From pull buoys to blisters, running shoes to paddles, Simon Griffiths answers some of the most commonly asked questions about swimrun
1. Won’t I get cold in a shortie swimrun wetsuit?
If you’re used to swimming in a full wetsuit, it’s understandable that switching to a shortie wetsuit for swimrun may make you nervous. It’s also worth pointing out that, unlike triathlon, swimrun doesn’t apply any minimum water temperature rules. Events may take place in sub 10-degree water and you need to be prepared for this. A swimrun wetsuit has to compromise between warmth and buoyancy on the swim, and ease of movement and heat dispersal while running, usually (I once did a race where I was warm enough in the water but cold on the runs). A shortie above-knee wetsuit with a front zip for ease of opening achieves this reasonably well. Having your arms and legs exposed isn’t a problem in most swimrun situations you encounter as long as your core is warm. Shoes and socks help keep your feet warm. In cooler conditions, if you need additional protection, you can add arm warmers, which are easy to roll down or remove while running, and neoprene calf guards. I also find knee length compression socks help keep the cold away on the swim and are more comfortable than thick calf guards for running. In extreme conditions, you can put on a base layer beneath your wetsuit and wear a neoprene headband to reduce ice-cream headache.
2. Will running shoes pull my legs down?
Many running shoes float, so you don’t need to worry about them pulling your legs down. However, they can reduce ankle flexibility and remove the feel for the water you get when swimming barefoot. Also, because you can’t feel the benefit of kicking while wearing shoes, and to save energy, many swimrunners simply stop kicking while swimming. All of these things can contribute to your legs sitting lower in the water but they are not being weighed down by your shoes.
3. Do I have to use a pull buoy?
The majority of swimrunners use a pull buoy when swimming to counter the impact of wearing shoes, but you don’t have to. Your wetsuit already has some buoyancy and calf guards, if you wear them, will add more. This may be enough for you. While increasing buoyancy helps you swim faster, you can have too much of a good thing. Excess buoyancy will put strain on your back and make you less stable in the water. Also, some people just don’t like swimming with a pull buoy and don’t mind losing a few seconds by going without. Remember, if you use a pull buoy, you have to carry it while running too. Test what works best for you.
4. Do I have to use paddles?
No, although again many people do as they swim faster with them than without, especially when using a pull buoy. On the other hand, paddles increase your risk of shoulder injury. They are more tiring to swim with, so although you may swim faster initially, on long events you could get slower towards the end. And you have to carry them while running.
5. Won’t I get blisters from running in wet socks and shoes?
This was something I worried about before starting swimrun. It turns out that you barely notice that you’re wearing wet shoes and socks, and I’ve not had any more problems with blisters than running in dry shoes. I sometimes rub Vaseline into my feet before a swimrun for extra protection although I’ve no proof it makes any difference.
6. Will I get chafed by my wetsuit when running?
You almost certainly will get chafed unless you take precautions. Make sure you put on plenty of wetsuit-safe anti-chafe lotion and loosen the neck of your wetsuit while running. When practising look for any spots where the wetsuit rubs (such as under your arms) and consider if additional barriers, such as waterproof tape, might help. If your event involves sea swimming, be extra cautious as salt water causes worse chafing.
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