Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pool running--it's the "cool" thing to do

You can ask my husband... I am not a patient person.  Never have been.  Being a marathoner requires patience, yes, but overall in life, patience is a virtue that I haven't yet gained.  The serenity prayer has always spoken loudly to me, and right now it's screaming at me.  I can't change the fact that I am injured right now.  But I can change the way I'm training.

I saw my physical therapist on Monday afternoon, and she agreed with my self-diagnosis of a soleus strain.  Her opinion: it was a minor one, and I should be able to start running again by this weekend.  Not my planned 16 miles, of course, but just a few to test it out, and likely I could return to my plan next week.  I clung to her words, holding on for dear life to the thought that maybe, just maybe, this wasn't as bad as I thought it was.  A week without running? No problem. I can cross train.  No 16 miler this weekend?  Well, it's a bummer that I'll be missing the Brokeman's Half that I was looking forward to doing with my friends, but I need to keep my eye on the prize--BQ at Glass City.  

So all week I did what I was told... stretching, icing, swimming, cycling on my trainer.  Every day I woke up thinking that things would feel better.  Every day I was disappointed.  It's not like I am in horrible pain.  A level 2 when I walk down steps.  A level 1 when I do a lunge.  But it hurts when I press on my calf (duh, stop pressing on it then, right?!).  And yesterday I came to the realization that I probably should NOT run this weekend.  I messaged with my friend Lynn, who is a physical therapist as well as a runner.  She had me do a couple of "tests" on my leg involving one-legged calf raises and hopping on both legs as well as my injured leg.  Her words: "If you were my patient, I would not tell you to run."  That's all it took. I trust Lynn, but even more, I trust myself.  My body is trying to say something, and if I have learned anything over the past year, it's to listen.  

I can't say that the realization didn't bring me to tears.  I literally can feel the marathon slipping away from me with every day that I spend off of the roads.  Yes, I know it's early... but marathon training takes a base, and time off makes me feel like I am moving backwards rather than forwards.  I need something to make me feel like I am not losing ground.  Swimming is great, and cycling is all fine and dandy, but neither are running.  Jenny (my PT) mentioned pool running as an option during my last session.  

Pool running, aka "aqua jogging"--I didn't use a belt
I recalled watching "Spirit of the Marathon", when Deena Kastor suffers from a stress fracture and successfully trains for the Chicago Marathon by doing all of her runs in the pool leading up to the race.  I did some Googling and found this article that discusses a study where it was found that that there was no real difference in the 5K times of competitive runners who did their runs in the water versus those who trained on land after 4 weeks.  This is only one of the studies that has been done on the benefits of pool running as a means of staying running-ready.  

On Wednesday, I ended my 2500-yard swimming workout with 10 minutes of pool running, just to try it out.  Yep, it's as hard as it's reported to be!  Today I took the plunge, literally and figuratively, and did my long run in the water.  No, I didn't run 16 miles... that would literally take 16+ hours for me to complete.  The articles discuss matching the intensity and duration of your runs when you're pool running, which means whatever run is on the schedule, you do the same type of run (tempo, intervals, long run, etc.) for the same amount of time you'd be running on land.  16 miles at a 9-minute/mile pace (what I've been doing my long runs at) would take 2 hours and 24 minutes.  So that's what I set out to do.  

I can't say it was easy, that's for sure!  I knew I'd be bored, and I was.  I started at 8:00 AM, when the rec center opened up.  I shared a lane with several different people during the time I was in the water.  The most interesting one was a 72-year-old man who treaded water for 1.5 hours.  He was very talkative and made the time pass by more quickly than it would have if I'd had no one to chat with!  To help with the boredom, I broke up the workout into 30 minute segments. I got the cadence/effort correlations from a website that I can't find right now... endurance/steady-state = 12 steps every 5 seconds, tempo = 15 steps every 5 seconds, and recovery = 10-11 steps every 5 seconds.  I translated those to rpm (steps per minute) below.

First 30 minutes: 200 yards warm-up + 30 minutes of steady-state running (cadence = 144-150)
2nd 30 minutes: 6 x 5 minute intervals (3 minutes moderately hard--cadence = 180-185 + 2 minutes recovery--cadence = 120-125)

3rd 30 minutes: ladder of 1-1-2-2-3-3-4-4-3-3-2-2-1-1 minutes alternating moderately hard and recovery
4th 30 minutes; 30 minutes of steady-state running
Final 24 minutes: 24 minutes of steady-state running
After each 30 minute segment, I "rewarded" myself with 100 yards of swimming.  I fueled after 60 minutes (half of a Honey Stinger waffle) and 90 minutes (the other half).  

So, in 2 hours and 24 minutes, I swam a total of 600 yards (about 9-10 minutes of swimming), and ran in the deep water for 2 hours and 14-15 minutes.  To be honest, it wasn't as hard as I figured it would be.  I was tired at the end, for sure, but I knew I would be.  I was famished--I also knew this would be true!  This was not only an exercise for my body, but for my mind.  If I can run in the water for almost 2.5 hours, I figure I can do just about anything!

Right now, my plan is to take my runs one day at a time.  I won't be running on land until I feel like I am 100%.  Today I jogged across the basketball court to the bleachers and I didn't feel any tightness or pain.  Granted, that was 20 yards, but it is a step in the right direction.  I see my PT again on Monday and I will be getting her perspective on things, but I'm pretty sure she will be in agreement that I need to do pool running until the soreness is nonexistant... which I truly hope is soon!

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