Desperate Times Call for… Pool Running?

My last post was basically a giant pity part about how I couldn’t run. This time I’m going to be more positive, and not just because I’m able to run again!

As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time running, thinking about running, buying running shoes/clothes, and working to afford running shoes/clothes, it’s a pretty big shock to be sidelined. Other people don’t get it. At all. They don’t understand why I feel the need to run, specifically, and why I have a hard time doing other forms of cardio to stay in shape. To be completely honest, I don’t either. All I know is that if I were never able to run again, I would probably get really out of shape because I don’t derive nearly the same pleasure from cycling or the elliptical, for example. The motivation to work out just wouldn’t be there.

But! I knew my injury would only hold me back temporarily. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be 6 days or 6 weeks or 6 months, since ITBS can be a bitch. All I knew was that I couldn’t bear the thought of finally being able to run only to realize I was too out of shape to run a mile. So cross-training it was.

I sent out an SOS to my running club buddies who, incidentally, are a pretty amazing group of people. Within a couple of hours I had an inbox full of recommendations. Here are some that I tried:

1. Spin Classes

The first spin class I went to at my gym was good, but it was only 45 minutes including warmup and a generous cool down. The second class was an hour, but the instructor was really boring and I was watching the clock the whole time. I felt like I got a decent workout but my IT band felt pretty tight afterward. My third class was with the same instructor, and I left halfway through… still not sure exactly why. 

I haven’t been back.

2. Elliptical “Running”

When I was first hurt I tried the elliptical but it didn’t feel hard enough. After I learned how to make the experience more “running-like” by adjusting the incline and resistance to have the right stride length and turnover, I was able to get a decent workout in. I got this ladder interval workout that I really liked (and kicked my ass!):

    • Warmup 10 minutes
    • 6 minutes hard (“ass-kicking hard” or to reack 5k heartrate), 3 minutes easy
    • 5 minutes hard, 2.5 minutes easy
    • 4 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy
    • 3 minutes hard, 1.5 minutes easy
    • 1 minute hard, 30 seconds easy
    • Repeat in reverse order
    • Cooldown 10 minutes

This was the first workout I completed during my injury that felt comparable to a running interval workout I’d do. I have another faux-tempo workout that I plan on trying soon as well!

2. Pool Running

Aka “AquaJogging”. There are lots of great resources on the internet about pool running during injury and as an injury prevention mechanism. I was pretty excited about this one, to be honest. No impact but you can retain your running form!


 I spent an embarrassing amount of time tracking down a float belt so I could do the pool running thing properly. Seriously, most sporting goods stores were sold out. And I blame the aqua aerobics people! I got to the pool at my gym on Saturday right after the aqua aerobics class had started. It looked a little like this, except with lots more bedazzled baseball caps. Apparently that’s an “in” thing around here.



So anyway, I hopped into the pool and weaved in and out of the other people as I did my “running”. It was pretty fun, though I was pumping my arms and legs faster than I do when I’m sprinting and I never really got my heart rate that high. My goal was 90-120 minutes to be comparable to a long-ish run, and I made it 90. Unfortunately it didn’t feel like that great of a workout, and I made my legs sore in weird places by flailing around a lot. My form definitely needs some practice if I’m going to keep doing this!

4. Weight Lifting

This one’s not really a substitute for running, but since I’ve been doing a lot of it (4 sessions each last week and this week!) I feel it deserves a mention. My husband is big into lifting, and once upon a time when we were dating and first married, I regularly went with him. It’s not really my thing though, so as I started running more and more I stopped lifting so much.

As much as I hate to admit it, I am probably injured because I had completely neglected to do any strength training for about a year. Getting back into lifting has opened my eyes to just how bad my strength imbalances are!

The husband has me on a 3-4 day a week plan consisting of lots of exercises good for runners (and everyone, really):

    • Squats (leg presses for now, per Dr’s orders)
    • Cleans
    • Shoulder Press
    • Rows
    • Dips
    • Lat pulldown (one day pull ups, I hope)
    • Deadlift (straight leg)
    • High pulls
    • Abs: planks, etc.
    • Hips: resistance band, abductor/adductor machines

I’m already feeling a difference just after a few weeks, which makes me happy. But you know who’s really happy? The husband, because I tag along at 5 AM and alternate between complaining about the exercises and doing awkward dances to the pop music they play over the loudspeakers.

Doing all this cross-training has been kind of fun… I think it was good for me to take a step back and try new things. More importantly, it made me REALLY appreciate running. Going back and reading my posts about being exhausted and burned out made me really sad. Running should be fun!

Tuesday I went to run club. I hadn’t really run since the disaster half marathon, but I was feeling good so I was hoping I could squeeze in a few miles. I opted out of the 300m sprints everyone was supposed to do, but I RAN. I RAN 7 MILES. No pain, no stiffness. I didn’t want to stop but I also didn’t want to be an idiot, so I stopped.


(Sort of. I’m still taking it slow and cross-training more than running, but I am physically able to run and that’s the best feeling I’ve had in a long time.)


3 thoughts on “Desperate Times Call for… Pool Running?

  1. Congrats! I’m so glad to hear that you’ve recovered. Like you, I’ve been sidelined from running with itbs. It’s been horrible, but in a way, I think it has been good for me. All the cross training has really shown me how much I appreciate running and has allowed me to recharge and revamp my exercise routine. My physical therapist says I can probably start running again in the next week or so. I’m so impressed that you did 7 miles! I’m really scared that I won’t be able to do one …
    How many weeks did you take off from running?

    • It’s been 4 weeks since I started having problems (this time at least), but I didn’t take all that time completely off. I took a week mostly off then ran a long run, but then had do take another week and a half off, limped through a half marathon, took another week or so off, etc.

      I’m actually pretty lucky I have a good PT and that my ITBS had an easily-fixable cause. How long have you been off?

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