A few weeks ago I wrote a column to help self-coached athletes. One of the training options I wrote about was placing a swim workout after a hard run to improve recovery. While I believed improved recovery to be the case, I didn’t have scientific proof – until now.
A recent study using nine well-trained triathletes had them do two high intensity interval running sessions, followed ten hours later by either a swim-recovery session or a passive-recovery (doing no exercise) session. The final test was a “time to fatigue” run completed 24 hours after the last interval session.
The results came in with the swim-recovery group posting significantly longer run time on the time to fatigue test. The swim-recovery group ran for 830 seconds (+/- 198 seconds) vs. the passive-recovery group at 728 seconds (+/- 183 seconds).
Additionally there was a significant difference in venous blood levels of circulating C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, between the swim recovery group vs. the passive-recovery group. The swim-recovery group posted a 23-percent decrease of CRP levels 24 hours after the interval session, while the passive-recovery group’s CRP levels only decreased by 5 percent.
While the study concluded that the hydrostatic properties (fluid pressures) of water were a key influence, I suspect it was a combination of factors including the cool temperature of the water, the water pressure on the legs (helping to move waste products away from the legs), and doing some kind of exercise (rather than no exercise) that helped the swim group.
Lum, E., Landers G., Peeling P., “Effects of a Recovery Swim on Subsequent Running Performance “, The University of Western Australia, School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, Crawley, Australia;
Western Australian Institute of Sport, Mt. Claremont, Australia