Logging Miles Water Running
Afterbeing ordered not to run for three weeks right in the middle of my university track season, I discovered water running. An injury forced me to substitute some biking and swimming for running, but I was neither a cyclist nor a swimmer, so I explored water running. That was more than 25 years ago. Although many people find water running boring, I have embraced it as a way to run without impact – to run without running. When I returned to the track, not only did I run fast, but I was pain-free. Whenever you have to give up something, you need to find a replacement. I remember giving up Diet Coke back in 2002. I replaced it with bubbly water – keeping the bubbles but getting rid of the artificial sweetener.
I love to run. It was my first sport and has always been my passion. There is nothing sweeter than starting the day with a run leaving you refreshed and invigorated. The downside of running is that at some point every runner has to take a break from it whether to recover from a big race or an injury. The physical and psychological anguish of missing the adrenalin rush of running is challenging for athletes. I know this well. I have evolved from the athlete who could not bear to miss one single run, to someone who has taken several months off of running by choice and yet maintained fitness.
I have substituted thousands of land miles with water miles. In 2007, when a chronic Achilles issue finally demanded a two- to three-month break from running, I water ran and swam every single day for two weeks (no biking or running) and then gradually reintroduced biking. That was mid-April, May and June. In mid-June, I re-introduced running three days per week starting with a walk/run program and I kept up my water running three days each week to simulate my typical six runs per week. In August, I raced Subaru Ironman Canada on minimum land mileage and a long run of 90 minutes only ( Editor’s note: Bentley also won the race.) The resistance training of the water made me stronger, reinforced my aerobic engine, simulated running and kept me healthy enough to race.
Currently, I run three to four days per week – every other day so that any inf lammation can heal in 48 hours before my next fun run. I water run whenever I am able. I know it is a good workout and it makes me feel like I have done a workout without the impact. This past year, in preparation for the Boston Marathon, my maximum weekly land mileage was 50 km, consisting of one treadmill speed workout, one hill workout and one long run (1.5 to 2.5 hours). My “aquatic mileage” was about two to three hours per week. Of course, I was cycling and swimming for fitness as well, but I think it is a testament to cross training that I managed to run with the women running over 100 miles per week.
Give me the deep end of any pool, lake or ocean and I can simulate a land run anywhere. I know that running is the easiest, most versatile workout anyone can do, but running on land isn’t always the smartest or healthiest choice. By integrating water running into your running program, you will add years to your running lifetime. How It’s Done Water running might look awkward, as it is literally running in the water. Grab a f lotation belt (even a Croc sandal in your bathing suit can suffice) and jump in the deep end of the pool where you can move without touching the bottom. Simulate your running stride the best you can. A common mistake is to “cycle” in the water, but running is not an up and down circle with the knees. When you run, your knee comes toward your chest and then your foot lands in front of your body and you run over it. Your foot hits the ground and your body moves in front and then you kick up your heels toward your back. In the water, you want to bring your knee toward your chest and then kick out so that you simulate running over your feet. Then bring the leg back behind your body using your glute muscles. Keep your shoulders back – you want a slight lean forward as in running but the tendency is to lean too far forward, so be sure to keep your
abdominals tight and shoulders back. You should feel your hip f lexors working hard against the resistance of the water and your glutes working on the pull back of your landing leg. Your arms should move just as they do when running on land. Often people incorrectly use their arms for f lotation. Instead, keep your underarms as close to your body as possible and pump them back and forth.
Many coaches will say that it is not necessary to run as long in the water as on land. I disagree. While it might be hard to convince yourself to stay in the water for the duration of your run, I have always made my water runs the same length as if it was on land. The only difference is that I require less recovery in between hard water running intervals. Here I provide some of my favourite water running workouts. Note that one lap should be the length of the deep-water part of your pool, which for me is 25 m.