Bobby McGee is an internationally acclaimed endurance coach who has produced an Olympic Champion, world champions and numerous world record holders. Through his coaching, lecturing and writing, he has become a much sought after figure in the world of human potential fulfillment.
Shallow & Deep Water Running
There are a couple of very important requirements to consider when using the water as an alternative running environment. Used properly, it will help to strengthen and rehab your legs.
I've been thinking about using Pool Running/Deep Water Running as a substitute for some run training to avoid injuries to my already "injured" knee. Has anyone ever done any of this? Can you recommend any techniques/drills that would help me get the most out of it? "
The world of elite distance running is littered with stories of athletes who achieved wonderful levels of conditioning through deep water running. I actually recommend that the triathletes (elite & age group) that I work with use this mode of training to rehab & strengthen their legs rather than cycling. Cycling when done in the absence of running can so easily “blanket” running ability & actually be detrimental to your running.
There are a couple of very important requirements to consider when using the water as an alternative running environment:
Distinguish between shallow water running where impact is reduced, but not wholly removed & suspended deep water running, where there are zero impact forces.
With deep water running make absolutely sure that your mechanics are sound – the added resistance of the water can create bad habits like bringing the leg through too extended or cupping the hands in order to “catch water”. I always get in the water with goggles that 1st time to be sure the running action is natural & linear. In fact after a while the use of a wet vest becomes obviate as the action becomes so grooved that the runner stays afloat. Also make sure to maintain a cadence of above 90—the water can slow you down & the workout can lose it specificity
For both shallow & deep water running utilize some kind of drag footwear that in shallow water provides traction & safety for the foot sole & in deep water provides resistance to increase strengthening capabilities. In fact a company called AQX Sports makes a special shoe for this. Check them out at www.aqxsports.com
There are underwater treadmills where runners can get great workouts but without the level of pounding that is present on dry land, but they are prohibitively expensive & hard to find. Our 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist, Deena Kastor, used one to great effect in her training.
Water running has much greater resistance, though much less impact, so muscle soreness is an issue in the beginning – build your way into it. Pushing too hard can cause ligament injuries also.
Replace your on-land distance targets with equivalent time targets in the water, so if you were to run an easy 5 miles, do an easy 50 minutes if that’s how long you would take.
Use a heart rate monitor to gauge work intensities.
Hydrate effectively, you are still sweating, but are not as aware of it.
Distinguish between workouts, doing easy runs, tempo work & strength work – the latter can be done by tethering yourself to the side by means of a bungee chord of some sorts.
Initially you will feel heavy & sluggish after workouts, but hang in there, the benefits will show up soon enough.
Lastly, running on land increases bone density more than any other sport—by running in water we reduce that effect. When returning to regular running, especially if you have used water running exclusively, be sure to allow yourself some time to gradually adapt & achieve a safe bone density for hard run training on land.
I am a huge fan of this kind of training for heavier athletes, athletes with less than perfect mechanics, & athletes like yourself, who have the aerobic capacity, but have a limitation such as a suspect knee.
Have fun & keep it exciting—many athletes find water running boring & frustrating, but it works! I know world record holders who have achieved these results just weeks after a phase of water running.
Bobby McGee – Elite & age group Olympic level running coach & running coach to many of the USA’s top triathletes
See more of what he has to offer at www.BobbyMcGee.com
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