Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pooling and Why You Should Do It

pool [pool]
- Noun
1. a small body of standing water; pond.

2. a still, deep place in a stream.
3. swimming pool.

pool [pool]
–verb (used without object)
1. to form a pool.
2. the act of aqua-jogging, as defined by Boston University distance runners.
pool [pool]
1. of or for a pool: pool running.
Recently I’ve been raging quite a bit about my time in the pool, without explaining what I’m doing in there.
I’m pooling.
(I guess the official term for this ridiculous activity I engage in on an all-too-often basis is “aqua-jogging,” but I hate using the word “jogging” to describe anything I do - it just calls to mind a fanny pack-laden shuffle, aka nothing I want anything to do with.)

And though pooling cost me years of my life in rage-induced stress, not to mention chlorine-saturated skin and hair, pooling really is the best form of cross training for runners. Biking can get you a good cardio workout, but pooling actually simulates running. This means that if you do it properly, you can do a week of pool workouts and emerge in the same shape you went in.
Pooling is essentially no-impact running. So for the injured runner, the pool is the place to be. Just make sure that your form is correct. You should be upright and move your arms and legs just like running. Do not let your legs swerve off to the sides (bad form can put unnecessary strain on your knees and muscles). And it’s not about how fast you clock your laps – speed is completely irrelevant – forward motion is not the goal, running form is.
The flotation belt is not absolutely necessary (I don’t use one), but if you’ve never pooled before, you may want to give it a shot.

And even if you’re not injured, one day in the pool a week can be a good supplement to your training – it’ll give your joints a rest, while maintaining your fitness.
My strongest caution is this: make sure you are working. Just because you’re in a pool moving your arms and legs does not mean that you are getting a workout. Just like running, you should feel tired when you’re done.
And because the pool is booorrriinnnngggg, I suggest doing some repeats, just to keep you motivated and engaged. I always start with a 15-20 minute warm-up and end with at least 5 minutes of cool-down.
Workout possibilities:
-       Four 5-minute hard reps with 5 minutes easy in between. (I just watch the clock on the wall.)
-       Ladder down from 7 minutes (with half-time recovery). So you run hard for 7 minutes, then easy for 3:30, then hard for 6, then easy for 3, etc.
-       3 minutes hard, 1 minute easy, 1 minute sprint, 1 minute easy, 3 minutes hard, etc…
I do not wish injury-mandate pool time on anyone (arg I wish I were running right now!), but it really is a great component to add to your training program.