Nina Bovio, a highly competitive runner from Brighton with 72 marathons under her belt, has been fighting a nagging quadriceps injury for nearly two years.
She's been advised to substitute some of her runs on roads for running in a pool, where pounding is at a minimum.
Running laps in a pool can be mind-numbing, but it is invaluable as a way to keep in shape while healing from an injury, says Laurel Park of Ann Arbor, who used a pool three years ago to recover from a hamstring injury.
The time passed most quickly for her, she says, if she did an interval workout, such as 10 minutes of easy running followed by 2 minutes hard, 1 minute slow, 2 minutes hard, etc.
"The most I could handle in one outing was about 45 minutes," she says. "Those workouts were certainly equal in intensity to any land workouts."
Ann Boyd uses pool running even when healthy, as a means of cross-training when aiming toward a marathon.
"When I'd train for a marathon, I would train for six weeks and get injured, and always a different injury, too. So, I started doing a second run in the pool. And I always run in the pool after a marathon to ease back into running."
Veterans of pool running suggest buying a waterproof Walkman-type device to help pass the time, as well as a flotation device specific to pool running, available at running stores, to keep you aligned at the proper angle.
Kathy Rounds, a world-class 800-meter runner and certified strength and conditioning coach in Ann Arbor, says that pool running isn't just for the injured, that it has benefits and can be used as a regular cross-training tool.
"Because the atmospheric pressure increases as the water gets deeper, water running has some interesting training adaptations," she says.
Because the blood in your feet at the bottom of the pool in deep water is at about three atmospheric pressures, and the blood in your chest is at about 0.75 atmospheric pressures, she says, more blood gathers in the chest area. This requires the heart to work harder to pump it.
In addition to reducing the pounding on injured joints, muscles or tissue, Rounds says the pressure of the water against your legs as you run through it helps flush wastes from the muscles.
"It's a free massage," she says.
But after running in the pool exclusively, she warns, it takes a couple of weeks to get used to the pounding when you go back outside.
Water Fitness Tips
- Do an interval workout, 10 minutes of easy running followed by 2 minutes hard, 1 minute slow, 2 minutes hard.
- Run in the pool after a marathon to ease back into running.
- A waterproof Walkman-type device helps pass the time in the pool.
- Use a flotation device, available at running stores, to keep you aligned at the proper angle for pool running.