Running in water is such an efficient exercise that many injured athletes have jumped out of the pool and run personal best times after not having run on land for up to a month. Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first women's Olympic marathon after training in the water following Achilles surgery. Water running has proven to be such a beneficial, impact-free workout that many runners have returned to the pool even when their injuries have healed. Not only that, they have talked their friends into joining them. And they too have incorporated a pool session into their workouts. After all, running in the water is estimated to give between 90% and 100% of the benefits of a normal training run.
If you are using the pool while recovering from an injury, it is probably best to check with your medical fitness specialist to make sure that running in a pool is not going to hinder recovery. In most cases, runners will be told that a pool session will improve range of motion, help with flexibility and maintain the cardiovascular system.
Find a pool in which you cannot touch the bottom. Some runners stay afloat by using their normal running movements and supporting themselves with rapid arm movements. But it is easier to concentrate on your form if you use a flotation device. The Wet Vest and Aqua Jogger are both highly recommended. In some pools, you can borrow them. They will help maintain good posture. A flotation device should keep your head above the water and help you maintain an upright position as you begin your normal running motion. You are trying to simulate your running action as much as possible. Do not lean too far forward. Keep your shoulders back and bring your knees up high, tucking them under your buttocks. Your arms should move in time with your legs. Drive your elbows back and point your toes forward. Using this sprinter's motion will help you become more fluid in your form. Your knees, ankles and hip joints will become stronger and more supple. A major tip is to relax.
With a bit of practice, you will find you can comfortably perform your long, slow workouts as well as your anaerobic sessions in the pool. A water session makes a great "massage run" after a long run. A good training session will leave you tired but not sore. Begin with about 30 to 45 minutes in the pool, depending on your fitness level. For long runs you can work up to two hours in length. Perhaps take a friend or some music.
For an anaerobic workout, start with a 10-minute warm-up and then do four intervals of 15 seconds, with 15 seconds of rest between each. Next, climb the ladder by doing four intervals of 30 seconds with a 20-second recovery period, four 45-second repeats with a 30-second recovery and finally, four 60-second stints with a 30-second recovery. After that, climb back down the ladder, repeating what you did on the way up. The short recovery period will ensure your body gets used to the high lactic acid (waste) it generates. This is about a 45-minute work-out, incorporating 16 minutes of anaerobic work.
Run The Planet thanks the Alberta Community Development website for the permission to reprint the article "RecFacts 158: Running in Water—How To Pool Your Efforts". For more information on running, contact The Running Room by e-mail at run(at)runningroom.com or visit them on the Internet at www.runningroom.com.