When training for the London Marathon, I was diagnosed with a level 1 stress “reaction.”
For about four weeks, I couldn’t run. I could swim, bike, and POOL RUN! There were a few things that I needed in order to survive all that pool running, so today’s Friday Favorites is five tips to survive pool running!
1. Access to a pool with a deep end:
I pictured pool running as running in the shallow end. In fact, when I was a kid, a neighbor had one of those above-ground pools and we’d run in circles as hard as we could to try to turn it into a whirlpool (it kinda worked!) Anyways, that is not pool running, apparently. Pool running occurs in the deep part of the pool, or at least deep enough that you can’t touch the bottom. Your feet should definitely NOT touch the bottom. Your body is going through the motion of running, but you’re not pushing off of anything. This took some getting used to. At first, I felt like my body would get confused and then I would be running backwards! But eventually I got the hang of it.
2. Flotation Device:
You have to wear a flotation device. I wore an aqua jogger belt. It snapped around my waist and kept me upright and floating. There are other versions that are more “diaper-like” and I have also heard of people pool running with flotation barbells instead of a belt, but my gym had a plethora of belts available (though I BYOFB- brought my own flotation belt).
I didn’t even really need to buy my own, though it was nice to have one that I was used to (and for sanitary reasons, it’s probably better?)
You move forward when pool running, but barely. Your goal is to pump your arms and move your legs in the running motion to get your heart rate up, working against the resistance of the water with no impact to your potentially injured areas. But you’re not swimming. Be sure not to scoop water with your hands. The goal is not to move forward quickly.
3. A Swimsuit.
Obviously 🙂 I ordered this one from Amazon. Most people swim in a one-piece, but I like an athletic two-piece. Be sure to size WAY up though. I first ordered this in a 4 and that was a joke. I returned it and bought one in a size 10. (No vanity sizing in athletic swimwear!)
4. Waterproof Music Player:
This one really helped with the boredom of pool running. I was able to listen to podcasts or just music (have you started listening to The Human Race podcast? So good!)
Music also made it a little less awkward when it came to the other pool runners. My gym has a designated aqua jogging lane, which is fantastic, but most of the other runners are folks who are looking to chit-chat. As an introvert, I didn’t always want to make small-talk while pool running and the waterproof nano & headphones allowed me to avoid it.
I have this waterproof nano and these headphones and it works very well.
I swim laps with it too. The headphones have a shorter cord so you just hook them to your ponytail or swim cap.
5. A Friend:
Occasionally my friend Laura kept me company during pool running (sometimes even introverts like to chat). Even though she wasn’t injured, it was an easy way to add more cardio to her schedule while being a good friend. Having a friend to chat with makes the time go back so much more quickly (just like real running!)
Bonus Item: A Sense of Humor!
Pool running is awkward. But if you want to maintain fitness during an injury, you have to swallow your pride and be willing to laugh at yourself a little. You’ll definitely feel silly, but it’s worth it in the “long run.” <– get it? Long run? I believe that I maintained some really good fitness during those four weeks and felt amazing at the London Marathon.
Other Helpful Items:
Since I would normally end my pool running with some actual swimming, I thought I’d share another item that I LOVE! Roka goggles. These were recommended to me by my friend Erin of Sweet, Sweat, Life, who is an amazing triathlete who has qualified for Kona; she knows her stuff! These goggles are pricey, but TOTALLY worth it. They don’t leak. When I ordered the goggles, I ended up purchasing a swim cap from Roka as well, which I also love. It’s not silicone, but more of a soft cloth type material, but it works remarkably well.
**I have to admit, having the Roka goggles and swim cap make me feel a little more “legit” when I swim laps! I’m not an amazing swimmer, so I appreciate the confidence boost where I can get it.
If you too are doing some pool running, here are some useful links for you:
Pool Running to Maintain Fitness During Injury:
Highlight: “In 1993, Eyestone et al. concluded that over a 6-week period, runners who were unable to run because of soft tissue injury could maintain VO2 max and run a 2-mile run performance time similar to running using either cycling or water running.
In 2001, Burns and Lauder completed a study that discovered Military personnel who completed four to eight weeks of pool running maintained VO2 max, anaerobic threshold, land running economy, leg strength, and 2-mile land run performance.”
Tips for Pool Running from this article:
- The belt should sit just below your rib cage, sitting snugly with the float across the small of your back. It should not sit on your hips.
- Legs: Most important is to make sure your legs complete a full rotation. If you want it to mimic running in a way that will make it easy for you to transition back, you need to make sure your legs go all the way around.
- Extend your lower leg out in front of you in a similar way to running on land (with your heel or mid foot reaching out in front, knee almost straight). It will feel as though you are exaggerating the motion at first.
- Draw your leg back, driving it against the resistance of the water. You should feel your hamstrings engaging as you do this.
- Raise your knee till your quad is in a horizontal position to complete a usual running motion before repeating the cycle again.
- Arms: Your arms are the driving force behind pool running. They should feel sore/tired when you leave the pool. The harder you want to work, the more you need to drive your arms, they will bring your legs with them.
- Arms need to be going back and forth, bent at the elbow with your hands going from your waist to just below the surface of the water, making sure they are going straight forward and back, NOT side to side.
- A lot of people end up “swimming” with their hands, make sure your fingers are either pointed straight, or in a lightly clenched fist. You do not want to cup the water with your hands, it will make it too easy, and you will not get a good workout in.
- Back: It is absolutely critical that you make sure you stay as upright as possible. If the float is out of the water, you are leaning forwards too far. By looking above the edge of the pool you will keep your eye line at the right level, which should help this.
- Feet: Your toes should not be tensed in a flexed position, but should be relatively relaxed, following the usual running motion.
More Information on Pool Running:
Deep water running for cross training
9-week training protocol
Some more workout ideas
If you have any more questions about pool running, let me know!
Nice post! I think along with your bonus item of “A Sense of Humor” I would add Patience! I really, really struggle with aquajogging because I’m too impatient to move purposefully slow through the water! I would sooooooo much rather swim laps! Good work to you for keeping up with the pool running!
Yes, patience 🙂 it’s not easy running in place and not going (virtually) anywhere!
Such great tips, Jessie! Pool running obviously works… you are evidence of that with your London time, return to big weeks and running Grandma’s! So glad you love the ROKA goggles and swim cap! They make awesome two pieces, too, for lap swim 🙂
I suppose you’re right- just have to trust the experts!