint as hard as you can to one side, stop at the wall and jog back. Repeat 10X. I did this one time during college when I was injured (and slowly increased reps and it kept me in shape. Ultimately, I ran my fastest cross county time after being injured for 2 months).

The point is to get your heart rate up.

Swimming Laps:

As a “retired swimmer,” I am just more prone to want to swim laps. As I add swimming back into my routine, that’s all I’ve been doing right now.

When I swam competitively and ran competitively, I didn’t find (and still don’t) swimming shape to translate into running shape. You can swim as much as you want, but chances are it won’t translate into running your fastest times. Your overall fitness will be great, but the specific movements and cardio don’t translate.  You can also run as much as you want, but might not find yourself a great swimmer. This article about, Olympian Micheal Phelps, shows that the specific fitness might not always translate.

How do you Start Swimming Laps?

My biggest advice to anyone just getting started is to start small. You don’t have to swim 1000 meters to get a good workout.

Like running, make it a goal to swim X meters, stop, regroup, and keep going. Most pools are usually 25 meters or 25 yards. Make it your goal to swim to the end, take a break, swim back, and repeat. Once you are more confident, you can say: swim to the other side, rest 30 seconds, repeat, and keep going.

Any swimmer will tell you, elite level swimmers don’t just get in the pool for 2 hours and get out. They do dozens of drills, sets, and intervals. In fact, realistically that’s what swim practices are. In the 15 years of swimming, I had one practice where our coach told us just to get in and swim. Honestly, it was awful!

A few workouts you can do:

Leg Recovery:
Need: Pull Buoy
Warmup: Swim 200 yards.
Set: 5X200 yard pulls with 2 minutes in between. Start off easy, and build to a faster pace.
Cooldown: 200 yards easy cooldown.
Total: 1400 yards

Kick Set:
Need: Kickboard
Warmup: 200 yards
Set: 4X25 yard kick. Using the kickboard, kick as hard as you can. Rest for 1 minute between.
50 Yards easy. Use this to flush out your legs, take your time.
4X25 yard kick: Kick as hard as you can. Rest for one minute in between.
50 Yards easy
4X25 yard kick. Alternate hard, easy, hard, easy. Take a minimal break as necessary, ideally working towards no break.
50 yards easy
50-yard kick as hard as you can. Take minimal breaks as needed, ideally working towards no break.
50 yards easy
2X25 yard kick. As hard as you have left. Take 1-minute break between but this should be all out, and your legs should burn.
Cooldown: 200 yards
Total: 1000

Swim Set:
Warmup: 200 yards
4×50 Freestyle. Your 5k effort. It should feel hard, but not like you are gassed out. Rest 2 minutes between each.
1X100 easy, “recovery.”
2×100 Freestyle. Moderate effort. This should feel like a half marathon, tough but controlled. Rest for 2 minutes between.
1×100 Easy, “recovery.”
4×25 Fast. Your hardest effort. This should feel like a mile sprint. Rest 1 minute between
1×100 Easy, recovery.
4×25 Fast. Your hardest effort. Rest 1 minute between.
Cooldown: 200 yards
Total: 1300

Just keep in mind, you have to do workouts that you enjoy. If swimming doesn’t click for you, that’s okay. I appreciate how enjoyable it’s been for me and a nice break from the outside world. You get lost in your own thoughts when you are submerged in the water for an hour.

 Finally, have you subscribed to the LOLZletter? It’s a free newsletter that comes out each Monday. This week I talked about rest days and cross training.  In the newsletter, I share running industry trends and things relevant to the sport. There are often giveaways as well as discount codes.

Questions for you:

Have a question about swimming, ask!

Do you like getting in the pool? 

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DNS

Last weekend I was supposed to race 2 miles in the open water.  My dad and I have done this race the last four years and Matt joined last year.  As you can see from the title, I didn’t swim. 

After waking up in the morning on Saturday, I saw it was pouring rain.  I thought it was summer time and I’m going to be swimming in the water anyways so it really didn’t matter.  As long as it wasn’t thundering or lightening they weren’t going to cancel the swim.  Dad, Matt and I went to the ferry station got marked up (I was lucky number 7) and boarded the ferry.  By the point of being of the ferry I was already pretty drenched. My clothes (including rain jacket) were soaken wet.  My core temperature had dropped a little bit and I wasn’t warming up.  If anything I was continuing to get colder.

The swim itself goes 1 mile out into the Long Island Sound and then 1 back.  You get into some deeper, colder and more choppy water out into the Sound. 

The Course

The Course

I was bundled up but poor packing on my part was also an issue.  I had known it was pouring rain (my two eyes showed me that) and thought a rain coat and sweats would have sufficed.  IThough even both of those were not enough as the rain had soaked through my cotton sweats and I could have used a sweatshirt under my rain coat to protect me from the wind.  Maybe if I had had appropriate and rain pants and had been able to stay warm I could have done this race.  The wind blowing directly onto the island made the temperatures feel colder (though it allowed huge negative splits for the racers…both Matt and dad had great races).

At 8:20 (with a race start of 8:30), I made the executive decision not to swim.  I was shivering before entering the water and being cold before a swim race for me, is like being thirsty before a road race.  Nothing good can come out of it.

Was there a possibility I would warm up during the race and all would be fine?  Yes.  Was there a possibility that I could come out of the 2 mile swim, half delusional and hypothermic as I did 3 years ago?  Yes and that is something I never want to repeat in my life.

Preblogging world I did this race three years ago and came out hypothermic.  The conditions were similar and I had thought nothing of it.  My body and core never warmed back up despite swimming two miles.  I had come out of the water unable to talk, half delusional and was immediately assisted into the medical tent.  I really don’t know how I finished the race or the next series of events.  What I do know is that I layed in the 90 degree sun with the medics for about an hour before warming up enough to be able to talk coherent sentences.

This was three years ago.  You can see how cold I was.

This was three years ago. You can see how cold I was.

I don’t need to write a novel about how serious hypothermia is and I will never regret not doing this swim.  Am I bummed?  Yes of course but I don’t regret it.  I could have easily decided to risk it made it a mile out, gotten so cold that my body shut down. Would I regret being in the water then?  Honestly this isn’t a big deal for me.  Many people DNS races for various reasons and I’m not going to cry and whine about it.

What could I have done differently?

Wind breaker and hoodie underneath a rain jacket to protect myself even more from the rain and wind.  Even then I’m not sure I would have been able to maintain a high even core temperature to start the race.

I’m upset, sure, but I know I made the right decision and I can’t live my life worrying about individual races.

Questions for you:

Have you DNS a race before?

Obviously this race but there was a road race a couple of years ago that I didn’t do as well.  My legs were feeling very injury prone and I had no interest in risking it.

Do you like the rain? 

Running Through Julys

Since my first month of what I consider myself as a runner (July 2010), a lot has changed both mentally and physically for me. July has always been my favorite month (mostly). It’s my birthday month, it’s the month I started running and even when I was in year round school in the UK we had most of July off. (Of course most schools both high school and college do too!). So July is always a fun month for me.  I guess we are nearly halfway through the month but never too late to look back at various years and reflect.

Here are some interesting personal July Running facts…
July 2010:

July 4, 2010. I completed a local 5k in 21:44. Coming from a girl who had nearly failed the mile in gym class three years prior (I passed 12:12) this was pretty much my biggest athletic accomplishment…nevermind the time spent with swimming…

Hey this is probably my most famous running picture

Hey this is probably my most famous running picture

I emailed the college cross country coach saying I really wanted to run for the team and went out on a limb.

I remember completing my first seven mile run. I had prepped myself all day for it. I was so nervous but it went
by quickly.

I won the Allen Stone Run-Swim-Run. My first overall win ever!

allenstonerunswimrun

July 2011:

I got my first running injury from poor training. Hello stress fracture. It was devastating at the time and I spent many of posts wailing about it but it taught me so much about running and how to train that I am thankful I learned those lessons.

July 2012:

I PRed in the 5k (18:57) at the Allen Stone Run Swim Run. I got second overall.

waves

I logged my first 80 mile week in preps for a stellar cross country season.

July 2013:
I don’t know but Ido hope for an injury free and good month.

Question for you: What is your favorite month?

Jack King 1m Open Water Race Recap

Oh where to begin this race recap.  Every year, dad signs him and I up for the Jack King 1 Mile Swim.  When I used to be a competitive swimmer it wasn’t a big deal.  It was just 7 days of swimming a week versus 6.  But that is long removed from life and I’m lucky to haul ass to the pool once per week.  I could sit here and talk about my swimming back in my swimming prime but it isn’t relevant.  I don’t swim much anymore, therefore don’t compare myself to that speed, time or mentality.  I literally did this just to finish (which is good considering I got a nice 7 out 7 in my age group!

That being said, when dad informed me he had signed us both up (as well as my brother Matt) I couldn’t say no (meaning I was skipping so many great road races this weekend!).  This is the race I’ve done the longest (6 years!), it’s always so well put together and the people there are great.  So with that, we headed on our way to the race.  I have always enjoyed that swim races start at 10am, I would say it’s nice to sleep in but I don’t really do that so I just mused around.

Upon getting to the race at 9am, we realized…why the hell are we here so early.   Not once have I ever warmed up for an open water swim.  Not once have I ever gotten into the ocean or bay before a swim.  I normally just run in, prey to the high heavens my body doesn’t go into cardiac arrest from the temperature change and that’s that.

Before the Swim

Before the Swim

This time was no different, though it’s in water start.  I started right next to Matt…we were chatting and all of a sudden we heard people yelling to go.  That’s us.

I don’t really know what to tell you about open water swimming.  So here were all my thoughts:

I was taking in the sights of the pitch black water below me.   Yummy.

I took in the feeling of being pummeled several times by several waves.  YAY storm systems.

I took in a sight of some crazy tourists who came too far out.  YAY you need more clothes on.

I never saw the half way point (King Neptune Statue). Boo, it felt like the race was a marathon.

It got extremely chilly during the second half of the swim.  I have gotten hypothermia from an open water race in the middle of the summer before.  It took me nearly an hour to recover from that race and was in a med tent so I’ve always been weary about that.  Because of the storm, there was cloud cover and wind (hence the waves that VA isn’t supposed to have) but it also made it cold.

I was never so happy to see the buoy.  YAY orange buoy.

I did the left hand turn, followed the probably 90 year old man in front of me and ran into the beach.  I didn’t trip on the beach and they handed me my glorious 124th place (out of around 150).

And that is how it happened.

I did try as I don’t bag anything.  This was just a nice awakening of where my swimming fitness is..surprise…it’s not there.

After the swim

After the swim

As I told everyone, getting last in my age group is not a big deal .  I am simply bringing up the caboose to the pain train which still got to the station.

Oh joy maybe I’ll get into the pool for the next open water swim…when my arms aren’t sore.

Questions for you:

Does finishing last bother you?

What is your perfect race start time?

Between 8-9am for me

Still Training (70 miles)

On Friday, I touched up more about my marathon training progression so that’s that.

Monday: 10.65 mile run.  Recovering from my 8k, I do remember this run being not so fun and the most painful run of the week.
Tuesday: AM: 11.2 miles (8:33) progression from 8:45-7:45 pace
PM: 5.3 miles tempo  on trails (6:47 pace)
Wednesday: 1.5 hours cross training on the cybex 100i
Thursday: 11.2 miles easy shakeout (8:50 pace)
Friday: 17.35 Long Run at 7:42 pace
Saturday: Off
Sunday: 13-14 mile easy
1 Mile Open Water Jack King Swim
Total: 70 miles

Thoughts on this week:

I haven’t had a sans road race week in quite some time now (about a month) and now I have two in a row.  I’m not racing at all next week either.  That isn’t a bad thing though because I have needed (and wanted some quality training) versus worrying about when and how I feel on Friday if I’m racing on Saturday.

With that, Tuesday I did my normal speed workout which I hadn’t planned for Tuesday but was feeling good.  If I had planned, I would have done 10 in the morning versus 11.  So yes, 11 in the morning that were done easy and 5 in the afternoon (more like noonish at lunch) done at an overall 6:47 pace which I was shocked (but pleased with).

Then rest and recovery Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday was my first productive long run.  I plan to do roughly 5 of these this summer where I experiment with gels, fueling, shoes and also run at a quicker pace then my average day to day runs.  Friday fit with my work, training and life schedule so it was a great run for me.  I progressively worked my way down from 8:45 to the last two miles at 6:50.  (It was a big confidence booster) and I took a gel which sat fine at mile 8.  I didn’t feel any magical energy from the gel but also didn’t die and never felt bad (clearly I kept hammering down at the pace) so I guess it worked.

Then the rest was just easy recovery and rest.  I had to w0rk all day Saturday and I couldn’t muster up the injury free confidence to run at 6am after Thursdays 17…so that’s that.

That Swim:

Yes, I am probably drowning while you are reading this.  My dad and I have a tradition of doing the Jack King 1 mile swim.  You probably know if you follow my training for any amount of time I’m not really prepared, but alas I do it a lot more for fun.  College swimming is a very distant (pun intended) past of mine and while I do enjoy swimming occasionally, it’s not something (right now or for a while) I’ll put on my marbles of training in for.  Well really I give it 1 point of dedication but that might be a bit of dedication.  I take it as more of fun than anything else…painful fun I suppose…

Thoughts for next week:

I will probably do something extremely similar to this, sans fast long run (it will be easy miles) and sans long swim…but maybe I will swim.

Questions for you:

When do you take gels?

Do you like to race a lot or a little? 

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