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Thread: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swimmers

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Question for runners who are gradually turning into swimmers

    Okay, so part of this might be aging... In my 40s and 50s, I could count on running 8something pace in a race (in fact, my 10k best was 48:40, but that was quite a while ago). In my early 60s, I faded to 9something. Now.... sheesh! 10 min. miles are race efforts! And that's just for the 5k! For the 10k and beyond... 11 is getting to be the new normal and 12 is peeking out from behind the curtains.

    Yesterday, I ran a 10k race (overslept and missed swim practice, so needed some kind of workout... that's what I get! Still, I was happy to support the race as it's in memory of a friend who passed away a few years ago). I finished LAST! Granted, my time wouldn't have gotten me in last had the weather been warmer and attracted more people. When it's 15 degrees in the morning, you get mainly the diehards. I did around 72 minutes and, especially later in the race, that pace hurt the way sub-8 used to. At times, I yielded to the temptation to walk, but I didn't want to give up. Still, I was getting more and more discouraged as I continued.

    Meanwhile, my swim times, while lately not significantly improving, do occasionally show nano-second advances, and I don't seem to be slowing down. I won't say they're fast--they've never been, but a recent 200 freestyle was a personal best, albeit by less than a second. And that was with a sore shoulder. It seems harder and harder to get started running and pace gets slower. I've come to like track workouts, especially short sprints such as 200s b/c I can feel fast if only briefly. But even then, times have slowed down, though not as much.

    Part of this is that I don't run as frequently now as I swim--and when I swim, it's pretty much always in masters' practice with my wonderful, merciless coach. So I'm swimming maybe 4-5x/wk, running about 3x/wk.

    So, those who both swim and run--can a person have it both ways? I am signed up for a 10 mile race in early May. And though I was slow in the 10k the redeeming feature was that it gave me a supported distance run. I have a 7 mile race next weekend--entering more for the distance than any time goal (although hoping not to be too, too frustrated w/ speed... in fact, I may deliberately make it a run/walk, not even have my watch running).

    I might decide though that swimming is becoming my main sport and running is the alternative cross-training workout when time or circumstance won't allow swimming. It's beginning to feel okay for me to decide that, but curious as to how/whether others experience a similar transition.

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Well, I used run tis after 5 hip operations , it has become a distant memory. Maybe the floatation effect of the water has a medical benefit over the pounding of gravity on our bodies??

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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    This not really answering your question because I am just a swimmer. I have several older runners on the Masters swim team I coach and they were complaining about getting slower as they aged. I found this article that might be interesting for you to read. One of the runners after reading this started doing lower leg strength exercises at the gym and he said that he noticed an improvement in his training times. Here is the link to the article:
    https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/...may-help/?_r=0

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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    I'm a cyclist who has taken up swimming rather than a runner but here are my thoughts: Lots of runners switch to cycling as they age due to the wear and tear on their joints. Cycling and swimming are both easier on the joints, assuming good form so age related changes may occur slower than with running. Are you comparing your running times to others in your age group? There is also something called "specificity of training" which means that training for one sport doesn't help another sport as much as one would wish. Yes cardio fitness and muscle strength are needed for swimming and running, but the muscle groups aren't really the same. If you are swimming more and running less - after all there is only so much time in the week - you may not be training as much for running as you used to. Since you are newer to swimming, the improvements will come faster in the beginning as you learn better technque and also because there is just more room for improvement (I have had the same experience over the last year and a half). Finally you have a coach for swimming and not for running

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    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    I was a runner exclusively from 1973 until a year ago. I did swim some laps from time to time, up to a mile on occasion. And for a while in the 80s I rode a bike to and from work 8 miles away. But it had been 99% running until last year.

    In 2015 I signed up for a fall half-marathon confidently because I had done them so many times before. By September, I was running with constant hip pain and was forced to back off 13.1 and drop down to doing just the 5K. I supplemented the lower running mileage by adding more swimming and tried to fight the pain for several more months, but by March '16 I finally had to stop running altogether.

    The problem was arthritis had eaten away at some of vertebrae and they shifted under the impact, pinching on the sciatic nerve. Now, I can do anything except run. I can walk 3 or 4 miles without any pain. I've always been big on doing pushups and can still do 1,000 a week. I can bike and I can swim all I want because there is no impact. So swimming has become my primary exercise. I took a few swim clinics in 2016 and have now joined a masters team with 2 practices a week and am beginning to see some progress. I have only begun to enter meets, a 1 mile OWS last August and 2 pool meets this winter, so everything I do is a new PR. Being a newbie in your late 60s is daunting of course, but I'm persistent if nothing else.

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Keep at the new found swimming SUMO !!!

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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    I've spent the last five years as a joint swimmer/runner, but to really compete -and improve- in either one you kind of naturally end up prioritizing one over the other. From 2011-2015 I was mostly a runner who did swimming to cross train, then I spent 2016 as a competitive runner/swimmer, and 2017 is a year of swimming. Maybe one day I'll run again (I'm in my late 20s), but frankly, it's starting to hurt more and more and I know I'm never going to get back to my PRs from my teens, which disappoints me (although I realize that's totally normal!). I also don't love running just to run - I always am more motivated to run in order to get better at something else (I would run the years I was in a field hockey club, for instance, but my motivation dropped when I moved away and didn't have access to a club anymore).

    Anyway long story short, I did have it "all" for about a year, and could have probably done it longer, but you have to sacrifice hoping for improvement in both sports to do it. I really want to improve my swimming at the moment, so that's what I'm focusing on.

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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Quote Originally Posted by FindingMyInnerFish View Post
    Okay, so part of this might be aging... In my 40s and 50s, I could count on running 8something pace in a race (in fact, my 10k best was 48:40, but that was quite a while ago). In my early 60s, I faded to 9something. Now.... sheesh! 10 min. miles are race efforts! And that's just for the 5k! For the 10k and beyond... 11 is getting to be the new normal and 12 is peeking out from behind the curtains.

    Yesterday, I ran a 10k race (overslept and missed swim practice, so needed some kind of workout... that's what I get! Still, I was happy to support the race as it's in memory of a friend who passed away a few years ago). I finished LAST! Granted, my time wouldn't have gotten me in last had the weather been warmer and attracted more people. When it's 15 degrees in the morning, you get mainly the diehards. I did around 72 minutes and, especially later in the race, that pace hurt the way sub-8 used to. At times, I yielded to the temptation to walk, but I didn't want to give up. Still, I was getting more and more discouraged as I continued.

    Meanwhile, my swim times, while lately not significantly improving, do occasionally show nano-second advances, and I don't seem to be slowing down. I won't say they're fast--they've never been, but a recent 200 freestyle was a personal best, albeit by less than a second. And that was with a sore shoulder. It seems harder and harder to get started running and pace gets slower. I've come to like track workouts, especially short sprints such as 200s b/c I can feel fast if only briefly. But even then, times have slowed down, though not as much.

    Part of this is that I don't run as frequently now as I swim--and when I swim, it's pretty much always in masters' practice with my wonderful, merciless coach. So I'm swimming maybe 4-5x/wk, running about 3x/wk.

    So, those who both swim and run--can a person have it both ways? I am signed up for a 10 mile race in early May. And though I was slow in the 10k the redeeming feature was that it gave me a supported distance run. I have a 7 mile race next weekend--entering more for the distance than any time goal (although hoping not to be too, too frustrated w/ speed... in fact, I may deliberately make it a run/walk, not even have my watch running).

    I might decide though that swimming is becoming my main sport and running is the alternative cross-training workout when time or circumstance won't allow swimming. It's beginning to feel okay for me to decide that, but curious as to how/whether others experience a similar transition.

    Many swimmers also run so that's not an issue. Probably the most difficult part of the transition is the ankle. Many runners with great leg strength have issue with kicking flutter either free or back. Keeping the ankles flexed with the toes pointed backwards while kicking often is difficult.

    The biggest difference in training is swimming demands more work on form to reduce frontal drag. The faster you go the stronger the water tries to pull you back. You can simply work harder but you will soon run out of heart rate, go anaerobic, and bonk. You must spend some time each day working on form to reduce drag. The good thing is this can help you to swim faster as you age up. Good luck and welcome to Masters.

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    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Kicking is my biggest problem. When I began, the legs were just along for the ride. They contributed nothing, just dragged along behind and sank. After 40 years of running, the feet are unable to point downward. They cannot go much beyond a 45 deg angle, and if so, terrible foot cramps ensue. I can kick furiously with a kick board and go absolutely nowhere. I am now working on kicking extensively and as I watch the bottom of the pool, I progress by counting individual tiles. After a year I may have gained a couple degrees of flexure, but my now the glutes hurt all the time. Switching sports at 68 is no picnic.

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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Quote Originally Posted by Sumorunner View Post
    Kicking is my biggest problem. When I began, the legs were just along for the ride. They contributed nothing, just dragged along behind and sank. After 40 years of running, the feet are unable to point downward. They cannot go much beyond a 45 deg angle, and if so, terrible foot cramps ensue. I can kick furiously with a kick board and go absolutely nowhere. I am now working on kicking extensively and as I watch the bottom of the pool, I progress by counting individual tiles. After a year I may have gained a couple degrees of flexure, but my now the glutes hurt all the time. Switching sports at 68 is no picnic.
    Not a great situation and one that vexes many of us. I suppose you have tried this but here goes anyway: The use of fins to help the ankles flex a bit more. I would use short to moderate ones. The key here is not to kick hard but to try to just flick the ankles and let the fin do the work. Keep the knee as straight as you can bending it just enough to get a whip like motion into each kick. Over time the fins will hopefully stretch the ankle ligaments a bit more. I would do this on your back also for some change of scenery. Best of luck

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    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Yeah, I tried fins, they kill me, too constraining. In addition to a lack of ankle flexibility, 40 years running has made my forefoot very wide. They're spread beyond normal width. That should be a good thing if I can develop a kick, but I cannot go 10 yards with fins before the foot cramps up. I work on the kick more each week. It will come eventually I hope.

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    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    I got a video of my 50y sprint from last week's meet. It shows that I did almost everything wrong, but I didn't drown so that's a start.

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    Very Active Member knelson's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Quote Originally Posted by orca1946 View Post
    Well, I used run tis after 5 hip operations , it has become a distant memory. Maybe the floatation effect of the water has a medical benefit over the pounding of gravity on our bodies??
    True, but there's also plenty of evidence that weight-bearing exercise is essential as we age to keep bone density up. No one is going to argue that swimming is not good exercise, but it does not provide that essential weight-bearing component.

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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Quote Originally Posted by Sumorunner View Post
    Yeah, I tried fins, they kill me, too constraining. In addition to a lack of ankle flexibility, 40 years running has made my forefoot very wide. They're spread beyond normal width. That should be a good thing if I can develop a kick, but I cannot go 10 yards with fins before the foot cramps up. I work on the kick more each week. It will come eventually I hope.
    I had a feeling you tried some fins. Perhaps someone out there can recommend a wide pair. The key for you now is to minimize the damage of the bad foot angle. Keep your kick as high in the slip stream of your upper body to minimize drag. Think of surface kicking with shallow high frequency kicks. Good luck.

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    Thanks for all the responses! And it's looking as if running might need more of my attention because I'm having shoulder pain--so where once I was a reluctant swimmer when I had running injuries, I notice now I'm getting to be a reluctant runner with a swimming injury. C'est la vie!

    Ganache, that's an interesting NY Times article. It confirms what a running coach once advised me to do: more strength training. He recommended upper body as well as leg work. And I'm thinking too I need to work the core more than I have.

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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    I am too a runner and sa swimmer,reading this thread was very educational. Thank you.

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    Very Active Member flystorms's Avatar
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    Re: Question for runners who are gradually turning into swim

    One thing you might find is that when you get better at swimming, your aerobic endurance will likely get better, which will, in turn, make you better at running. I was surprised a few years ago to do a 5k with one of my brothers and had really only swam to keep in shape. It was one of my best 5k times ever without doing much running Good luck!
    "If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to meet it." - Jonathan Winters, actor and comedian

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