Incorporating water running into your training may be the best thing you can do to get to race day injury free. I have done it and I recommend it to clients all the time. If you have any injuries that seem to be aggravated when you increase your mileage then incorporating deep water running into your training might be the missing link in your training program. Here are some good examples of when I would recommend deep water running:
- Training for something such as a marathon can require up to 40 miles a week of running. Many times I come across a client that has had several injuries. Many times as they increase mileage they have various issues. With these clients I will decrease the mileage outside by one or two days and add deep water running on those days. They will still be required to do their long runs. One or two of their shorter runs will be done in the pool. The schedule will typically be 5 days of running broken down as 1 long run, 3 medium distance and 1 short run when training for a marathon. I would have the client do one short run and one medium distance in the pool. How many days I add of deep water running would always depend on the individual and their specific condition.
- If I have a client training for an event doing all road/trail running and they begin to have issues with any part of the body such as hips, feet, or knees I will have them substitute water running for a few weeks and eliminate road/trail running all together.
- If someone is coming back from surgery or serious injury then water running in most cases is ideal to get their fitness back or maintain their fitness while healing.
How do you even begin to water run? Water running is not as exciting as outdoor running but it can be a really great workout. If you focus on your form when running in the water then you can simulate actual running very close. You will need to get a water belt to keep you afloat. You will need to find a deep water pool so that when running your feet will not touch down. Most community pools have a deep end. These are great places to water run because they are inexpensive. When you begin deep water running you should focus on the movement and form. Try to imagine you are outside. Think about the following:
- Lifting knees forward with a slight lean forward.
- Don't let your arms cross your center line. Keep elbows back slightly.
- Do intervals. I usually recommend harder effort for 3 minutes then easy effort for 2 minutes. This will keep your heart rate up and also make the time pass quickly.
- You can use an ipod in the water if you get a water case. I know people that clip it to their hat and have not had a problem.
- Try to simulate your normal running style.
- Don't 'paddle'- Keep a loosely closed fist and let your legs move you forward.
- Try to let the bottoms of your feet to kick the water behind you.
- Take short, quick strides. A fast cadence intensifies the workout.
- Expect a lower stride cadence. Remember water is more resistant than air and your pace will decrease accordingly.
- Your heart rate will be about 10 percent lower than at the same intensity on land.
If you are in the midst of training and have a slight set back in your running because of an injury, don't think its over and you can't continue to maintain your run fitness. Water running may be what you need to get you to race day feeling good and injury free. You will be able to maintain your run fitness and let your injury heal at the same time. Give it a try!