What is pool running?
Also known as aqua jogging, essentially it’s running in water up to your neck with the aid of a floatation belt called an ‘aqua jogger’ that you wear around your waist.
Do you need the water to be a consistent depth?
No, as long as it’s deep enough that your feet don’t touch the ground you’ll be fine.
Why do you aqua jog?
I broke the navicular bone in my foot in June 2011 and have been advised not to do any form of training that involves impact to my foot. Pool running targets the same muscles as running without the impact.
Is it just for people recovering from injury?
I don’t see it that way. I fully intend to introduce pool running to my weekly routine once I’m back from injury. Because it’s impact free it’s an excellent alternative to running when you’re a bit sore from the day before. Think of it as free miles. Mo Farah trains in water.
Indeed there is. If you bend your knees too much you risk imitating a cycling motion. Try to keep your legs only slightly bent at the knees as you would when you run. Swing your arms too. The closer it looks to a running motion the better it is. The natural thing to do is bring the knees up so you have to be focussed all of the time. I’ve been pool running for months now and occasionally I still find myself pool cycling.
Where do you get an aqua jogger from?
I used the last of my prize money to buy mine from Run and Become and it cost me £50. However, you’re lucky if I’ve used it more that half a dozen times as most Edinburgh Leisure pools have them. Ainslie Park have now lost all theirs but I adapted my session last night and used a noodle instead by wrapping it around my back and holding it at the front similar to how a time trial cyclist would grip his handle bars. It wasn’t ideal as I couldn’t swing my arms but it did the trick.
How fast can you move through the water?
I’m the slowest guy in the pool. (But I could probably still keep pace with Garry Robertson doing the front crawl.) But it’s not about speed through the water. It’s about proper technique.
What sort of sessions can you do?
You can imitate any running session. For example, if your long run takes two hours, go pool running for two hours. I mostly do speed work sessions and the one that gets my heart rate thumping and lungs burning the most, is my 400m session. Instead of running 400m, I aqua jog for 1 minute. You can recover a bit quicker in the pool so I reduced my recovery time to 30 seconds. I do 20 of these in a typical session and I’m running on empty by the end of it.
Another favourite session of mine is mile reps. 5 minutes = 1 mile. Recovery time of 1 minute and I do 6 of them. Very similar to what I would do at the track with reduced recoveries.
Other days I just jump in the water and run for an hour and tempo pool run.
It can do. I find myself looking at the clock a lot when I’m tempo pool running. It’s not as boring as swimming though as your head is above water and there’s normally something to look at.
How do you know if you’re having a good work out?
That’s an excellent question. There’s no point timing yourself from one part of the pool to another as you’ll only sacrifice your technique to achieve quick times. I base every thing on how my legs, heart and lungs feel. Sounds corny but it’s true. If I’m out of breath at the end of a rep then I know I’m going hard. Sometimes too hard, the beast can even make an appearance, so I have to adjust to ensure I get though the whole session. By the last lap I aim to be running on empty. Same as a session down at the track. This is probably the hardest part of pool running.
Who is the Beast?
Ha ha ha. The Beast lives in your subconscious and normally pops up half way through a session and tells you to slow down. I’ve even heard him tell me to give up running once. I’ve learned to love the Beast though. I know if I don’t hear from him at least once during an interval session, I’m not working hard enough.
I’ve heard once you get good at pool running you don’t need an aqua jogger.
This might be true but do you want to get good at pool running, or use pool running to get good at running. Last I heard there are no pool running races to enter. If there was, you know I’d be first name down on the entry list. To pool run without a float, you need to keep you lungs full of air and do more of a cycling technique to keep you afloat. I prefer to use the aqua jogger and breath like I would when I’m running.
I was aware of how strange I looked for all of about 5 minutes. There are plenty of other strange people in the pool and nobody cares what you’re up to. I’ve been quizzed by a few puzzled onlookers and I’m happy to tell them what I’m up to.
Have you ever swallowed water?
All the time but I’m getting better at it. It’s one way of helping you keep good posture. Nothing encourages you to keep your chin up quite like the threat of a mouthful of swimming pool water.
How many times a week are you pool running?
I do two interval sessions and one tempo run per week. Whatever my group are doing at the track or the meadows, I try to copy the session in the pool. I don’t want to get webbed feet so I’m using the cross trainer and my road bike as well.
When are you going to be back competing?
I am to get another CT scan in a few weeks time to see how the brake is mending. There is still a bit of pain along the plantar. I saw a physio last year who asked me to hop on one leg and run a figure of 8, then rate the pain. I can’t remember my rating then but it’s a 0:10 now so that’s encouraging.
Interview by Bryan Mackie