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Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Water Running

MiNDFOOD associate editor Carolyn Enting takes her half marathon training from the road to the pool.

Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Water Running

A week ago I had six needles stuck into my heels to treat plantar fascia (jogger’s heel). Both are rather painful!

For the moment I’m not allowed to run on the road but there’s nothing stopping me from running in the pool. In fact, it’s the best thing I can do right now and lucky for me GetRunning running coach Kiri Price is a deep water running coach too.

When Kiri initially told me about deep water running I admit I was a little skeptical.

“You’re probably thinking of those old ladies doggy-paddling with their bottoms sticking out of the pool,” says Kiri.

Yes, I was.

“Well that’s not what it’s going to be,” she says. “We’re actually running. The closer this is to your land running the more physiological benefits you’ll get out of it as a runner. What we want to do is work on good biomechanics and that starts with your body position.”

It’s important to keep your body upright in the water and that the buoyancy belt that you clip around your waist is tight. The taller you are in the water the more your trunk muscles will engage. “Your core is activated the whole time you are in the pool,” Kiri says.

Before you get in the water practice standing tall, feet shoulder width apart and imagine a balloon inflated in your pelvis pulling up through your sternum and crown. Now that there is a line from the ankles, hips through to the shoulders, lean slightly forward from the ankles until your toes just start to grip the ground. “That’s the position we have in the pool,” says Kiri. “You want to look nice and upright in the water.”

The hands are also important. Hold your hands in a loose fist with your thumbs on top. “Imagine you are holding butterflies and don’t want to squash their wings,” she says. “This will stop you from doggy paddling. Now bring your hand to the hip and keep the arm at 90 degrees. Imagine you have a string on your elbow pulling your elbow back, because we focus more on that back swing than we do on the front swing. Your arms are going to move front to back just like they do on the road.”

Another tip is to imagine you have headlights on your shoulders and hips and everything is pointing down the pool where you want to go.

The knees come up to about 70 or 80 degrees, and when the knee comes up, your toes should come up too. Then push the foot straight down to the bottom of the pool. Doing this you’ll be actively using your hamstrings and glutes.

When you’re running in the pool it is important that you don’t see your feet out in front of you. “If you see your feet you’ve gone wrong, you just want to be able to see your knees,” says Kiri. “That’s one of the clues, otherwise you’ll cycling not running.”

The next thing is cadence, which is how many times your legs go round (revolutions per minute). Maintaining cadence keeps the heart rate up. In the pool you work on cadence rather than distance. For example, if you have an 8km run on your schedule and that normally takes you 40 minutes to run, then do 40 minutes running in the pool.

After I’ve learned how to run properly in the water, which takes about 15 minutes to get the arms and legs doing it correctly, we begin interval training.

Water running at the fast pace, moving the arms back and forth quickly (which sets the pace) for one minute and 40 seconds, then resting for 20 seconds, before repeating. Do this 10 times and that’s a 20 minute workout right there.

If you count the number of times your left arm goes back within a 15 second interval and it reaches between 17 and 20, that’s the equivalent to running up tempo.

You can run in the pool with most injuries and it’s particularly good if you’ve got plantar fascia because it enables you to keep your fitness levels up. “The hydrostatic pressure also helps circulate the blood through your body which helps reduce swelling,” Kiri says.

Kiri knows the power of deep water running. She’s used it to help rehabilitate from knee surgery in December last year as well as get back into running. She has a goal to run 100 marathons. She’s up to 80 and has run 15 marathons since her knee surgery. She also uses deep water running for recovery after running a marathon.

She works with a lot of injured runners too, especially in the lead up to big events like the New York Marathon and in my case the Queenstown Marathon.

The main thing I have to focus on during our session is not over striding. Kiri keeps me focused on my feet landing underneath me.

“You’ll feel it in your calves later which is good for you because with plantar fascia you need to work on your calf strength and flexibility,” she says.

Hours later my calves are screaming (despite stretching them in the pool), and my upper arms are chaffed from brushing against the buoyancy belt. A pro tip I learn afterwards is to apply Vaseline to the upper arms before getting in the pool! And, despite my aching calves I’m glad to feel them. Deep water running really does give you a good workout.

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