Do you need to do specific swimrun training to do a swimrun race?

Swimrun is an amazing, liberating way to traverse a landscape. Being prepared to both run and swim, boundaries disappear. You cross rivers, take shortcuts across bays, swim between islands and run over mountains. It’s exhilarating, exciting and challenging. But, in order to take on a swimrun challenge, do you need to do specific swimrun training, or can you do your swim and run training separately? Or even, should you do your swim and run training separately?

Let’s face it, swimrun training involves a degree of faff. You need to get into your swimrun wetsuit and your shoes will get wet. Both need drying and cleaning after. Then there’s the question of where to do your training. Few pools will tolerate you jumping in with your muddy trail shoes. If you swim at a supervised venue, you need to find one that has access to running trails and is happy for you to get in and out several times in one session. If you strike out on your own, you need to be impervious to puzzled looks and unwanted commentary from people whose paths you cross. When they see you running down the street in your wetsuit, possibly with your swim hat and goggles on your head, at best they will think you’re lost. It’s more likely they think you’ve lost your mind.

It’s certainly a lot easier and more practical to keep your swimming and running training separate. But how will this impact your performance on event day? It depends in part on your aspirations and previous experience. To reassure anyone who is finding it difficult to do specific swimrun training, the bottom line is that you can certainly get away without doing any. As long as you’ve developed a good level of fitness for both swimming and running, you will be able do and enjoy a swimrun event. Do not panic if you have not specific swimrun training – meaning in full kit with multiple transitions – before your first event. You will be fine.

That said, a general principle for training is that it is usually more effective to simulate what you expect to encounter in the event you’re preparing for. Swimrun has unique features that you won’t practise for if you always keep your swimming and running separate. These include multiple transitions between swimming and running, repeated changes of temperature between land and water, scrambling into and out of the water, swimming in shoes and running in wet footwear. At the very least, you will boost your confidence if you practise these things in advance, and you should also boost your performance.

For most of us, making every training session a swimrun is impractical. It would also be counterproductive. Spending focused time on swimming and running is good for your performance in both those disciplines and you would miss out if you exclusively did swimrun. It would be better to incorporate swimrun selectively. For your first event, just once or twice before you race would be enough. And if you can’t manage a dedicated swimrun session, at least try swimming in your shoes and running in them when they are wet.

Another option, which works well and is more practical than a full swimrun, is to occasionally do a swim session immediately followed by a run, or vice versa. Or run to your swim session and home again after. You don’t need to use your full kit for this, or get your shoes wet by swimming in them. You just want to get used to the sensation of running after swimming and swimming after running. This is much easier to manage and fit into regular life than a full-on swimrun session, could easily be done once or twice per week and doesn’t require you to dry your shoes after.

In brief then:

  • You don’t need to do specific swimrun training but it will help you if you can.
  • It is more practical and useful to do the bulk of your training sessions as separate swims and runs.
  • Doing a run immediately before or after a swim is a compromise that can easily be incorporated into your training. 
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