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Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why?
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I do relatively well with swimming....I am old but hang near the front of most races I do and would say I am above average when I swim with others outside of racing. Furthermore, I can take a long break and tend to bounce back pretty quick with swim results.

I can push just as hard (or harder) running....but it seems to take forever for me to gain running fitness, and even then....I would say I am mediocre at best.

I have searched online to try to better understand the physiology behind this, to no avail. I could accept that I may be better at one vs the other....but I am not even close.

I am reading on running mechanics, and will try to incorporate what i have read to see if improvement happens. The few times I felt like I was slightly better than average running, was after a solid 15 months of very consistent training....and when I stop, I lose it fast!!

I will add that I am up about 10 lbs from my best running performance weight and know that is affecting me, but I cannot imagine that is the entire answer.

Anyone else struggle with this? Is there a physiological explanation? Appreciate any insight or direction to literature on this!
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Put your height and weight as well as years of consistent swim training and run training

My hunch is you're a bigger than average (say 6'2"+ 175+lbs) and you were a swimmer for many years more than running.

Also put some running race PRs.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Mike Alexander wrote:
I do relatively well with swimming....I am old but hang near the front of most races I do and would say I am above average when I swim with others outside of racing. Furthermore, I can take a long break and tend to bounce back pretty quick with swim results.

I can push just as hard (or harder) running....but it seems to take forever for me to gain running fitness, and even then....I would say I am mediocre at best.

I have searched online to try to better understand the physiology behind this, to no avail. I could accept that I may be better at one vs the other....but I am not even close.

I am reading on running mechanics, and will try to incorporate what i have read to see if improvement happens. The few times I felt like I was slightly better than average running, was after a solid 15 months of very consistent training....and when I stop, I lose it fast!!

I will add that I am up about 10 lbs from my best running performance weight and know that is affecting me, but I cannot imagine that is the entire answer.

Anyone else struggle with this? Is there a physiological explanation? Appreciate any insight or direction to literature on this!

The older one gets, the slower it comes back and the faster it goes away.

Of all the sports, running is probably the one the if you do not use it, you lose it.

Swimming is technique so one can get away with a lot less training.

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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [holograham] [ In reply to ]
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holograham wrote:
Put your height and weight as well as years of consistent swim training and run training

My hunch is you're a bigger than average (say 6'2"+ 175+lbs) and you were a swimmer for many years more than running.

Also put some running race PRs.

Consistent??...there is the issue. I started "running" in 2011, because I wanted to run 5 miles without stopping....thats what started this Triathlon madness. PR's....pretty bad, 1:40 half marathon....did a couple of marathons but didn't break 4 hours. 5k around 21 minutes. I am 6'1 & 174 lbs right now. I got down to 157 for my first Ironman.....actually had my best running performance (which isn't saying much) around 163. Have not run very consistently this year....a few 30-35 mile weeks.

Swimming...I swam as a kid....but not competitively. Some swim lessons, so my Mom would be sure I wouldn't drown in the backyard pool....that's about it. My lack of running this year was equalled with a lack of swimming.....but as I stated in the original post...the swimming bounces back quickly.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Hmm so no formal swim background. What are your swim times?

Most folks will tell you to improve running you will need to increase your volume substantially but you likely already knew that.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [holograham] [ In reply to ]
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holograham wrote:
Hmm so no formal swim background. What are your swim times?

Most folks will tell you to improve running you will need to increase your volume substantially but you likely already knew that.

Yeah...consistency and volume will help, I just don't get why one sport comes back quicker than the other...that is really what I am trying to understand.....the physiology behind it. I know there is no magic cure, and that it takes work. I was not athletic growing up fwiw.

Swim times are around 35 minutes for HIM swim, which puts me somewhere between 15th - 30th in my AG (I am 47). Nothing spectacular, but better than average. I can get back to this pace in one month after a layoff.

To be in the top 30 running (sub 1:50 off the bike)....it takes a year of consistent effort for me....and 1:45 - 1:50 is nothing to write home about, however it seems a loooong way off from where I am today!
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Mike Alexander wrote:
Anyone else struggle with this? Is there a physiological explanation?

I think almost everyone struggles with this. Look at the results, and it is common to see people with one sport where they excel, or one sport where they are really poor. The exception are the people who seem balanced; except when they are relatively mediocre at all events. (In which case it is easier to balance things out.)

Certainly a huge issue is background. People who pick up a sport later in life generally will not do as well in those sports as sports which they participated in, particularly at a high level, when younger.

There are also physiologic factors: some people have naturally low Cda, some people have better running efficiency, etc. I'd recommend not worrying about it.

For reference, in my last HIM, my splits were: swim 35m, bike 2:13 (actually 2:17, but I was directed off course for 2 miles), run 1:32 (? maybe 1:33). My swim is relatively poor. But I biked and ran, a lot, as a teenager. I started swimming at 30. I've always had a very weak upper body. Swimming more makes me faster, but I've done enough 8-9 hours weeks to know I will never be much faster than 35m for a HIM. It is just the way it is....
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Perhaps it's your basis for comparison. Triathletes are, on the average, not very speedy in the water. Compared to the field, they are better runners. It's possible that you have average performances in both. But, since the field is weaker in the swim, you appear better in that discipline.






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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Tri-Banter] [ In reply to ]
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   I welcome additional feedback, but those are excellent points from everyone. Thank you.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Sub 1:50 off the bike is nothing to sneeze at. I'd say it is an exaggeration to say you are a horrible runner.



Mike Alexander wrote:
holograham wrote:
Hmm so no formal swim background. What are your swim times?

Most folks will tell you to improve running you will need to increase your volume substantially but you likely already knew that.


Yeah...consistency and volume will help, I just don't get why one sport comes back quicker than the other...that is really what I am trying to understand.....the physiology behind it. I know there is no magic cure, and that it takes work. I was not athletic growing up fwiw.

Swim times are around 35 minutes for HIM swim, which puts me somewhere between 15th - 30th in my AG (I am 47). Nothing spectacular, but better than average. I can get back to this pace in one month after a layoff.

To be in the top 30 running (sub 1:50 off the bike)....it takes a year of consistent effort for me....and 1:45 - 1:50 is nothing to write home about, however it seems a loooong way off from where I am today!

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Kindness in another's troubles, courage in one's own
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Mike Alexander wrote:
Consistent??...there is the issue. I started "running" in 2011, because I wanted to run 5 miles without stopping....thats what started this Triathlon madness. PR's....pretty bad, 1:40 half marathon....did a couple of marathons but didn't break 4 hours. 5k around 21 minutes. I am 6'1 & 174 lbs right now. I got down to 157 for my first Ironman.....actually had my best running performance (which isn't saying much) around 163. Have not run very consistently this year....a few 30-35 mile weeks.

I have the opposite problem that you do. Decent runner, horrible swimmer.
The secret to running is consistency. Get up to 100-120km with 2 workouts and one long run a week.
We are the same height but I'm 130lbs and I think makes a considerable difference with being able to float/swim faster vs run faster, don't really worry about the weight, I imagine once you up your run volume your weight will drop.

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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Anyone else struggle with this? Is there a physiological explanation?

You have really short legs?

'It never gets easier, you just get crazier.'
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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5k in 21 mins? Humble brag much, dude? You're in the top 10 percentile easily.

Next races on the schedule: Desert Tri Oly 2018,Oceanside 2018, Santa Rosa full 2018
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Mike Alexander wrote:

I will add that I am up about 10 lbs from my best running performance weight and know that is affecting me, but I cannot imagine that is the entire answer.

Does that mean we are skipping the ribs?


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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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With what you've noted in your PR's/history/etc... you don't have enough volume in the legs. If you had the volume, you'd be able to run a 3:50 marathon. But since you've not broken 4.. you don't have the muscular endurance or your form breaks down after 30-35k probably... both related to running more.


I would suggest running more and more consistent. That doesn't mean to go crazy.. you'll get hurt. But I would target a race 1 year in advance and try to make a dedicated 1 year running build if you're serious about it. It takes time to do it right. Sure you'll get faster before 1 year, but the habit will be well established after the 1 year mark.

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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Tri-Banter] [ In reply to ]
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Tri-Banter wrote:
Perhaps it's your basis for comparison. Triathletes are, on the average, not very speedy in the water. Compared to the field, they are better runners. It's possible that you have average performances in both. But, since the field is weaker in the swim, you appear better in that discipline.

Agree 100%, IME the best way to evaluate your relative speediness is to compare your splits to best splits of the race, e.g. if the fastest swimmer went 23:30 and you went 35:15, then you were 50% slower. On the run, if the fastest runner went say 1:12 and you went 1:48, then again you're 50% slower, and if fastest biker went 2:00 and you went 3:00, then again 50%. Since it is rare that the same person has the fastest splits in all three sports, if you were indeed 50% slower in all 3, then prob overall you'd be 40-45% slower.


"Anyone can be who they want to be IF they have the HUNGER and the DRIVE."
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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I think Triathletes are just better runners than they are swimmers, it was daunting for me entering the sport as someone who couldn't run 5k in 25min.
Go down to your local parkrun or fun run and in general the times seem way slower apart from the freaks at the front.
Last edited by: TriguyBlue: Mar 21, 17 0:59
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [alex_korr] [ In reply to ]
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alex_korr wrote:
5k in 21 mins? Humble brag much, dude? You're in the top 10 percentile easily.

I am not bragging at all....someone asked....and that is a PR.....I couldn't touch that time (sadly) right now.

Lastly, "humble brag"..... your signature line says "Boston 2017".
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Thomas Gerlach] [ In reply to ]
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Thomas Gerlach wrote:
Mike Alexander wrote:


I will add that I am up about 10 lbs from my best running performance weight and know that is affecting me, but I cannot imagine that is the entire answer.


Does that mean we are skipping the ribs?

I am skipping the side of chili cheese fries!
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [ericmulk] [ In reply to ]
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ericmulk wrote:
Tri-Banter wrote:
Perhaps it's your basis for comparison. Triathletes are, on the average, not very speedy in the water. Compared to the field, they are better runners. It's possible that you have average performances in both. But, since the field is weaker in the swim, you appear better in that discipline.


Agree 100%, IME the best way to evaluate your relative speediness is to compare your splits to best splits of the race, e.g. if the fastest swimmer went 23:30 and you went 35:15, then you were 50% slower. On the run, if the fastest runner went say 1:12 and you went 1:48, then again you're 50% slower, and if fastest biker went 2:00 and you went 3:00, then again 50%. Since it is rare that the same person has the fastest splits in all three sports, if you were indeed 50% slower in all 3, then prob overall you'd be 40-45% slower.

Thanks....great idea! I will review some of my past results this way for sure.

What I am really trying to understand though, is how can one sport "come back" so fast (regardless of relative ranking) and the other take an eternity.....perhaps it's normal. After a layoff, the swim comes back fast, the bike comes second....and the run shows up around a year later! Just seems odd, which is why I was digging around trying to understand why that would be.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Honestly, a HIM 35min swim and 5k of 21 minutes for a man of your age, seems completely in line with what I would expect for someone with roughly balanced swim and run ability.

I would actually argue that you're a decent (def not horrible) runner, but only a middling barely-better than MOP swimmer with a 35 HIM swim. With your numbers, I could honestly rename your thread "Decent runner and horrible swimmer - Why?" and be not too far off the mark if you were putting in a fair amount of swim time to swim a 35 HIM.

Running just feels 'hard' most of the time because of the impact involved and subsequent injury risk. I run 5ks in 18:30 range and I can say with absolute honesty that it never really feels easy or natural to me with the exception of the taper week. I feel like I'm low-talent, suffering, and underperforming on running pretty much all the time, especially when my weekly run mileage goes up and the paces start to slow as a result. Running is hard on the body - I think you're mistaken if you think that running should feel easier, more natural, and faster to you - the impact and volume takes its toll and beats you down if you're really doing it right.
Last edited by: lightheir: Mar 21, 17 5:03
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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lightheir wrote:
Honestly, a HIM 35min swim and 5k of 21 minutes for a man of your age, seems completely in line with what I would expect for someone with roughly balanced swim and run ability.

I would actually argue that you're a decent (def not horrible) runner, but only a middling barely-better than MOP swimmer with a 35 HIM swim. With your numbers, I could honestly rename your thread "Decent runner and horrible swimmer - Why?" and be not too far off the mark if you were putting in a fair amount of swim time to swim a 35 HIM.

Running just feels 'hard' most of the time because of the impact involved and subsequent injury risk. I run 5ks in 18:30 range and I can say with absolute honesty that it never really feels easy or natural to me with the exception of the taper week. I feel like I'm low-talent, suffering, and underperforming on running pretty much all the time, especially when my weekly run mileage goes up and the paces start to slow as a result. Running is hard on the body - I think you're mistaken if you think that running should feel easier, more natural, and faster to you - the impact and volume takes its toll and beats you down if you're really doing it right.

My thought exactly.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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lightheir wrote:
Honestly, a HIM 35min swim and 5k of 21 minutes for a man of your age, seems completely in line with what I would expect for someone with roughly balanced swim and run ability.

I would actually argue that you're a decent (def not horrible) runner, but only a middling barely-better than MOP swimmer with a 35 HIM swim. With your numbers, I could honestly rename your thread "Decent runner and horrible swimmer - Why?" and be not too far off the mark if you were putting in a fair amount of swim time to swim a 35 HIM.

Running just feels 'hard' most of the time because of the impact involved and subsequent injury risk. I run 5ks in 18:30 range and I can say with absolute honesty that it never really feels easy or natural to me with the exception of the taper week. I feel like I'm low-talent, suffering, and underperforming on running pretty much all the time, especially when my weekly run mileage goes up and the paces start to slow as a result. Running is hard on the body - I think you're mistaken if you think that running should feel easier, more natural, and faster to you - the impact and volume takes its toll and beats you down if you're really doing it right.


Thanks for the reply lightheir.....regarding swim results, I swim twice a week for an hour, so given I put little effort into training for swimming and have been able to finish near FOP in old man division....that is what I was referring to. "OK" results, with little training, and it does feel natural and relatively easy....unlike running, which feels like I am 2 ton, uncoordinated, sloth that may die at any moment.

The part you wrote about running is enlightening and encouraging. I guess I see fast runners and don't associate their RPE to their efforts....perhaps you all hide it well. Time to HTFU and put in some miles.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [Mike Alexander] [ In reply to ]
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Again, not to demean your results but at least in the races I've done, a 35 min HIM swim at age 47 would not be a FOP swim result for the AG, and my races aren't ones where the swim was was weirdly long or hard. (Although if you did one where the mean times were slow, a 35 min might be FOP). I'm in the M40-45 AG, and my 33:30 put me not even in the top 25% of my AG at Vineman.
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Re: Decent Swimmer & Horrible Runner - Why? [lightheir] [ In reply to ]
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lightheir wrote:
Again, not to demean your results but at least in the races I've done, a 35 min HIM swim at age 47 would not be a FOP swim result for the AG, and my races aren't ones where the swim was was weirdly long or hard. (Although if you did one where the mean times were slow, a 35 min might be FOP). I'm in the M40-45 AG, and my 33:30 put me not even in the top 25% of my AG at Vineman.

I agree. Would love to see a race with decent folks have a 35 HIM at 47 be FOP. Now for me at 60, ? ....

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