One of the (few) perks of being a graduate student is free access to the amazing athletic facilities of the University of Texas, including their natatorium which has both an indoor pool and outdoor pool. The outdoor pool is open year round, and heated in the winter. I have found that I really enjoy lap swimming outside. There is a lot less noise, and chemical odors compared to an indoor facility, and I can enjoy the sunshine. While it is definitely hot this time of year, water circulators keep the pool temperature low enough that it feels refreshing. The pool is quite large, with at least 10 lanes of 25m in length. It is also pretty popular. On Monday evening, every lane was full with at least two people and there were a few people waiting for a place. I have noticed that on the weekend afternoons, there is a lot less demand and I can usually get a lane to myself.
I read enough books, magazines, and blogs and heard enough running related interviews and podcasts to know that runners benefit from cross-training. In fact, I think we all know that. But in practice, with limited time and energy, it can be hard mentally and physically to work cross training into an exercise schedule. But after nearly 13 years of regular running, I've decided to commit to a regular, albeit low level of swimming to diversify my workouts.
An Austin summer is an optimal time to increase cross training and decrease running. The heat and humidity (100F and 90% are normal and regular from May-Sept) make running both a hydration challenge and less enjoyable. I either run first thing in the morning (finishing before 8am) or need to wait until after 8:30pm. While I am training for a half-marathon in October, I have cut back my running to five days a week with one long run on the weekends. I think five days a will still provide enough consistency to build a solid running base and then provide race-specific training.
On the two non-running days, I am trying to phase in lap swimming workouts. For the past three weeks, I have swam once a week and this will be my first week with two pool workouts. I started off with 2000m in one workout and have worked up to 2500m. 2500m takes me about 50 min, so ideally I would like to add another 500m for an hour total swim. I like to vary the workouts as much as possible, and incorporate warm-up laps, backstroke, breaststroke, kicking, pulling and sprints. I usually swim 500m sets, and then take a 2 minute break to drink water before starting again.
Hopefully I can expand the swim workouts to twice a week and maintain this pattern. If so, I think I will start to notice the benefits with my running.