Pool running is a great low-impact workout that can boost your fitness and improve your running form. As your legs move through their natural motion, the resistance of the water forces them to find a more efficient path, which can reduce some of the wobbles in your gait when you’re on land. A flotation belt allows you to “run” in deep water, so you can use the same stride as you do on hard ground. Everybody into the pool!
Wearing a flotation belt, start running at a depth at which your feet lightly touch the bottom; this helps you establish an upright body alignment. Then move into deeper water, maintaining your stride. Run five minutes, then rest five minutes. Repeat two to four times. Each session, increase the length of the run segment and decrease the rest until you can run for 30 minutes continuously.
Turn up the intensity
At first, keep your effort level easy. No huffing and puffing. After several sessions, gradually increase the turnover of your legs so you’re breathing the same as you would during a moderately paced run.
And do some laps
Swim a lap or two during your rest periods, or alternate pool runs with a lap workout: Swim one lap easy, rest for 20 to 30 seconds, then swim a slightly faster lap. Rest one minute, then swim two easy laps. Rest one minute, then swim two to four fast laps, resting as much as you wish after each.
For a long run, simply run in water the same duration of time you would run on land. For speed workouts, shorten your stride and quicken your turnover, moving your legs faster, and keep the duration of your effort and recovery the same. During rest periods, move your legs slowly and gently.
Q & A
Q Runners don’t need to bother with upper-body exercises. Fact or fiction?
A A strong upper body helps you run efficiently and maintain form as you grow fatigued. Twice a week, strengthen your shoulders, neck, and back with this simple move: Stand while holding two hand weights. Pump your arms just as you would while running. Do three or four sets of 10 repetitions. The last two or three reps of each set should feel challenging – if not, increase the weight.
Q Will just swimming for a week during holidays maintain my running fitness?
A You won’t be doing much to strengthen or maintain the tissues, bones and ligaments specific to running, but if you spend time swimming at various levels of intensity, you will still challenge your aerobic system. You shouldn’t lose much (if any) fitness.
Q It’s too hot to run in the summer. How can I beat my excuse?
A Heat and humidity can definitely make running uncomfortable. But for the most part, you can work your runs around soaring temps. Obviously, try to run before the sun comes up (or hit the treadmill at a well air-conditioned gym). Set up a loop that takes you under a sprinkler so you can run for about 10 minutes, cool off briefly, and then log another 10. Remember to hydrate, take walk breaks, and stop if you’re not feeling well.