Is Running Good for Swimmers? How So!

Running and swimming are two challenging aerobic activities that work well when paired together. For swimmers, running can provide a great way to build leg muscles and increase overall aerobic capacity.

We’ll go over the benefits of running and swimming and how you can make the most of these two activities.

How Much Running Should a Swimmer Do?

Those who swim regularly can benefit from adding a 30 minute run to their normal workout routine up to three times per week. These runs should be done at around 75 to 80% of your max heart rate . (Source)

You can run more when your swimming volume is lower, but you can limit it to one easy run a week when you’re in peak training for swimming. Running can be great cross-training for swimmers as it can help improve overall cardiovascular health. It is also a great way to get in a solid leg workout, especially because swimming can be so demanding on the upper body (Source).

Another benefit of running is that it can be more accessible than a pool, especially if you’re traveling or if your facility has hours that don’t always work with your schedule. It can also be a much less expensive option, which can make it a great addition to your routine or a solid choice when you’re taking a break from running.

To run, you really only need a decent pair of running shoes and you can hit the pavement, track, or trail. Cross training can also help with injury prevention as it works neglected muscles and joints. This makes it a great option to continue improving your overall fitness, even if you don’t have access to a pool.

Is Running Hard for Swimmers?

Running can be challenging for anyone who is new to the sport and swimmers are no exception. It can be extra frustrating for athletes coming from other disciplines, though, because they may feel like they should be better at running due to their foundation of cardiovascular endurance.

But swimmers often lack hip and ankle mobility, which can lead to inefficient running form.

Here are some ways that swimmers can improve their running from U.S. Masters Swimming (Source):

Relax Your Shoulders

Swimmers are used to using their upper body, which can translate into excessively pumping their arms when they run, leading to tense shoulders. Give yourself cues to relax your shoulders and your neck as you run. Your form should feel fluid and supple, not rigid.

Allow Your Body to Twist

Swimming requires tension through the core in order to keep your shoulders and hips working together. Running is different – you want to allow your hips and shoulders to counter-rotate. Relaxing your shoulders is the first step to unlocking this movement.

Embrace the Arm-Swing

Having a relaxed yet intentional arm-swing can help your body to absorb more impact as you run. This will lead to less head bouncing and ideally less shoulder tension.

Your elbows should be at 90 degree angles with your shoulders relaxed and your arms going back, not forward. Avoid crossing over the centerline of your body.

Your exact arm movement may vary depending on your body type (some runners prefer a more narrow angle on the back swing, for example).

Hip and Ankle Mobility

Focus on moving forward, not bouncing up and down. Swimming can cause an adaptive shortening of the achilles tendon due to the toes-pointed position your feet use when swimming.

To increase mobility in this area, you can do regular calf stretches. Hips can benefit from stretching, too, especially from various yoga flows and mobility routines.


Swimmers who start running often take quick, shallow breaths which can hinder running. You’ll breathe differently when you run than when you swim. With swimming, you take short inhales and longer exhales.

For running, it’ll be the opposite. You’ll want to take long, relaxed inhales and the exhales can be faster. You can use your running strides to create a breathing pattern in order to stay focused and relaxed, not gasping for breath.

Is It Harder to Swim or Run a Mile?

Generally speaking, it is harder to swim a mile than it is to run a mile. This is because human bodies were built for running – it was part of our survival as a species. Swimming, on the other hand, is far more taxing on our bodies, even though it is a low impact activity. Runners, on average, will cover three and a half times the distance as swimmers can over the same time span, (Source)

In addition, swimmers do not receive as much oxygen while exercising, which is why a lot of people will feel more exhausted after a one mile swim than after a one mile run. Of course, it all depends on the intensity of the exercise.

A one mile all-out sprint will be more challenging than a leisurely pool session. But all things being equal, swimming is generally considered more challenging.

Can You Swim and Run on The Same Day?

Yes, you can swim and run on the same day, but you shouldn’t do it all of the time. This is very common for people training for triathlons and is often necessary to prepare for the race.

While a triathlon involves a swim, then a bike, then a run, sometimes it’s just easiest to do your swim and your run on the same day.

You’ll likely want to space them out, like doing a run in the morning and a swim in the evening. It’s best to follow a training plan that provides you with details on intensity levels and duration of workouts.

Things to Keep in Mind

Swimming and running make a great cross-training pair. Swimming is less taxing on the joints while providing a challenging full-body workout. Running is a higher-impact activity but can help to build leg muscle and endurance.

Finding a way to incorporate both into your routine will make you a better athlete all around.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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