Swimming during marathon training

Hi there

So i'm training for my first marathon atm. I have to admit I'm not a triathlete (I struggle on a bike!) but I am a swimmer, and so train with my club a few times a week.

Whilst training for the marathon, I'm only doing 2-3 swimming sessions a week, but I just wondered if I could substitue running for this swimming? I'm doing 3 runs a week (going to try and increase this to 4) - doing the long run at weekends, a short fast run, and a middle distance one. Is this enough running? I'm just nervous of over training as I tend to be fairly injury prone! I'm a few months into training (doing a 15miler long run this weekend)m and have 4 months left, and my pace has been pretty good and on target. Just not sure if i'm doing enough running - can the swimming count as a session!?

Thanks and sorry for the babble! 


  • ha no, sorry...I am sounding very confusing. I mean the way you thought - can swimming count as a run. And ok, thank you, Its tricky finding a balance, especially as I'm nervous of injury!

  • You can combine the two, but bear in mind that you cannot put your full energy into both sports so you need to make one your A sport and the other your B sport while working towards each particular goal.

    You can get round a marathon on 3 runs a week.  I've managed to do 6 using that training method.  But if you want a good time and to do your best then you will probably need to do more running and less swimming.

    Where swimming can help is when working on training your mind.  One of the biggest hurdles to a marathon is convincing yourself that you are capable of doing it and to keep going.  I did some runs followed by a swim where the purpose was to work hard on both and train my mind to keep up the effort when I was tired and achy.  But of course, these are unlikely to be quality swimming training sessions which is why swimming has to be your B sport.

  • Swimming is completely different to running so it's not a substitute for running.

    If you want a decent time then you have to put the miles in and prepare your legs for the task.
  • Thanks for these. It's really tricky finding a balance, as if I drop swimming off too much it takes a really long time to get it back! Always been an endurance athlete (used to be a good distance swimmer) but when I started to peak with that got really into running. Always done a bit of both but did a bit too much of both and then got a load of injury problems. I'm still competeing with swimming but not as much and just longer endurancey things. They are indeed very different sports...but I've always swam which has given me great stamina which has then transferred and meant I can run (slowly, but I'm one who can just keep going). So basically, I won't be able to stop swimming, but will try fit some more running in and get my mileage a bit higher.

  • The Furman FIRST program is based on only three runs a week and has been used to very good effect on the other side of the site.

    The rest of the time is made up with cross training, swimming would obviously count as cross training. 


  • I have done FIRST for all my marathon training and it seems to work well. As I am too heavy for a runner. As an ex-rugby prop forward I am not built as an endurance runner. The FIRST stuff appealed to me as it kept time running to a minimum.

    In some training plans they use the term 'recovery run'. So I am using the same joints, tendons and bones as my normal running but getting little muscular or aerobic benefit from it as I am recovering. What is that about. Do cross training instead and give the joints, tnedons and bones a break as well.

    Yes it adds to time on legs etc but if you haven't read the FIRST stuff don't start.

    The runs are typically much harder and faster than many marathon plans where virtually  everything is a Long slow run with the lSR becoming even slower.


  • People have different opinions on how much cross training will benefit your running times. I find that I get better results when I cross train (swim, bike, gym) rather than just do more running sessions a week. My overall training load would be higher than if I would be just running but my legs would not be fatigued and I get better quality from the runs I do.


  • Thanks so much for this - haven't heard of FIRST so it's giving me some interesting reading!

  • It seems I have been sort of doing this. I'm doing one speed session (I have no track near me so it's not quite as good as it should be), one mid tempo session and a long run. I'm cross training more than they suggest so hopefully this should work well. Seems to make sense as definitely getting the qualitiy training in there, and for injury prone people seems a good idea!

    m..eface - my bf is also an ex-rugby prop forward, and although was always a bit out of position as not as many others, he's finding the transition to endurance quite tricky on the joints! (coming over to the world of triathlon). I'll suggest this to him - might save his knees! 

  • as an aside - not all of us prop fowards (another here) suffer with joint issues - I've done 21 marathons (5 as part of an IM) and 3 ultras (incl one 45 miler) and am somwehat older than a few of you like m..eface  image  maybe it's having good genes (although my mum had osetoarthritis) - I don't know - but my joints have never suffered badly after distance session.  sure, I ache, but that's also an age thing but have never had any joint damage or injury - all my problems have been soft tissue injuries like tears or pulls.

    I've also tried the FIRST program as I liked the principles of it and I was aiming for a marathon PB.  sadly I tore a hamstring overdoing it on a speed session - so had to back off the full program after that.  in fact if it has one negative it is the speed sessions and knowing how to pace yourself over them. if you're remotely competitive like me - then a speed session becomes a challenge to go too fast - and that's what I did - I overdid it and ended up injured.  

    so as meface says, make sure you understand what the FIRST program is all about and the principles it adopts before going hell for leather at it!

  • I'm not as old as FB and have no problems with joints or much else for that matter. Except  from rugby when I had tendancy to displace T1, 2 & 3. I did have achilles problems when I decided to drop the hammer and do a 10k training plan in September/October a couple of years ago - too fast too soon.

    Unlike FB I have only done 5 marathons, but I have done 10*30 milers,  5*50 milers and 1*77 of a 100.

    I just know I weigh a lot and therefore statistically lots of running is likely to create issues over the next 64 years (not stopping till I'm 104) and therefore mixing it up with swimming and cycling will reduce the chances of overuse injuries. Plus if minor issues come up that don't affect the other two then one doesn't feel the need to rush back too soon.

    So my decisions are precautionary rather than as a result of issues. Note I am technically too heavy at the moment to ride my bike (100kg weight limit) but will back on track by end of Janaury.

    The FIRST stuff is very interesting and I have the book at home.


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