I was introduced to interval training in the water when I was a not-so-skilled track and cross country runner in college. Those days, my coach had me deal with my sprained ankle by water running. With my track clothes on, I would jump into the deep end of a pool and run - with absolutely no idea that there were things to consider such as form and intensity.
I know my coaches knew something back then that I didn’t: water training works. Now, water training isn’t new; it has been around centuries. Sadly though, if you ask anyone what they know about water training, they usually only think of rehabilitation and for medicinal purposes. Because of this stigma, the average athlete or fitness enthusiast might doubt a water workout as a viable way to train. Yet countless Olympic athletes use the method year after year with podium results.
Thus, we have an amazing fitness method which just hasn’t hit mainstream.
For me, I came a long way from those early years of practically drowning. I had the opportunity to be trained by some major players (Shirley Archer and Sharon Svensson) and then I honed those concepts and integrated more variety and intensity drills for training and my clients and classes. I also used water to train for ultra running and ironman events, and eventually, to rehabilitate after some major bicycle accidents.
Water training is truly a platform in which you can work at any level. For example, after my knee surgery, I couldn’t walk on land without crutches, but I could walk in the water due to the effects of buoyancy and minimized gravity. Once I was given the green light to get back to harder workouts, I slowly increased the intensity and the variation of exercises until I could run on land again (something my doctor told me would be unlikely). Since the surgery, thanks to water training, I have participated in other ironman and ultra running events.
You may be thinking, “Why should I use the water?” Maybe you are new to fitness or are not dealing with any injuries so you just don’t see the reason to include it. Well, all I can say is that with a society bent on increasing fitness at all costs, I keep thinking about joint health.
More and more people are getting involved with land-based fitness classes, marathon & triathlon training programs, high-intensity Cross-Fit or Spartan events, and there isn’t much thought to the pounding the body is taking, specifically the joints. Joint health today could be analogous to our past obsession with sunbathing. All of us children of the 60s and 70s paid no mind to sun damage as we rubbed oil on our bodies for a deeper tan. Well, this caught up to us, didn’t it? Joint health may have the same future.
Research has shown that a 150-pound runner could actually experience 600-900 pounds of impact force with each stride, and we’re looking at 2,000 strides per mile! Now, I’ve run some LONG events, so training in a non-impact generating environment has been a game-changer for me.
Consider changing your workout a day or two a week and hit the pool (or ocean) for a deep water focused workout. Your joints will thank you in another 5-30 years!