Thursday, May 10, 2012

Some Pool Running Tips

I've been trying to get Bethany to write a race report on the Miwok 100k but dammit, she's just not narcissistic enough to comply.  It should be noted that she was 2nd woman overall in the Miwok 100k in 10:49.  Apart from some grotesque poison oak on her legs she looked fresh upon returning home the next day.  Even though I can't give you a gripping race report from the true athlete of the household I can offer you something nearly as captivating: some pool running tips.  

As I now consider myself an elite pool runner, here is some accumulated wisdom in the off-chance that another injured trail runner might be deranged enough to benefit from it:

1) Use a flotation belt and go to the deep end of the pool.  It becomes too difficult to maintain a semblance of a running stride without the belt.  Even so, your legs make more of a piston-ing action then a true running stride.  With the resistance of the water you definitely feel some cumulative fatigue in the hamstrings and hip flexors towards the end of the workout.

2) Intervals are your friend.  Pretty much every workout I've done has been interval based.  This is for several reasons: to break up the monotony as well as to ensure an adequate aerobic stimulus.  You have to work pretty hard to get your heart rate up.  Any given heart rate is 10% lower than an equivalent effort running on land.  For my intervals I would try to be in the 155-165bpm range depending on the length of the interval (max hr on land of 185, lactate threshold heart rate on land around 172).  I've done more high intensity work in the last 5 weeks than I've done since college.  It's because of this ability to maintain the intensity in a relatively specific fashion that studies have shown that runners can maintain VO2 max, lactate threshold, and running economy for 4-6 weeks with just pool running alone.

3) Limit the workout duration.  I initially had big goals of 2-3 hour pool sessions but the monotony is pretty hard to bear and it is tough to keep up the intensity.  I did a couple sessions of 90 minutes but eventually just focused on 1 hour workouts.  An hour of intervals can tucker you out just fine.

4)  Keep the recovery intervals short.  Your heart rate quickly drops after each work effort.  Recovery intervals shouldn't be longer than 1 minute.

5) If you are in it for the long haul (i.e. at least 6 weeks) it is helpful to have a waterproof ipod or some such device to listen to some tunes. 

6) Avoid the aqua-aerobics ladies.  Trust me on this one.  Get a pool schedule and figure out a way to get there in the hours they aren't there.  

Here are some sample workouts.  Some of these are taken from or adapted from Pete Pfitzinger's pool running schedule

1. 8-10 x 5 min intervals with 1 min recovery.

2. 10-16 x 2:30 intervals with :30 recovery.  Can do in sets of 5-6.

3. "The Kevin Sullivan Workout".  This is a workout that Kevin Sullivan- Canadian mile record holder- incorporated into his routine regularly in coming back from a sacral stress fracture in 2002: 
1 x 5 min / 1 min rec. / 2x4 min with 1 min rec. / 3 x 3 min with 30sec recovery / 4 x 2 min with 30 sec recovery / 5 x 1 min with 15 sec- 30 sec recovery / 6 x 30 sec with 15 sec recoveries

4. Ladders: 5/4/3/2/1/2/3/4/5 x 2 with 30 sec to 1 min recoveries

5. Pool lengths: repeats of 25 meters (takes approx. 1 min) all out with 30 sec recoveries.

6. Long Intervals: 2-3 x 15 minute intervals with 2-3 min recoveries.  

7.  Steady run: 1:30-2:00 steady.  Only did this a couple times.


  1. Thank you for this post.
    I have been pool running for couple of weeks now since my achilles tendon is acting up and I dont want to get seriously injured since i have to start marathon training exactly in a month.

    I have been doing my own interval workouts in the pool but i want to incorporate Pfitzinger's workouts too. He has a Wednesday workout as "steady" and you also mentioned in #7 as a steady run... I am not sure what you mean. Does it mean you have to run without any recovery and run fast? I would appreciate if you could explain it to me.

  2. You have discussed an interesting topic that every body should know. Very well explained with examples. i have found a similar website Making and living change visit the site to know more about Hill Running | Hill Training Running