Swimming and Cycling for a Stronger Run

I did a run test at Stantonbury Track on Monday night. It involved running round the track for 30 minutes as fast as you can – not sprinting, but holding a steady pace for 30 minutes. You lap your time at 10 minutes and then continue to the end. The test can be called a T20 or a T30 test. The T20 test measures your average heart rate for the final 20 minutes of the run. The T30 tests measures the distance travelled for the whole 30 minute run.

I managed to run 5.18km in 30 minutes with an average pace of 5.48/km.

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Now for me, that is a great run. Fantastic in fact. My 5K time was 29.06.

The last time I ran 5K under 30 minutes was in May (29.58) where I aggravated an injury so much I was unable to run as planned the following day. Following this, the fastest I ran a 5K in 2018 was 34 minutes in July. I am so pleased to see some progression in my running time. Even more so as this has been done without any run training.

By way of background, my 2018 was plagued with injury and many of the events I completed I either walked or did not finish. There is nothing wrong with this whatsoever, however it is a far cry from my fitness of 2017 where I had a 10K PB, a half marathon PB and just a lot of great runs.

My last “runs” were in October and the only runs I’ve done since then were the club run on Christmas Eve (averaging 8.03/km) and a treadmill run just a week ago (averaging 7.39/km). These runs were not a real test of my fitness – the Christmas Eve run was a social trail run with walking and plenty of breaks and treadmills are notoriously bad for their inaccuracy – although I was still pleased I managed to run continuously for about an hour!

So how have I managed to get to this pace without any running? Multisport.

Whilst I have not been running in November and December, I have been regularly swimming and cycling. I am also a member of the tri club so I can get in extra swims and rides with them which has been brilliant for my training whilst I’ve not been running. But you don’t have to be a member of the tri club to swim and cycle!

Swimming 
In 2018 I began going to the pool once or twice a week, just going up and down with a kickboard kicking my legs. Eventually I started using my arms, and now I think I can call myself a swimmer. I’m not a good swimmer. I take a lot of breaks. A lot. But I keep going as best I can and I can see how far I’ve progressed and am still progressing.   It has helped my breathing enormously.

Other members of LFR began joining me on a Monday night, sometimes a Wednesday. It is great swimming with other people you know. It’s a casual swim where we all do our own thing. We are all different abilities from beginners to Tom (you think he’s a speedy runner, you should see him in the pool!). Then we all stop for a natter at the end talking about what we’re going to have for dinner (usually a fish finger sandwich).

Cycling
49515800_10156186214358207_8520922383178006528_nLFR now has its own cycling division and I took full advantage of this over the summer and particularly over the Christmas break. We have our own Facebook Group separate from the main group where we chatter about all things cycling and then arrange casual rides (sometimes not casual for the speedier cyclists). Over the summer we had the Wrong Rides, we made a trip to Silverstone to cycle round the track and we took part in a local charity ride.

In November and December, my cycling training consisted of jumping on the turbo trainer or heading out for mountain bike rides. Mountain biking is hard. I didn’t realise how hard until I tried it. When I first started out I was scared of going down the hills, going over tree roots, then going back uphill - I didn't think I'd make it. I did it anyway and have kept going. Because I keep going, my confidence on the bike is gaining, my leg muscles are building, and I’m getting better each time. I am covered in bruises after every ride and still fall off every now and then, but I just get back up and carry on. It’s enormous fun especially cycling with the LFR gang. I would have been lost over Christmas without them!

Getting stronger as both a swimmer and a cyclist has strengthened my legs (all that kicking, all those hills) and helped my breathing so I'm able to breathe steadier when working out.   I’m still a beginner at both disciplines and am learning every day, but I will keep including them within my training as this has improved my running to the point I could run as far as I did in those 30 minutes on Monday when I wasn't expecting to. I don't know what else to put it down to.  I have not been running!

Why am I telling you this? When I was injured last year, I was down, I was grumpy. Of course I was, I couldn’t run. However by eventually throwing myself into swimming and cycling, my mood lifted, I was still spending time with LFR friends and I was getting myself fit again. If you’re injured right now, try it out. Come down to the pool. If you have a bike, take it down the road, see how far you can go. The next time, go further. You can still measure progress in the pool and on the bike, keeping yourself active by doing so.

And if you’re not injured? Try it out anyway! It will aid your running fitness.  Your body will be stronger meaning your running will be stronger.  Have a read of Rob's blog post all about this: Multisport for Running Longevity

I’m over my latest injury now and will be running more and more, however this won’t stop me from swimming and cycling. I am clearly a stronger runner because I swim and cycle and am excited to see how much I improve in the coming months - that's the plan anyway!

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