Jump off the trail and into the pool

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.


I remember being a ridiculously shy child. My mom likes to tell the story of my very first swim meet: I was crying on the blocks.

I was a chubby, belly-out-to-nowhere kid. My hair didn't grow in until I was 4, so I was this little, tan berry. It was so important to find something that made me feel special. My outlet was swimming from the very beginning. Swimming was also one of the ways I could follow in my brother's footsteps, so I couldn't wait to get into the pool and be like him!

At age 4, a race was just one lap across the pool. That was close enough to see the other side, the "finish line." I would shut the world out, including the people watching me. It was my chance to forget everything else and go for it.

When I touched the wall on the other side, it felt incredible. Every time. In fact, it still does. That's why I love getting into the pool for some cross training. My favorite thing is to do my laps and then stretch on the wall in between sets. I work my core and find my focus in the pool. I concentrate on what's in front of me as I pull through the water, and always come out of the pool feeling better, stronger, healthier.

If you haven't incorporated swimming into your training, you should. It's a chance to take a break from the pounding of running and work different muscles than you do on roads or trails. Let the water take off some of the pressure. Give it a try, and leave a comment at the bottom of this page to let me know how it went!

I was lucky to grow up in California and be introduced to swimming at a young age. I had the opportunity to find my talent early in life. I want my kids to find their outlet, too.

They didn't know Summer the Swimmer, but they can learn from Mom the Runner. The half marathon is a chance to show them how much I love the outdoors, how much I love setting a goal and meeting it, and how good it feels to commit to something and cross that finish line!

I've always found sports to be the perfect fit for my competitive drive. I'm excited to see how Spider reacts when we get to Walt Disney World and line up for his race, the Disney Royal Family 5K on Saturday, Feb. 23. He just turned 5, and this will be a huge moment in his life.

I will be there with him every step of the way, and so will all those characters. You can't beat that. I bet I'll still be smiling about it Sunday when I line up with the other half-marathoners.

This has been a tough week, since I've had to overcome the flu and get in recovery mode to build up my strength again. I've jumped into the pool and hit the treadmill to beat the Utah cold. That subtle adjustment was good for my body; I had one less element to contend with.

At this point in my training, I won't let anything stop me -- not snow, not germs, not my jam-packed calendar. Watch out, here I come!

Summer realizes how hard it is to fit everything into one day, so she's been known to run a package to her local post office or to squeeze in a workout between her kids' swim and soccer practices. She suggests wearing workout gear all day if it'll help, and it doesn't have to be pretty!

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