Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A key component of my training and recovery: WATER RUNNING

Deep water running with an aqua belt provides a great training stimulus and more closely simulates land running than most other cross training forms. Running in the water works all of your muscles, and if done correctly provides a great cardiovascular workout. Water running also gives your body a break from the constant pounding on land.

Water running is an essential part of my program. I water run 6 days a week for a minimum of 45 minutes. On Mondays I do long intervals in the pool ranging from 8-15 minutes at a high intensity. This is a tough workout but allows me to get in an extra interval session per week. This workout lasts 80-90 minutes. Coach and I call water running 'hidden mileage' as you are still getting a great workout but allowing the legs to recover. When I first tried water running I did not like it much as the whole movement felt strange. But now I love getting in the pool. Even after a really hard workout in the pool you get out feeling more recovered than when you got in :-) Water running is pretty tough mentally. You really have to focus on your heart rate and keep the intensity at an appropriate level. However by learning to focus more in training it has made me a better runner.

 Some key factors to remember when water running are below:

1) Keep upright when running. I like to lean forward a little but no more than 10 degrees. Definitely don't lean back as your legs will come up too high and you will not be able to water run with enough intensity.

2) Keep your arms close to your sides the whole time to mimic land running. It is easy in the water for your arms to go all over the place. If you do this too often your body adapts to this form and can cross over in to land running. I have learnt this from experience where I did not have the correct arm technique in the pool and then when running on land my arms where crossing in front of my body too far throwing off my stride.

3) Wear a heart rate belt to gauge your intensity.

4) There are many types of water running belts available. I wear a very light belt that my coach Ian Babe designed. This belt does not provide as much buoyancy as some which is good as you have to work harder. Other belts that I have used provide too much buoyancy which makes it hard to get your heart rate high enough as the belt is doing a lot of the work. I have also experimented without using a belt. I find this beneficial but only for the recovery sessions. During the long interval workout I need to get my arms and legs pumping really fast to mimic the land running and without the belt I find this is too hard and my heart rates goes too high. 

One of the difficult aspects of water running is gauging your intensity level. It is very easy to get in the pool and not work hard enough. In order to get your heart rate to a high enough level to have any benefit you have to work hard. One way to ensure your intensity is at the correct level is to wear a heart rate monitor. The Karolinska institute in Stockholm published a paper that showed that when running in the water your heart rate will be around 10 beats per minute lower than running on land (J Svedenhag, J Seger - Medicine and science in sports and exercise journal, 1992). According to the paper this is mainly because of the pressure of water on your body. This pressure allows increased return of blood to the heart which in turn means that with every heart beat more blood is pumped. For example if your heart rate in the pool is 160bpm then on land this would be the equivalent of 170bpm. You also don't need as much recovery time in the water when doing intervals. Once a week I do long intervals in the pool. Some of my intervals are 15 minutes long at a high intensity but because it is in the pool I only have about one minute rest between each interval. This is due to the fact that you have no impact on the legs.

I asked my coach Ian Babe to contribute to this blog as he is an expert on water running. Below is his input:

Within Mary's total training program the water running component plays a key role. We try to focus on the following points:

a) Helping significantly in the elimination of neuromuscular trauma created by land running where most activity is performed by the lower body.

b) Because the muscular skeletal system bears no weight in the water the body can recover from the pounding of land based training while at the same time conditioning the cardiovascular system. In this way Mary can improve her cardiovascular system while giving her weight bearing joints and muscles a rest. So in short Mary's water running training component targets both recovery and also gives opportunities of being able to safely add another interval workout and also add extra aerobic sessions. This allows Mary to add more endurance to her programme without the pounding.

c) The athlete needs to be technically correct in the pool, mimic excellence, visualize success, focus, believe. Its all part of the journey.

d) The need for shorter recovery time. Both as fitness develops and also because of the density of the water.

e) Water runnings scientifically proven training gains comparable to land running.

f) water running is mentally tough. It is not for wimps but this factor is also a bonus for tough focused athletes.

I hope you will all try out water running. Let me know what you think. Thank you very much to Ian Babe for his input into this blog and also for your outstanding coaching. I really appreciate your support and guidance on this journey.

Only 24 days to go until the IAAF world champs!!! Next blog I will update you on how preparations are going . . . 


Happy running everyone and let me know if you have any questions on water running. Can't wait to represent New Zealand in 24 days time!!


Can't wait to represent New Zealand in 24 days time!!!



My wonderful coach Ian Babe. Thanks so much Ian for all your dedication and commitment to coaching. 


Running in One Tree Point New Zealand. I sure do miss running here!!  Athletics Whangarei is my club team in New Zealand. Thanks to Athletics Whangarei for there support.


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