#StayFit 2: Start with running now

Welcome to blog 2 in my new #StayFit series. In this blog I am going to tell you how I used running to stay fit and maintain my condition. I am also going to tell you wat the pro’s and con’s are when you run as an (open water) swimmer. And I can tell you, running in general has its limits for a swimmer. On the contrary, it is a very good cardio workout which you can use in multiple ways. And an extra benefit: as an (open water) swimmer you can start with running right away. Are you already curious to all the pros and cons? Read on then.

To run as a swimmer – summary



The pros

  • Start without investments
  • Easy to pick up
  • Possibility to use multiple cardio variations

The cons

  • Injury sensitive
  • (Too) fast a high heart rate
  • Almost none stimulation for the upper body

Just as my previous blog I am going to give my opinion on every pro and con. I hope that in the end you have enough information to start running by yourself.



Every pro and con further explained



Pro 1: Start without investments


Ideal to try. Everyone has a set of sportshoes and some sport clothes in his closet. That is convenient, because then you can start right away with running. Open water swimming is with the temperatures in Holland is far from ideal and a run is done in no time. Of course, if you have the oppertunity to go outside.


Precisely that there are no investments to be made this is one great advantage. Put on your running shoes and go. It doesn’t suprise you that a lot of swimmers already started to run because of this oppertunity.



Pro 2: Easy to pick up


Another additional advantage: running is very easy to pick up. Running is something we all did since we were little. Just start and you’ll notice that you are going to develop yourself fast. Probably because running is somehting we never unlearned troughout the years.


When I was a junior swimmer I used to run once in a week. I stopped doing this after some years. However, now I started to run again I am running way faster then before. For example: I started with a 5,5 – 6 minutes a kilometre and now I am already at a steady pace below the 5 minutes a kilometre.


I run twice or three times a week, most of the time between 8 or 10K per session. But be cautious and start slow. My first sessions were only 3 or 4K. And from there I added 0,5K per session. Give your body rest and don’t try to run everyday. On the other days do some other sports.



Pro 3: Possibility to use multiple cardio variations


Running is an ideal workout to play with your heart rate. It is important to increase our aerobic capacity. This is what I mentoined earlier in my previous blog. If you run at a high(er) pace then your heart rate will increase significantly. You are going to run on the edge of the aerobic and anaerobic system (also called threshold). Usually, this is with heart rate around the 150-160 beats per minute.


Because you can increase your heart rate so easily, running is useful for multiple cardio variations. For instance, you can choose to do a long cardio run on a slower pace. Then you are increasing your aerobic base. But if you also cycle a lot, you can do a running session at a higher heart rate and to make some speed.


Thus, I usually do a running session once in a week with shorter intervals. These intervals are around 1 or 2K at a high(er) pace. I am going to run with a heart rate around 150 beats per minute to activate my body and to get it used to a higher heart rate. After a round I take short rest, let my heart rate drop to 110-120 beats per minute and then it is time for the next round.


I do this to prevent getting stuck in my aerboic zone. Sometimes it is good for the body to trigger it and to make it work harder then usual. In races you aren’t going to be in your lower zones for all the time either. You want your body to work at the best during the most important moments your race.



Running is a good workout which can help you to stay fit. When you can't swim in open water running is a good cardio workout and training. Lars Bottelier - professional open water swimmer is going to tell you all the pros and cons when running as a swimmer.



Con 1: Injury sensitive


Unfortunately, there are also things to be cautious of when running. It wouldn’t be good if I won’t mention them here. The first one is that running is – especially for us as swimmers – very injury sensitive. This is due to the shock resistance everytime our feet land on the ground.


To tackle this I began easy when I started running. Shorter sessions and a maximum of two sessions in a week. From there you can grow slowly. The reason I am not doing sessions for longer than 10K is because my body says to me that I have runned enough for the day. On the one hand I think this is a bit of a disappointment because when I am swimming I can swim for 2 hours or longer. On the other hand I won’t force my body and it is more important to stay injury free.


I know from myself that my body isn’t the best made body for running, that’s why I bought additional equipment to counter this. So I bought compression socks and extra support for my feet. I really notice this makes a difference and prevents injury for me. Liston to your body.



Con 2: (Too) fast a high heart rate


Every advantage has its disadvantage, that is true with running as well. Because we can run with a high heart rate so easliy, it is tempting to run too often outside the right heart zones. You really shouldn’t do this.


If I run at a very high pace my heart rate can raise to 180 beats per minute or even higher. On land this isn’t my highest heart rate, but if I compare it to my max heart rate in the water it is very close. If you have such a high heart rate you are definitely in your anaerobic system and your body starts to produce lactate. That is precisey what we won’t as an endurance athlete. Lactate will make you feel tired.


Be wary of getting a heart rate which is too high. Keep your heart rate and your breathing under control. Don’t produce lacate and you feel you do, switch to a lower running pace. For the best training effect in this period of time we have to increase our aerobic fitness. Keep an eye out for that.



Con 3: Almost none stimulation for the upper body


The last cons I want to discuss is that with running you almost don’t stimulate your upper body. Obviously, because your legs will do most of the work. If I look at myself this isn’t a problem at all, because I want to invest in my legs and make them stronger.


It is important that you are aware of this. With swimming you do use your upper body, so on other days of the week you have to train this. This to help it maintain strong. You don’t want to lose all of your strength there. Alternative ways to do this are rowning on a rowing machine (if you have one), strength training and resistance training with elastic bands. In the next blogs more about this topic.



Next week I am going to highlight an other sport



That was this weeks blog. As an (open water) swimmer running is a good alternative training. You can start with it right away without making big investments. I hope you have learned something from my blog. If you have any questions you can ask them in the comment section. Next week I am going to highlight an other sports with its own pros and cons. Until then I am going to run a couple of extra times. Stay fit!



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