Dear Coach Should I Run in the Pool?
Should you run in the pool? Absolutely YES!
I don’t know one runner or triathlete that has not had a running injury somewhere along their sports journey. It happens to the best of us, but the good thing is the body is an incredible machine, and with the right treatment, rest, and mindset it will eventually heal itself.
According to Ironman University, the 65% of endurance runners are injured in some way each year. The most common running injuries are
1. Plantar Fasciitis
2. Achilles Tendonitis
3. IT Band Syndrome
4. Patella Femoral Knee (Runner’s knee)
5. Shin Splints
6. Piriformis Syndrome
7. Pulled Hamstring
Many athletes panic when they incur a running injury especially if they have an upcoming Iron distance race they are training for. I tell them to stay calm because there are always alternative workouts that mimic the leg turnover of running. There is the Alter-G which is a non-weight bearing machine that allows you to run without actually striking your foot to the ground. The rest of your body is in perfect running position and your arms swing as normal. The elliptical trainer is great for non-weight bearing and can be a great cardiovascular workout if you really push yourself to stay at a certain pace. The handles give you the added intensity with the upper body work of pushing and pulling. A Spinner or Peloton bike will give you some leg turnover, especially if you do a standing run type workout. These are all some nice options for an injured runner who wants to maintain fitness without pounding the pavement.
Let’s talk about the water and pool running. I have used this tool before for a few of my athletes who had knee or foot injuries. There are a few ways to go about running in the pool:
1. Using an Aqua jogger. This is a floatation belt that holds you in the vertical position while you run in place. You can do all kinds of motions with your legs as long as the water is 6 feet or deeper. Your arms meet some resistance as they swing back and forth and because you are in deep water, you don’t realize just how much of a workout you are getting.
2. Running in the deep end with nothing but running shoes on. Athletes have to work a lot harder sculling and treading water without a floatation device such as an Aqua jogger or vest so the heart rate will increase faster. It’s pretty simple- put on some old or worn out running shoes and jump in the deep end.
3. Shallow water running. Running in water anywhere from waist to chest deep is a great low impact workout and allows your body to recover while maintaining fitness. At Texas A&M Player Development Center here in College Station, they have a running pool where you can adjust the bottom floor of the pool up or down depending on how much resistance you want from the water. It’s kind of like an Endless Pool but the floor height is adjustable. I ran in this pool when I was recovering from a foot surgery a few years ago. It also had a few adjustable jets that could be turned up or down for added resistance. Great workout that mimics running without pounding on my freshly recovering foot.
How do you incorporate pool running into your training program?
Athletes can do speed work or tempo runs in the deep end of the pool. I recommend not using any kind of belt or vest for these higher intensity workouts because you want to raise your heart rate. Aerobic endurance runs can be done in the deep end of the pool or by running up and down the lane lines. I usually give my athletes 3 runs per week- speed work at the track, a tempo run, and a longer effort on the weekend. All of these types of runs can be done in the pool if needed. Bottom line, where there is a will, there is a way and pool running can be a great asset for recovering from injury, preventing injury, and maintaining cardiovascular fitness.