Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aquajogging ... I mean Aquarunning

It's like some unwritten rule of the universe, or at least my universe.  As soon as I jump in with both feet, one of the feet breaks.  I have two important events on the horizon, one of which is coming up in about a week.  The upcoming one is the Carlsbad 5000 to be held the first week in April, and the other is the Masters World Championships in Track and Field set for July.

I haven't run the Carlsbad 5000 for several years for various reasons, but the most recent reason was injury.  Last year I sat on the sidelines of several races and nursed a nasty Achilles injury ... for a long time.  But this year I was finally healthy and my training has been progressing nicely and my hopes were building for a PR performance. 

Well, to get to the point, as soon as I entered the World Championships (like literally the next day), I limped through a run with yet another Achilles injury (opposite leg as last time) screaming at me.  It baffles me how I can be "fine" one day and not the next.  I know there must have been warning signs and perhaps I've become too good at ignoring them.  But however that all works, here I am with another serious injury which is jeopardizing both of my upcoming races.

Last year when this happened, I figured it would resolve in a short amount of time, and I tried cross-training and ART torture, mixed with painful runs.  But it didn't resolve as I watched race after race pass me by.  This time I can't afford to wait 8 months to recover.  But I also can't afford to lose my fitness and training time.

The perfect solution:  Aqua-running.  I was skeptical that this cross-training method was adequate to maintain a high level of fitness until I did some research.  What I discovered was that there has been a lot of research put into this method of working out, and without exception the evidence suggests that it is possible to get the same level of workout in the water as on land, but without the impact.  It is possible to continue training as I have been while at the same time, letting the healing really happen.  Not only does the lack of impact help, but also the massage of the water against the legs during the running motion is therapeutic, and the water version of running allows for less extension of the Achilles, taking off all the stress.  This is what I read, but what I discovered in my first two Aqua-running workouts fully confirmed it.

My workouts have sort of been like this:  In the pool I warmed up with 300 meters of swimming.  Then I strapped on my flotation belt, got in the deep end and began an interval session:  18 x 2 min hard/30 sec easy, with 2 minutes of easy jogging between each set of 6.  This gave me about 50 minutes of running time (most of it hard effort).  I finished with 12 x 25 meters of full effort kicking with a kick board.  One day I added 6 x 50 meters full effort swim. 

My heart rate soared during the hard effort and I needed each recovery.  My legs and arms fatigued against the resistance of the water.  My motion in the water simulated good running form, and I could feel the massage against my calves everytime I pulled them back.  I checked my heart rate regularly and was happy to find a way to run 600's without tearing up my body.  My legs were tired afterwards and I could feel it when I climbed our stairs.  This all made me very, very happy.

I plan on Aqua-running until I'm healed, although I am still hoping to throw in the Carlsbad 5000 race next week if at all possible.  I am thankful beyond words that this cross-training method is available and is suitable for almost any injury, and that I finally decided to try it.  The key will be pushing myself into the pain zone as if I were on the track, and right now I am exceedingly motivated to push myself.


  1. Hi Cindy,
    So sorry to hear. Last Friday I too experienced a tweak that was more than I needed! I had to walk back to the car after my fartlek. I'm still so frustrated and this week have been doomed to the elliptical. I'm icing and getting some treatments at The Training Room, and am crossing all fingers and toes I can run Carlsbad. I really wanted to try and break 21!! Argh! All that hard work. Perhaps I need to try and find a flotation belt for this last week and hop in our pool! Will you still race Carlsbad?

  2. Hi Celeste, what the heck. Must be something in the air. There is nothing more frustrating than an injury, esp. when it happens just before the event. I truly, truly empathize. I am hoping that the 2 weeks in the water will give me enough recovery to be able to eek out a 5K, but I will ultimately have to play CB by ear. In your case, I hope you will be able to compete. For aquarunning, you can use any type of flotation device (belt, life vest, noodle) but the belt is ideal. I bought mine at Play it again Sports.