How swimming translates to running

You had me at Alberto Salazar.

By “you,” I mean Running Times, which featured a great spread about cross-training a few months ago that included this great nugget about swimming: Alberto Salazar qualified for the Olympic team in the 10,000m in 1980 after taking a two-month hiatus from running, relying on swimming as his primary activity following an IT band injury.

This photo of Alberto Salazar is pinned to my motivation board.

Since I’ve been swimming a lot to let my gimpy ankle rest, I’ve been thinking a lot about how swimming translates to running. Running Times lays out lots of great general information, but these are some of my personal impressions.

First and most importantly, it’s the best non-running cardio workout I’ve found. During sprint sets, when my heart feels like it’s about to jump out of my chest, I can’t help but think about running intervals on a track, or running hills.

I’ve also noticed the pool is a safe place to test stomach-friendly pre-workout foods, one of my major goals over the past few months. Swimming seems far more forgiving than running, stomach-wise, so I get to see which foods work without fearing a serious penalty if a food doesn’t work so well. Two successes: I swam a potentially vomit-inducing workout just an hour after a lunch of quinoa and various kinds of summer squash (I know. It’s not summer. Don’t tell Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver.), and it worked out just fine.

Also, inspired by Mark Bittman’s awesome-looking breakfast couscous recipe, I relied on a banana-couscous combo to fuel what turned out to be a mid-morning mega swim of 4,500 meters. I combined whole-wheat couscous, flaxseed, a mashed banana, a little skim milk and a few slivered almonds, then added a touch of Truvia and vanilla:

The delicious and stomach-friendly result.

The workout (all freestyle with a pull buoy):

  • 2,000, increasing intensity each 500
  • Pyramid set, on :15 rest: 1×50 > 1×100 > 1×150 > 1×200 > 1×250 > 1×300 > 1×250 > 1×200 > 1×150 > 1×100 > 1×50 (1,800 total)
  • 4×25 sprint freestyle, on :10 rest, followed immediately by 4×25 no-breath freestyle
  • 300 cool-down

I actually thought a lot about running while I swam, especially during the short, fast intervals. I imagined myself pushing it through the last, painful mile of a 5K, or up the last steep hill during one of my group runs with Pacers Silver Spring. I was so inspired and motivated, I added another one of these to the end: 4×25 sprint freestyle, on :10 rest, followed immediately by 4×25 no-breath freestyle. I can confirm, in case you were wondering, that the “no breath” part is considerably harder swimming meters than yards.

Next up: Ski weekend at Whitetail! Let it snow!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “How swimming translates to running

  1. That photo of Salazar looks like he’s ready to beat you up if you don’t go do your cross training!

  2. I know! That’s exactly why I like it!

  3. ooh alberto will be cracking the whip on you – better get your swim on! 🙂

    (kind of) unfortunately, i’m such a mileage addict. i used to be better about cross-training, doing other activities and now i’m OCD about mileage. grrr. i know i need to do non-running things too!

    have a fun weekend!

  4. Pingback: My favorite swim workouts « Amy Reinink

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