Swim, run, strength
Grab your wetsuit and trainers – it’s swimrun training time!
If you have ever found yourself going round the shops post swim still wearing your large fluffy changing robe, then running around your local park in your wetsuit in preparation for a swimrun will not phase you. Embarrassing though it may be, this and the following suggestions are essential to being swimrun ready.
Swimrun is more than simply swimming and running. The repeated transitions, need for slick teamwork and swimrun kit make it far more entertaining. They are endurance events but the frequent change from swim to run and vice versa means the pace is faster than if you were steadily applying yourself to a marathon swim or run. So you need to train accordingly.
First things first, you need to have good enough fitness and technique to swim confidently in open water and run confidently on trails. Notice I said good enough. Swimrun is all about adventure and the more ready for it you are, the more you will enjoy it. So you don’t need Olympic times but you do need to have faith in yourself and your partner that you will cover the distance.
Choose your teammate well. The beauty of swimrun as a team is that you can support each other, take turns in leading and importantly share in what is a brilliant experience. Differences in fitness or mindset can make it harder. Teamwork does make the dream work.
Choose a swimrun race to suit you. Whilst swimrun became known for the long courses of Breca and ÖTILLÖ, new shorter, have-a-go or pool-based swimruns are being held each year.
Work back from the date of your swimrun and write yourselves a training plan which gives you the big picture of what you need to do. Remember, consistency is the name of the game and planning in recovery time between harder sessions is important.
Aim to be in the pool or open water for 60 minutes, 2-3 times a week, swimming a mix of different sessions including steady distance and sets designed to add variety and push your speed and fitness. The more you can swim open water, the better in terms of acclimatisation, sighting practice, swimming in your shoes, swimming with a pull buoy etc.
If you are using paddles, start training with them early and importantly make sure your technique is good.
Just as open water is totally different to swimming in pools, running through beautiful landscapes – parks, forests and mountains – is far more motivating physically and mentally than running on road and so get out there and run trail. If you are a complete running beginner, following a couch to 5k plan is a good place to start.
Aim to be running 3 times a week for an hour or so building up to longer sessions and days with multiple runs. If you already run regularly, aim to include a steady long run, a faster short run and hills. The important thing is to vary the terrain, your pace and the technicality of the route so that you are mimicking swimrun trails.
Adding in a strength session, something as simple as a home based 20-minute routine, two times a week, a regular gym visit or hill repeats on your local trails will make all the difference to you crossing that finish line.
Pulling it all together
The more you can train in your full swimrun gear and as a team the better. Find a lake or pool and combine run and swim sessions. Focus on how you transition as a team from water to land and vice versa, how the tow line will work between you on both the swim and the runs and how you will carry your pull buoy and so forth. This is a time to train seriously but also the time to play and try out ideas. What are you going to fuel with, where are you going to stash your mandatory kit and what happens if one of you needs the loo?
However you train, make sure you are having fun. You will trip over the tow line, you will wish you had used vaseline and people will question your sanity as you run rubber clad – but for swimrun, it’s worth it.
Jude Palmer is a trail running coach and an experienced swimrunner. Contact her @runsurreyhills with your swimrun questions big or small.