Aqua Running, ITB and Marathon Preparation

Here is an inquiry from Jon, one of our readers, regarding aqua running, Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome and marathon training. Thanks Coach Dean for this topic and site. I am an injury prone runner trying to finally get to the starting line of my first marathon. I have about 12 weeks to go till race time and have been able to do my speed work with no problem. About half way through my long slow run of 13 miles I came down with what I think is a case of ITB syndrome. The outside of my knees were absolutely killing. Will I be able to do my routine of slow jogs, speed intervals and long slow distance runs for a couple of weeks in the pool and be able to do this marathon? I am in pretty good condition cardio-wise now but I am quite nervous about losing a few weeks of road work. Sorry for the long post but any words of wisdom and or encouragement would be great as I’m a little frustrated now.

Jon, indeed it is frustrating to be moving along getting in better and better shape only to have injuries or aches and pains beset you. If it is ITB be sure to do your stretches and from many runner accounts using massage devices (foam rollers, etc.) seem to provide relief and promote recovery. You may even find that with only a few days – not weeks – off you can heal well enough to continue training.

You may lose a bit of conditioning if you have to rely solely on aqua running for a month. Ideally, you would best be served by combining solid ground workouts and pool workouts if your ITB will allow you. My concern would be if 13 miles is your longest “long” run with only 12 weeks to go. That leaves only 10 weeks of training – minus a taper. I fear that you will be short on endurance. This is a critical time to be building up your long run specifically. So, my first advice (if your body will allow) is to get your one long run in each week or even every 10 days and do high quality aqua running interval training the other days.

To do all your runs in the pool wouldn’t be optimal however, if the pain is so bad that you cannot run, then by all means do so. I would not do slow running. Every bit of work done on aqua running indicates that only hard interval type training seems to have the desired affects for runners. As you mention, you are already cardiovascularly fit. You need to maintain neuromuscular fitness – the ability to move your body in a running-specific motion; and at this point continue to improve endurance.

Here’s the really great news. Since you don’t have the pounding of the usual surfaces you will be able to run interval workouts on multiple days and even consecutive days without much risk of injury or further aggravating existing aches and pains. You might want to do one longer session to maintain some endurance. But, it’s been shown that if you’ve already attained a certain level of fitness (i.e. endurance or speed) that you can maintain it very well for up to four weeks by doing high intensity interval styled training in the pool.

Good luck and drop a line on how things go!


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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2 Responses to Aqua Running, ITB and Marathon Preparation

  1. Jon says:

    Thanks so much for the reply. I have taken a couple days off on the running but will do an interval pool workout tomorrow and attempt a long slow run on saturday. If the pain is too much then I’ll shut it down and head to the pool to finish. What kind of risk do I run if I try to push through the pain? Thanks again for this site it is a great help.
    I thought I read something about HTC (Hood to Coast)in here. I did that as well this year. Its an awesome time.

  2. Dean Hebert says:

    Pain is a tough one to evaluate. Pushing through injury-type pain can lead to worsening an injury or greatly prolonging recovery. Aches or discomforts are different than pain. Pushing through pain is not ok. Pushing through some discomfort or aches might be. I wish there was an easy answer. And since everyone experiences “pains” differently only you can know if bad is really TOO bad. I can say, if the discomfort is sufficient that you alter any running form, you must stop before you injure something else. And if the pain gets progressively worse as a run goes on, you are most likely doing more damage.

    HTC rocked! here’s my account:

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