Swimming Improves Running?

I am wondering if and how my swimming is improving my running. It is not immediately obvious to me that swimming is doing much, but it must be helping, right?


I took up triathlon about 8 years ago and subsequently had to start doing a lot of swimming. I have since stopped the tri’s and have focused a lot more on the running. But I have been swimming once per week quite regularly for the last 3 years. The swims end up being mostly long slow distance with some other strokes and speed work thrown in to keep it interesting, but I don’t really have a goal with it. I guess my goal is to keep up with and spend time with my teen daughter who joins me weekly. (The keeping up is getting harder each week.) But any speed or distance goal is not really there.

Benefits I see with the swimming:

1) I would think that swimming promotes regular steady breathing which is important for long distance running. Awareness of your breathing and the ability to control it is a definite asset in running.

2) Swimming works your core (and arms) which apparently is vital for running to keep you injury free and able to just go longer. The stronger your core is, the less work your legs have to do to compensate for a weak core. At least that’s the theory. This core work might be able to replace other gym work or cross training I might otherwise have to do.

3) Swimming slows down the resting heart rate. I think this is the case. If it does that is good for running. Ultra marathoners (and triathletes) always talk about resting heart rate. Efficient hearts make mighty engines.

4) Swimming lengths is inherently interval work which is good mental work. Runners should do more intervals to train their brain for mental toughness. But no one likes interval work.

5) Swim coaches are always talking about form, efficiency, stroke improvement, and being able to “feel” the water. These concepts translate to running. Our form breaks down when we get tired and so we must keep practicing it or keep mindful of it while running to ensure to keep the form as long as possible. Efficient running takes you further and faster than just stumbling along. And being able to “float” along the ground is something to aspire to.

6) Swimming builds discipline. Not just from the swimming part but the fact that you need to go somewhere regularly at a specific time to get in the workout. It is much easier to get your run in sometime in the day even if your regular run time gets booked with other life events. But discipline in your run workouts of important too.

My daughter’s swim competitions are mostly all out effort for 2 minutes or so. This would equate to sprinting half way around a track, multiple times at an event. Do all those sprint practices for her improve her long distance running? Or would it be better to just put in slow long distance swimming to improve long distance running?

Maybe I would say that any cross training is great for any runner. But if I were to focus on something in my swimming what should it be? Breathing, heart rate, efficiency, mental toughness? Where do you get the most bang?

Any swim experts out there?

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