5 Best Swim Workouts for Runners

Doing the same workout day in and out can get old quick. It’s so important to include a variety of exercises into your regimen so that you don’t get burned out. In addition, adding variety to your workout plan will help you increase your strength and stamina more than you may realize. If you’re a runner and you’re looking to switch things up, or you’re training for a triathlon, consider swim workouts for runners.

Bryan Mineo, the founder of The Swim Mechanic, stated: “Swimming is a perfect complement to running and can be easily integrated into a runner’s training plan. Initially, swim sessions should follow long run days to serve as an active recovery, flushing out and shaking off yesterday’s miles. While these swimming workouts won’t be your key training sessions, they will provide a nice break in the week from time on your feet.

In addition, Medical News Today reported that swimming has a variety of benefits such as building cardiovascular strength, improving sleep, managing stress, and is a full-body workout that increases your heart rate without putting stress on the body. Not to mention swimming is a low-impact exercise that can help aid joint pain.

Time vs Distance

Swim Workouts for Runners

While you may be able to run for hours on end, swimming may not come as easily and that’s normal. In fact, most runners won’t be able to swim very far when they first begin. So rather than trying to swim for distance, try swimming for a set amount of time at a more controlled pace. You’ll reap the benefits of swimming no matter how fast you go!

Swim workouts for runners are aerobic, not anaerobic. Aerobic exercise is any type of cardiovascular conditioning which includes swimming, walking, running or cycling. Anaerobic exercise involves a quick burst of energy. Think sprinting or weightlifting.

During aerobic exercise, your breath is faster and deeper than when your heart rate is resting. By maximizing the amount of oxygen in the blood, you’ll cause the heart rate to go up, which increases the blood flow to the muscles and to the lungs.

Swim Workouts for Runners

If you’re new to swimming, then the best way to start is by learning the fundamentals. Similar to any other exercise, knowing the proper way to perform an exercise helps prevent injury and bad habits. So even if you’ve been casually swimming your entire life, still go over the basics before jumping in head first. You can start by learning how to breathe, float, and flutter kick. Once you’ve got these basics down, you’re ready to swim some laps!  Below are a few swim workouts for runners that vary from helping with weight loss to recovery to improving your overall fitness level.

Strokes Workout

The breast stroke is one of the easiest strokes to learn. When starting out, you can keep your head above water the entire time until you’re comfortable in the water. As you gain more confidence and perfect your skills, you can take the stroke to a more advanced level by bringing your head under water. Once you’ve conquered the breast stroke, you can move on to the backstroke and then the freestyle.

Recovery Swim Workout for Runners

Swimming is the perfect recovery between your tough training workouts. You’ll be giving your body the much needed break it deserves while also helping it recover. Recovery swim workouts for runners are a great addition to a workout plan.

You can start by doing 10 minutes of a drill, such as flutter kicks. Once you’ve finished, do 20 to 30 minutes of swimming at an easy pace. The more advanced you become, the more varied the strokes may become, or the longer you’ll be able to go for. Just keep in mind this should be at an easy effort level. If you want to keep track of your performance, then time yourself each week to see how quickly you got around the pool at an easy pace.

Distance Swimming

Swim Workouts for Runners

If you’re a bit more advanced in your swimming, then you can lengthen the distance of your swim and perform it at a moderate or pleasantly hard effort. This will help you to build stamina and improve your lung functioning.

Start with 10 minutes of some easy laps to warm up. Then, swim 100 meters and rest for a minute or two. You can start by performing three repetitions. When you’re ready (or if you’re looking for a challenge) up the distance to 200 meters. To spice things up, you can try using a different stroke for each repetition.

Deep Water Running

If you’re searching for ways to vitalize running minus the impact, then deep water running is the perfect exercise for you. All you’ll need is a floatation belt and the deep end of the pool. You can start by doing an easy running pace for the first ten minutes. Once the first ten minutes are complete, increase your speed for 15 to 20 minutes. Then dial it back down to the easy pace for the last 10 minutes.

Interval Training Swim Workout for Runners

Swim Workouts for Runners

As your swimming expertise levels rise, then you can add in high-intensity intervals that will really take your fitness to a new level. You’ll need to start with about 10 minutes of warm-ups. This can be flutter kicks or some easy warm up laps. Once you have finished with your warm up, swim at a brisk pace for two lengths of the pool (typically 50 meters). Try to complete the two lengths in one minute (this is your interval). When finished, if you came in under the minute, you get to rest the remaining time left.  If you swam the 50 meters in 50 seconds, then you get 10 seconds rest.

If you can’t swim 50 meters in one minute, increase the interval to one minute fifteen seconds.  Repeat this 4 to 6 times. As you gain experience, build up to longer distance intervals with more repetitions.


Although it might be foreign to them, swim workouts for runners is a great alternative exercise to running for multiple reasons. Swimming is a full body exercise that builds cardiovascular strength while being low impact and not putting stress on the body.

Swim workouts can be done on your days off from running.  Doing so will help give your body recovery time while still gaining cardiovascular benefit. Also, the cold pool water will help to relieve your sore muscles and joints.  So, start cross training by swimming laps and become a better runner!

Photo of author

Gabrielle McNair

I am obsessed with all things related to fitness and personal health. Outside of that, I enjoy spending time with my husband, being outdoors and traveling.

50 of The Best Fitness Blogs

Is Kayaking Hard For Beginners? 4 Important Things to Know