There is nothing worse than being sidelines for a month during one of the best running times of the year. As so many of you who are currently experiencing taper madness for your fall marathons know: it is hard to run less. For me, fall is my favourite time to run because it was the season that I first started running years ago and I have always had some of my strongest races as the leaves start turning.
Because two very inconvenient stress fractures have me sidelined for another few weeks, I tried something this week that is the quintessential exercise for “runners not running”: pool running.
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I had never tried pool running before or even considered it as something that I would want to do. I am not a huge fan of chlorine and I run so I can be outside. Spending a couple hours inside a gym when the leaves have never been more colourful and the air has never been so crisp is difficult for me, but pool running has been a surprisingly welcome form of cross-training.
Pool running is zero impact: You can work on form and strength without a single foot fall. It is highly specific to running and mimics the running motions and uses the same muscle set, but with an added level of difficulty from the drag of the water.
Core strength: Because I am missing the added stabilization of my feet on the ground, it is more important than ever that I have my core engaged. Pool running is a great way to find out where your weak muscles are in stabilization and ensure that you are a stronger runner.
It channels extra energy: Whether I am tapering for a marathon or sidelined with an injury, I never fail to be surprised by the amount of extra energy I am left with. Like so many other runners, I run to say sane, if not a little subdued. Pool running has provided an outlet for my extra energy and allows to me not lose my hard earned fitness from the past season.
How to pool run: I use a pool belt, which is a flotation device that straps around your waist and assists in holding you upright while you run. It is important to run in the deep end of the pool as your feet should never be touching the ground.
Once you are set up, mimic the same movement of running with good posture and a regular cadence. You want to make sure that you are working hard and keeping the heart rate high. It is important to stay mentally engaged as it can be easy to zone out and slow down your cadence, which can lead to over extending your legs and cause injury. A way I combated this issue was having a varied workout with my favourite workout this week being a ladder series.
Warm up for about 10 minutes.
Pool run at top speed for 1 minute, rest for 1 minute.
Pool run at top speed for 2 minutes, rest for a minute.
Repeat this formula all the way to 10 minutes, rest a minute and work your way back down one minute.
10 minute cool down.
Although pool running is not the first choice for most runners, I have found it to be invaluable to my training. It helps strengthen weak areas and provides a no-impact workout where it is almost impossible to get injured. Knowing that regular pool running sessions will help me return back to regular running as a stronger runner than I started is worth a mouthful of chlorine water here and there.
Do you use pool running in regular running or times of injury?