Triathletes swim vs run comparison test

Running shoes and swimming goggles
April 9, 2023

Jim Hallberg


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Are you a balanced triathlete where your swim is as strong or as fast as your run?

I noticed several years ago that what I could swim per 100’s short course yards (SCY), is the same that I could run for 400m on the track. What I could swim for 200 was the same as running an 800m and a 400swim would equal my mile time.

This is typically both tied to an all out effort as well as what I could do on an interval basis although with different recovery due to the nature of each discipline. Swimming can have a much shorter swim recovery and send off due to waters cooling effect and buoyancy.

I can tell if one discipline is not as fit as the other when 100 swim repeats are not correlating to my 400 run repeats. I decided to take a deeper look. I asked some of the athletes I coach, they thought about it and most of them tended to agree with the correlation.

I looked at World Record times

Now I know this is not an exact science, and technically women probably can swim slightly faster than they can run. My recommendation if you want to get a bit more accurate would be for women to give a 7% difference between swim and run correlations.

However, It might be a good correlation as to your relative strength as a triathlete. This will also have a factor as to your ability to swim SCY vs a meter pool.

Overall, I think personally this is a fun game to play. You can often do track workouts as swim workouts and vise versa accommodating for different recovery and send offs. So, the question is, as a triathlete, are you a better runner or swimmer. Which one do you need to work on?

Just an idea, something fun. Always consult with your D3 coach and train safe!

Coach Jim Hallberg notices that some athletes spend too much time focusing solely on their strengths or just on their weaknesses. As a coach, he believes you should work on both. Your strengths can give you a competitive edge in one or more of the disciplines but spend an inordinate amount of time on them and you can forgo progress in other areas. Not enough time and you’ll see them diminish. Same with your weaknesses.  Coach Jim works with you to build a plan to balance the two and make you the best overall athlete you can be!

Coach Jim is a 5X USA Triathlon National Champion, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and USA Cycling Level II Certified Coach.

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