I have always been a person who enjoys running. I haven’t always chosen to do it, but I never had anything against it. I have not, however, always been a person who enjoys swimming. For most of my life, I have actually hated it. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word, but as far as exercise oriented activities are concerned, swimming would have ranked pretty low.
I have always liked swimming pools for sitting next to while sipping a refreshing cocktail, but as a place to exercise? Forget it.
The main reason I have generally despised swimming for exercise is that swimming for any sort of long distance is very difficult if you’re not doing it right. And it is hard to do it right if you are not fit enough, or don’t know what you’re doing. You find yourself struggling for breath and running out of strength to continue pretty darn quickly.
Running, in some ways, seems to be lot more forgiving of your cardio fitness than swimming is.
The last time I did any serious swimming I was training for a sprint triathlon, probably 10 or more years ago, and while the bike and run were fine, the swimming just about killed me every time I had to do it.
I am not even talking about the open water swimming (a blog post unto itself – because I freak out knowing THERE ARE THINGS, LIVING THINGS, IN THE WATER), I am talking about pool workouts.
30 minutes of running was not a problem. 30 minutes on the bike was a breeze. Put me in the pool to swim laps for 30 minutes, and I came apart like an ice cream cone in July.
I think the reason for this is, if you’re running or biking, you can breathe when you want, you can coast, or you can slow down. You can even cheat and turn off your GPS and gasp for air for a couple of minutes.
With swimming, even if you slow down, you’re still dealing with the fact that you’re underwater and can’t breathe when you want to. It will expose your weakness if you are not fit enough to have good breath control.
My husband is a former competitive swimmer, and he says it’s also because water is very unforgiving of bad form and wasted movement. If you push on it, it pushes back. You have to pull with just the right amount of power to move through the water. Pull too hard or not hard enough, and you might as well have a big bag of rocks tied around your neck.
You also need to be patient and calm – neither of which is my forte. You can’t flail and thrash around in an effort to go faster or you will be fighting the water the whole time. In running, moving legs faster means you go faster, even if your form sucks. You might not go as fast as your potential with bad form, but you will probably be moving somewhat faster than you did previously.
In swimming, you need to move arms and legs the right way, with the right amount of force, or you may in fact end up going slower than you would with a more relaxed stroke.
You also have to inhabit your own head more. There is nothing to look at in the pool other than the lane line at the bottom and the X at the end of the lane. No music, no grass, flowers or trees, and no running partner to talk to. No distractions. Just you, your strokes and your breathing.
So these are all the things I have generally held against swimming and why it’s always been pretty low on my list of things to do. I am happy that since I am now stuck in the pool for a while, that these things don’t seem to bother me so much.
I’m actually kind of enjoying it.
Maybe all that running made me a better swimmer?
Swimming pools – who knew they were not just for relaxing with a cocktail?
How about you? Do you like swimming or do you prefer a refreshing cocktail?
Do you incorporate swimming as cross training?
Has running made YOU a better swimmer, or vice versa?