Monday, 6 February 2012

Pool runnings

Nothing like an afternoon of pool running to wake the from body head to toe. Achilles getting better, as usually happens when you take care of it. You also get extra time to think in the pool, and that's fine too. Reminds me of how I first learned to pool run (cue fade).


I first discovered pool running in the summer/fall of 2010. That July I was preparing to run my fourth  Tely 10. The race is located in St John's, Newfoundland. It's 10 miles and sponsored by the Telegram (hence the name). Steve Boyd gives a detailed account of that year's race here. It's a no-brainer to take part in this race if you're in the city. Very friendly cheering crowds and for the next few days everyone is talking about the results. Sort of Toronto's exact opposite ('How dare they close down Yonge street for two hours!').

The week before the Tely, during a none-too strenuous tempo run of 3 x mile I landed awkwardly on my foot and somehow stressed the third metatarsal. A stress fracture, for those who don't know, involves fairly painful swelling in the given area. But sure signs of a fracture are ambiguous so a quick visit to the doctor did not confirm whether it might have been something else (i.e. a pulled muscle). Besides taking a few days off (hobbling), I was determined to run this race. I ignored every sensible thought and ran it anyway. The final two miles were the most painful non-marathon ones I've done and I finished 4th overall. Not bad, but after the race I felt a crunching sound in my foot that could only mean one thing; it was broken.

When I got back from my vacation after two weeks of limping, I finally got an x-ray that confirmed the total fracture. Thankfully it didn't require surgery (just barely) and I wore a boot for six weeks and crutches for three. Then the boot came off and I returned to exercise. The sports doctor recommended six weeks of pool running. I didn't quite know how to pool run as I had never tried it. The next day instead of asking anyone I just jumped in the pool and gave it a go. After 30 minutes I was tired enough to call it a day. Eventually I could go as long as 90 minutes. Cut to present.

Anyhow yesterday John gave me a nice set of hard/easy pool running of 1x5min hard/2.5 min easy, 2x4min/2, 3x3 min/1.5, 4x2min/1, 5x1 min/30s. The hour flew by.

When in the pool, I got thinking how runners often say they use a floatie belt for a pool run. Late after googling some images and looking at websites and videos on pool running, it only confirmed that apparently (almost) everyone used some sort of flotation device. Was my technique of pool running that different from everyone else? It can't be my natural flotation; I sink like a rock. Even Pfitzinger recommends using a flotation device:
Deep water running with a flotation vest provides an excellent training stimulus, and more closely simulates land running than most other cross training options.
I don't know; running without the vest seems an even better stimulus. To this day I've never used a foam belt (I tried once and disliked it). My method? I use a downward arm motion and foot stamping to keep afloat. The motivation is don't drown.  For an hard workout I bring the shoulders above the water line. Once at a training camp a few fellow athletes also tried a short pool workout sans floatie. These guys, in very good shape, dropped out after maybe 15 minutes; they found pool running exhausting. But I'm not in better shape than they were. I still don't understand what I'm doing differently. Maybe it's my size 13 feet.

One final note: a lot of people complain pool running is boring. But swimmers exercise in a pool year-round. Why aren't swimmers bored of swimming?...are they? Only difference between us is they swim forever while we go back outside. A Plato's cave thing, perhaps.

Top 10 upsides to pool running:

1. It's pretty damn tiring and you come out hungry
2. You can take it easy (if you want to)
3. Re-injury is very unlikely
4. You can chat with fellow pool runners. More the merrier
5. Any pool will do (almost)
6. No equipment necessary
7. Head above water means no water in ear, eyes, or hair
8. Works upper body in ways running does not and do other exercises in pool too
9. You can listen to the facility's radio (if you like that sort of thing)
10. No butt soreness anything like the stationary bike

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