Aqua Running Beyond Rehab Conditioning

Here is an interesting inquiry sent to me as a follow-on to aqua jogging (or aqua running or deep water running):
I’ve just read your September 2007 Aqua Jogging posting. I was particularly interested in some of your comments in the 15 Responses, especially your “I wish I did have some concrete research based info on using it post long run recovery”. Well, I may be your research study. I’m a 55+ Masters runner who tore my meniscus cartilage at Nationals. The subsequent MRI revealed Grade 3 arthritis in my knee.  Following discussions with orthopedic surgeons and my sports doctor and physiotherapist I’m convinced I can return to my previous standard post meniscectomy, notwithstanding the arthritis  ….. through a revised training programme: two track workouts a week, lots of deep water running, cross training, strength training and pool plyometrics.My new goal is to be a specialist 1500 runner, whereas previously it was my second event. Because I have to minimise the weight bearing stress on my arthritic knee from land running I cannot land run to rebuild my base conditioning. I have to rebuild my conditioning during winter with DWR before I start my two summer track/speed workouts a week on land.  Notwithstanding your warnings about steady state running, it seems to me that in my “winter” base conditioning period I must do a weekly long run in the pool, ie a steady state run, and long intervals of the order of 5 and 10 minutes on other days (compared with the typical short and ladder and pyramid intervals for “summer” speed work) and probably a short interval/speed workout once a week.I would appreciate your thoughts on how to go about building my base.

Ok here are my thoughts. First your comment “I have to build my conditioning with DWR before I start my two track/speed workouts a week” is really not entirely true. It is now advised to do some kind of quality running during all phases of training and that we should not rely on LSD to do so. So, with that, I would say get going on intervals in the water once a week – don’t wait for improved conditioning. This in fact will help you get into condition faster. And without the trauma of ground surface, I wouldn’t hesitate a bit to do it.

Your point however about getting reconditioned is valid. I would approach it something like this: Move as quickly as possible up to 6 days a week of DWR. You can rely on the increased frequency for “base” and not just a “long steady state run”. I’d start with only one or two interval like sessions… modest – 10 minute warm-up, 10-20 minutes of intervals, 10 minutes cool down; for 40 minutes or so of workout. The other 4 sessions make steady state. Perhaps every 2-3 weeks I’d replace one steady state with another interval workout until you have 4 interval and 2 steady state. Change the nature of your interval workout to keep interest – vary times, efforts, etc. (You probably already knew that with your background.) Though this may sound aggressive – I do not believe so. Gravity is our #1 devil to deal with as runners. The water virtually eliminates this.

More recent research area is power development with weight work and running specific movements. I’m glad you’ll get into the water plyometrics. You’ll need to rebuild general body strength. We lose muscle as we age.

As for your transition to terra firma running I would not reduce the aqua running workouts. I would add your one day of track intervals. Then if your knees handle it add your second track interval. So, these would be double workout days. As the season moves on and you compete, you may then remove a couple aqua workouts. 

So, here’s my rationale for what I’ve outlined:

You are a seasoned athlete.
Conditioning is hastened with high quality and in fact for a 1500 specialist I believe will compensate for any long steady state run conditioning.
The higher paced interval work will help you make progress faster than a bulk of steady state.
The research is pretty cool about masters runners too – we tend to respond better to fast training than to longer slower miles. At our age VO2max will be less effected than your LT – which is highly influence-able. LT is also a better predictor of your 1500 time than VO2max – and LT is influenced by quality running specifically.

It’ll be interesting to follow your progress. I would enjoy hearing about what you and your coach come up with for a program. I’m always interested in learning from others… sometimes it’s “an experiment of one” that leads us to better understandings. Please keep in touch.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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