Since my season-ending injury came at the end of my season, I segued directly into my offseason break (two weeks of zero workouts). This gave both my mind and leg a needed break, but now it’s time to get back to easy workouts and rehabbing that femur.
With this injury (a stress reaction), the best cross training is deep-water pool running (or “aqua jogging”). It’s perfect for lots of running injuries (aside from hip flexor ones, which is why I was stuck biking last time) because you are able to mimic running with no impact. But it’s vital to do it correctly, to both ensure your workouts are quality and you don’t lose your mind.
Steps to Maintaining Sanity While Pool Running:
Step 1: Buy a cute new cross training swimsuit. (Retail therapy is therapy, right?)
Step 2: Find the longest possible pool near you. I’m lucky that DC has an incredible 50-meter indoor pool that I can use. It even has a lane dedicated to leisure and “water walking” which fits me, children learning how to swim, and older ladies just fine.
…Or make do. When that pool closed, I used a shorter, outdoor one full of kids that certainly thought I was a crazy old lady. (The kids arrived just after that serene photo was taken.) But at least they provided entertainment while I did approximately 8,793,259 laps.
Step 3: Get in the deep end (or, at least, somewhere your feet can’t touch when you extend your legs to jog) and secure your super cool aqua jogging belt just below your ribs. You can pool run without the belt (which just adds an extra bit of buoyancy), but it’s not recommended—especially at first—because it’s much harder to maintain proper form.
|Aqua Jogging Equipment: Swimsuit by: Oiselle, Belt by: AquaJogger, |
Watch By: Timex, Towel By: Stolen From Parents Years Ago.
Step 4: Speaking of form, it’s the Most Important Step. (Way more important than cute bathing suits.) Replicate your land-running form as best as possible. Don’t lean or slouch forward too much (as shown here); you should be straight up and down, hips under shoulders. Pump your arms as you would when running; don’t cheat by using “swimming” arms.
This step is harder than it sounds. It took me a little while to get it right—not just to tread water, not to rely entirely on my arms, and to get my legs used to doing a running motion in the water.
Step 5: Make it harder. Once I stopped flailing around and got the hang of it, it became too easy to keep it too easy. I realized I was more likely Aqua Walking than Aqua Running, so I have to conscientiously push the pace. Some things I’ve read say you should maintain your normal running cadence —generally around 180 steps a minute—while others say that’s too hard given the resistance of the water. My recommendation is to count your steps (count how many times one leg comes up each minute and double it) and find a rate that keeps you honest. You need to keep your heart rate up to maintain fitness; you should feel like you’re working out, not just splashing around on a tropical vacation. Counting will prevent you from slacking off and keep your mind occupied in what is admittedly a pretty boring activity.
Step 6: Once you’ve got your form down and a comfortable standard cadence, kick it up a notch. Intervals (from 30 seconds up to a few minutes) are the best way to get a good workout and break up the monotony. Since there’s no pounding, you can also do workouts more often.
I’ve found that pool-workout tiredness is a slightly different feeling than running tiredness. You’re not grasping your knees, gasping for air (I hope! That sounds like a good way to drown), but when you get out of the pool you have that all over exhaustion that makes sitting down seem delightful. (Actually, maybe that is a bit like running…) You’re also hungry constantly, so nothing new there.
Step 7: Bat away the boredom however possible. Counting strides and doing intervals help a lot, but often not enough. Watch the kids splash around, look for interesting things at the bottom of the pool, take pity on the lifeguards who are probably far more bored than you. At all costs, avoid staring directly at the sign that reminds you, both painfully and ironically, “No Running.” Yes, Sign, I’m aware. Thanks. Keep your head up (metaphorically and literally, or suffer a mouth full of water). You’ll show that stupid sign; you’ll run (on land!) again.
Step 8: Smell like chlorine, all the time, as it seeps continuously out of your pores. This step is unavoidable. (How the heck do you swimmers do it??)