Do Triathletes Know Something Runners Don’t?

Have you noticed that you’re running considerably slower than a week or two ago? That’s because the heat and humidity have now arrived in full force. For runners in Austin Texas that means finding a way to stay in shape during the long hot summer, and that means getting creative. Several things come to mind – first of all, most people can back off from goals during the summer since races tend to thin out over the next few months.

Swimming and/or cycling offer Texas runners much-needed respite from the heat.

One obvious solution to beating the heat is running in the morning – as early as you can manage. But even then, it’s still pretty darn warm and humid. Another solution is to consider what triathletes have known all along: that biking and swimming are excellent ways to stay in shape and tend to be less heat intensive – especially swimming!

But let’s take a look at biking first. Biking is an excellent alternative to running, either to avoid the heat, by generating extra wind , and like swimming, is a form of “active recovery.” Another bonus with biking is that it builds complementary muscles to running. Additionally, cycling teaches you cadence – which translates to better running turnover – more steps per minute. That is generally thought to be more efficient. And last, but not least, there’s no impact to your feet or legs while cycling. The only con is that it takes longer to get in and equivalent work out. Biking three miles is roughly equal to running one mile.

How about swimming? The first question that pops into runners’ minds is what’s the average swimming to running ratio? A good rule of thumb is that swimming a mile is roughly equal to running four miles.

And swimming is great aerobic exercise. In 1980, former Marathon world record holder Alberto Salazar swam laps while rehabbing an injured knee in order to train for his first marathon—the New York City Marathon. He was able to get it in about a month of running under his belt before hopping in his car and driving cross country to get to the starting line.   Salazar won the race – his debut marathon, and to this day credits the swimming with getting him through.

Like biking, swimming offers a number of benefits to the runner. It tones oft-neglected upper body muscles. And not only is virtually impact free, but there is a gentle massage-like affect gained from moving through water. And finally, when it comes to beating the heat, swimming ranks number one.

So the next time you’re feeling it’s just a bit too hot and humid for a run, jump on your bike or jump in the pool!

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