Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pool-running perfected

In my July 28 posting I'd recommended pool-running - a fantastic technique which allows an injured runner to maintain their running-specific fitness and their cardiovascular capacity while recovering. If you haven't reviewed my recommended article I've excerpted from it the deep-water running technique that I've been successfuly using:

Deep-Water Running (Cross Country Style): The cross-country style of DWR looks qualitatively more like land-based running due primarily to the increased horizontal displacement (position) of the ankle. This increased movement of the ankle allows for a greater range of motion to be achieved and thus maintains the normally elliptical appearing gait pattern found in land-based running and increase the muscular benefit. The AQx was specifically designed to be used with this style of DWR.

Key points:

1. The water should be at shoulder level below the chin with the head held in a neutral position facing forward.
2. The body leans slightly forward of a vertical position. This is important because if you lean too far backwards your knees will come up too high in the front and you will be practicing the high-knee version of DWR (which looks more like stair-stepping).
3. The arm carriage should be relaxed and identical to land-based running. Your arms will primarily move from the shoulder joint (relatively stable) with elbows flexed at approximately 90º.
4. The hands are held in a slightly clenched-fist position with your thumb resting lightly on your forefinger to decrease the likelihood of using a dog-paddling- type motion.
5. The legs will actually follow a pattern that is VERY similar to a faster type running motion like interval training where:
a) The knee comes up toward the surface of the water until the hip reaches a position of approximately 60-80º (hip flexion), followed by full extension (not hyperextension) of the leg toward the bottom of the pool.
b) The foot moves from approximately 0º dorsiflexion at full hip flexion (imagine your foot in the same position as if you were standing on the ground in a normal position) to approximately 50-70º of plantarflexion (toes pointed slightly at the bottom of the pool) when the leg is fully extended. A good thing to imagine is to think of your foot touching the bottom of the pool when your leg is fully extended, then moving your foot back toward the edge of the pool as far as possible without rotating your hips, then the foot moves under your butt, and finally lifting the knee up to allow the foot to continuously move through the gait pattern.
c) The major differences between the high-knee and cross-country styles of DWR are that the high-knee style leg action is primarily in a vertical plane with the legs moving straight up and down in a piston-like movement pattern with very little horizontal displacement present (imagine marching or stair-stepping) while the cross country style has a much greater range of motion which elicits more muscular involvement.

My only tweak to this description is instead of running solely in the deep-water - where some type of flotation device is certainly necessary - I avoid the flotation device via interspersing running in shallow water with deep (my fitness center's swimming pool is ~15 yards shallow and ~10 yards deep.) I find that by doing laps using this technique in both shallow and deep water I avoid the crushing boredom that previously afflicted me when I'd initially solely run in deep-water.

I feel that this lap-based pool-running technique combined with resistance strength training and long-distance biking best maintains the injured runner's fitness level until his/her full-recovery. I hope this technique proves helpful to others (in fact, I like it so much I plan to continue using it to minimize my cumulative stress in my higher-mile weeks)!

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