Getting into Swimrunning

Andrew Wallace
30.01.19 11:16 AM Comment(s)

If you are thinking about trying swimrunning but want to avoid spending loads of money to give it a go, read on!

Swimrunning in Pembrokeshire
Swimrunning is a fantastic way to get fit and be immersed in nature

Sure, like most sports, it can be very expensive to get everything at once before you start swimrunning, but to just have a go you don't need much equipment. After all, swimrunning is just that... swimming... and running... there's not much else to it.

Swimrunning sessions in Pembrokeshire
Swimrunning often takes in wild open spaces

If you are a sea swimmer or triathlete, the chances are you already have a couple of worn out wetsuits you can adapt and an old pair of trainers is perfectly adequate to give it a go.

Guided swimrunning sessions in Pembrokeshire
Swimrunning kit takes a hammering, but you can start out cheaply
Swimrunngin kit
Swimrunning shoes are designed to be tough, fairly flat soled trail running shoes, that are very light and absorb minimal water with good drainage.

Some models have also developed into a 'sock' style fit, so they do not have a tongue, reducing drag in the water.

However, beaten up, old trainers are fine for starting out, the more holes the better as it helps drainage! You can even drill holes in the soles.

Swimrunning wetsuit
A shorty style swimrun wetsuit

The key difference with swimrunning and triathlon and therefore the kit, is you do both activities over and over, with no changing at transitions.

This means swimrun wetsuits have been designed to be easy to run in and also open at the front to allow ventilation /expansion of the chest. They are also usually 'shorties' and provide more in the way of flexibility when running.

Swimrunning in a cut down triathlon suit is perfectly OK to start out though!

Other features in swimrun wetsuits include pockets for gels, maps, kit or clips for tethers / water bottles and so on. The outer 'skin' of swimrun suits is often part or full nylon coated (as opposed to fully neoprene as in tri suits) as this resists abrasion from rocks and thorns when running cross country. The hip region is also designed for more running flexibility.

Swimrunning wetsuit
The Zone3 Entry Level Swimrun Suit

Entry level wetsuits for swimrunning come in at about £200 or slightly less.

This one for example is the Zone 3 Versa, a robust wetsuit we would definitely recommend as a starter suit cost £165.

Head also do a good entry suit, the Head Shorty, at about £175.

Just to give it a go though, especially on routes that are shorter than 20km, you do not need a brand new swimrun suit, unless of course you're after an excuse to get one!

Here are a few options that will suffice for a few sessions to give you an idea if you like swimrunning, without splashing out on all the gear.

  • Cut down a old/battered triathlon wetsuit and 'decab' at each run (lower the top half)
  • Use a cheap shortie surf suit, make sure it is a snug fit, but these actually also zip from the front and are shorties and have a nylon outer surface material.
  • Use a nylon belt on the outside of the wetsuit - it will help prevent the suit from falling down when you decab.
  • Use wetsuit shorts with a wetsuit vest, even better if it has a zip front.
  • Use a triathlon cycle/running suit if the water is warm enough. Swims are usually pretty short.
  • Shoes - any old trail shoes will do, in fact we have found the more holes in them the better as the water will drain right out.
  • Drill a couple of holes in the soles to assist water drainage.
  • Tip: Reduce the size of the shoe tongue - when you are swimming a normal running shoe tongue will act as a 'brake', dragging in the water, trim it shorter and you'll minimise drag.

Other Stuff

What about hand paddles? Pull buoy? Tether? 

You don't need any of them to have a go.

If you have the pull buoy/paddles from your pool training, experiment and see what works for you.

Personally, I prefer a minimalist approach and found I did not need them, so why take them on a marathon distance swim run?

A lot of swimrun is about training with the kit and experimenting to see what works best.

So, get out there and have a go, it's great fun!

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