Today (Tuesday) was my last Shockwave appointment and although I'm still waiting for my orthotics, I got the green light to start running 1 minute at a time one mile at a time (one minute run one minute walk for a mile) starting next week! Woo Hoo! I need to start rebuilding tissue tolerance and adapting to the impact after all this time off. My foot is feeling great after all the treatments! I wish I got some done to my calf though, because now that my foot feels good the pain is back in my calf... but it sounds like the orthotics could solve it all. I'm so hopeful! I've spent A LOT of money on this! Thank GOD I had three pay periods (as opposed to the usual 2) in the month of May. We have no extra money, but if there was ever a time for us to indulge, it's a month with three pay periods. In addition to the 5 shockwave treatments and the big bills for the orthotics, I also got a gym membership. I typically don't need a gym since I'm very much happy with outdoor activity, but these last four weeks having various bikes and classes, and weights, and available babysitters has made me feel less depressed and less like I'm missing out on something. The reason I got the membership in the first place is because my favorite form of cross training is the pool. When I first joined it was closed for 2 weeks for annual cleaning (of course) and then with Matts travel there was a class going on during the babysitting hours so I didn't have the freedom to do whatever I wanted, but today I finally got to use it! This is my go-to cross training method of choice, and here's why it should be yours too (plus a few workouts to try!)
1. Little to No Impact
Generally speaking, when people talk about water running (or aqua jogging, or pool running) they are referring to running in the deep end of the pool with a buoyancy belt (essential!) where your feet can not touch the ground. You can also run in the shallow end with less impact depending on how shallow you run. I spent many of my high school summers running circles in my parents above ground pool. I also did this when I broke my foot and began to reintroduce impact. It was before the alter-G was a thing where you could remove "X" percentage of your weight... It just was something I did on my own intuition. For most injuries you want to stay primarily on the deep end, but there is some benefit to gradually reintroducing your body to some impact and force with the use of a pool before you hit the pavement. This is why people might walk after a surgery in the shallow end of the pool. Standing without full weight but still standing. The majority of running related injuries are lower extremities. Achilles, calves, shins, and feet (sound familiar). All these things can benefit from pool running. No take off to hurt the Achilles and calves, and no landing to hurt the shins and feet. If you have a hamstring or hip injury, pool running may not be the best for you, especially if you are new to it and may make some mistakes while getting comfortable. Over extending in the pool could hurt the hamstring and the resistance of your knee drive could bother your hip... but I still recommend you read ahead just in case it is a good fit or worth trialing!
2. Sport Specificity
The best way to get better at running is to run. Cross training, and strength training are all supplemental training to running. If you want to get better at running, YOU MUST RUN! Unfortunately, running related injuries are common due to the high impact nature of the sport, so you may find yourself needing cross training either as a way to reduce impact and avoid injury or just during a time of injury in general. Not all of us were built with durability to withstand 80-100+ mile weeks so although running more in theory produces better running results, it only works if you don’t get hurt. Biking, lifting, swimming, rowing.. these are all great ways to maintain your cardiovasular fitness, but water running is running... just in the water... so in that sense it is the most specific to the sport itself with little to no impact. Unlike other forms of cross training where you may be using or building muscle groups in a different way than necessary for running, workouts in the pool mimic your real running form and mechanics (and can actually improve it, too!!) so it is the ideal choice for cross training. Specificity to sport is also why when I do strength training, you will see a lot of single leg exercises. This is specific to running. There is no point in your running stride that you are on two legs, so my lifting routine primarily involves working the muscles on one leg.
The pool offers resistance that only a really windy day can achieve! I’ve seen a lot of crazy things people are willing to do to add resistance to their running. Parachutes, bungee cords, sleds, even weighted vests! (Ouch! I think my leg just broke thinking about that!). I’ve mostly seen this for sprinters and track athletes trying to shave off tenths of a second, but mostly because with distance running there is no easy way to add resistance for the duration of a workout. You can do hills, you can train at elevation.... OR you can run in the pool! The pool has a great benefit of offering the resistance for both when the belly of the muscle contracts AND when it expands. Every direction you move in you are met with resistance to give you a little extra something when that resistance is taken away! You will notice your arms will get a really good workout in the pool, too! You may find yourself hungrier than ever after a pool workout because you're working everything (and are even burning calories just to stay warm)
Piggy backing on the above, the resistance also can help improve running form. Your body is going to look for the path of least resistance, which is the most efficient way of moving. For example, if you have any side to side arm swinging while running outside, you will notice immediately when you are in the deep water! With the resistance of the water you will actually move side to side instead of forward so you will quickly learn to monitor and change that arm swing! You are also able to slow down your stride due to the buoyancy (note: you should always wear a boyancy belt. Don't be a hero, we are not treading water, we are water running!), Make sure you’ve got your spine lined up nice and tall, your pelvis tilted and tucked, and a nice forward lean (but not too much. We're not swimming!). drive those knees up and elbows back, but don't overreach with your arms and pull yourself forward. It will feel a little like running in place but you will still have some forward motion. Overstriding isn’t going to happen in the water. Try it (unless you've got a hamstring issue!)! You’ll see how hard it is to pull your body forward through the water and then transition to a push. You should keep your cadence similar to running (around 180 is a good goal for me... or higher if I'm doing a "sprint") but remember, with resistance it will be harder work to achieve that. Overstriding most certainly is not going to allow you to do that, and it will be even more noticeable than it is on land. Keep in mind that proper form in the water is very important. If you are sacrificing form for speed, slow down and get it right so you can reap the full benefits of this method of cross training.
5. Go Hard More Often
Since you do not need your body to recover from impact you can really incorporate more workouts more often (but should always still have "easy" days). Additionally, your perceived effort might be harder than your heart rate suggests. Since you are buoyant, not taking any force, and in water that is not warm (although you might sweat, your core temperature is probably still lower than usual), your heart rate is generally lower even when you may feel like you are really cranking. As a result, you are able to do hard efforts more often without much difficulty, and also can do it with less recovery between intervals.... which is a good thing, because the pool can be BORING without having a constant change of pace! Below are some workouts you can try!
You can also just do your prescribed running workouts and convert it to Minutes. That might get boring (especially if you have a 2 hour long run....) so you may need to invest in some waterproof headphones etc. to keep it entertaining... but again, since there's no impact and your heart rate stays low, you can mix up the type of effort you do quite a bit without having to worry about overreaching.
Some Final Considerations:
Since we've talked about all the good with water running, one might think that when they can return to running on the land they don't need to go as gradually. This is not correct! Remember, your body is not taking any force with pool running. When you return to the land you still need to follow a return to run program that will gradually increase your load. You should wait 4-6 weeks from a long term injury before you add in workouts on land. Continue to do your workouts in the pool while you increase the duration of your runs on land.
Welcome to my blog! I blogged my entire pregnancy in 2017 and I had high hopes for where I could take my running after baby number 2, but my body had other plans. At some point I got too discouraged to write and recently realized that it is essential for my personal growth and development to keep putting feelings into coherent(ish) thoughts. I still hope to run sub 2:45 in the marathon one day, but for now I’m trying to focus on the process and I’m learning to enjoy it. You can come along for the ride, apologies in advance for grammatical incorrectness!