This post originally appeared in January 2014, but we dusted it off in time for summer injury season—and pool season. If you're trying to work through a bum body part after major summer mileage, turn to the pool for recovery.
When our bodies tell us to give running a break because of injury, the idea of giving up our beloved road or 'mill sweat sessions is tough to swallow. Even our tried-and-true cross-training activities, whether Pilates or spinning, don’t necessarily feel like enough. (OK, not at all.) Which is why donning a swimsuit and hitting the pool may just be the answer.
Yep, experts say pool running is the best way for us to train while injured to maintain fitness. This is because it works all the same muscles that running does, only with added resistance of water. Even if we're not injured, turning to water for its excellent fitness benefits and breaking from pavement pounding can prove beneficial: it can help prevent injuries in the first place since it is non-weight bearing and there is no impact on our bodies. And, unlike with road running, in the pool we can increase our mileage with less risk of injury.
Still, you might be wondering how exactly to make pool running work for you (read: how do I not get bored out of my mind). Like us, you might be curious about listening to tunes during a water-running workout (it can be done). Or how exactly you even run in the water. We turned to the tribe for insight and, as usual, mother runners didn’t disappoint. While you won't need running shoes, you will want to get yourself a special around-the-waist flotation device, like the one in the picture above. Here’s what else you need to know:
All things are not equal…and that’s OK.
Remember that actual running—and logging miles—is a different experience from miles accumulated in the pool. Says Jill B.: “I depressed me to add up all my laps at the end and realize I only did .75 of a mile, so I started just keeping track of time in the water.” It’s also good to gauge your effort level—your heart rate in the water won’t be as high as it is for land running due to the pressure of the water on your body and the cooler temperature of the water. But keep in mind that how you feel (your perceived effort) in the water will be higher than how you feel when you’re running on land.
Time flies when your mind is engaged.
Mother runner Jill B. has a waterproof iPod she uses. “Listening to podcasts and music certainly helped,” she says. Vicki B. mentioned a Lifeproof brand phone cover with headphone extender that could work well while Christi S. sang the praises of her Jabra wireless headphones that are weather-proof and allow you to leave your phone outside the pool. Other mother runners suggested pairing up with a water buddy—or the very least, get to know your fellow swimmers. “I ran in the pool after back surgery a few years ago,” says Kristen S. “I have never had such a great experience in my life. I went after putting my kids on the bus and the pool was full of retirees. I learn so many life lessons from these ladies, laughed way too much, and got a ton of new recipes! Go in open-minded.”
Mix things up.
Kelly-Ann S. runs in the water often and says varying your routine is important. “I also add in crunches while I’m there, and good old fashioned treading.” Try including a variety of workouts, just like your land-based runs. This could mean varying the intensity and time, or even running your favorite speed or fartlek workout in the water. You just may notice this translates to faster times on the road. McKenzie A., who took to the pool for eight months following an injury, says she loved interval work. “That broke it up and got my heart rate up.” Jill B. kept things interesting, too. “I would break it up doing intervals – run 8 laps, crawl 8 laps, kick board 8 laps, buoy 8 laps.”
Have you turned to pool running because of an injury, or to add something different to your fitness regimen? How has it helped you exactly? What tips do you have?