Last Sunday, I started having some trouble with my right ITB (iliotibial band) after only a half an hour of running. The pain was significant enough that I had to take frequent walk and stretch breaks just to finish. (I am much too bull-headed–or stupid–to cut a run short; plus, I had to get back to my car.) I didn’t run again until Friday. I started ridiculously slow. Alas! The pain returned, again after about a half an hour of running. At that point, I resigned myself to the realization that I had a problem with the ITB.
I knew what this pain meant: Stretching. Icing. Using the foam roller to lengthen and release the ITB. And, the worst part: no running for at least a week. So, what to do instead? Well, bike and swim, of course. But, I want to make sure I’m keeping my base running fitness. So, I went to the sporting goods store and purchased a flotation belt. Aqua jogging it is.
My training plan had a 2 hour run scheduled for today. So, I tentatively committed to aqua jog for 2 hours. To be honest, when I got to the gym and got in the pool, I didn’t think I’d make it the two hours. I thought for certain I would succumb to boredom. I was also a bit skeptical that water running would be a suitable substitute for road running. But, many professional runners do it, including the legendary Joan Benoit, winner of the first women’s Olympic marathon. I had also read in Runner’s World that Paula Radcliffe used aqua jogging successfully to keep her fitness following an injury. So, I figured I would give it a try. In the back of my mind, however, I figured I would end up on the elliptical. Running in the water? C’mon, people.
As I got in the pool, I felt sorry for myself. I was embarrassed. I felt weak. To counter these feelings, I decided I would swim a few laps first. You know, be a big macho swimmer. (Why the heck do I care what other people think? They are not even paying any attention to me!) Because I had to be a hotshot, I swam 500 yards freestyle first, and then begrudgingly put on the flotation belt.
I felt like a failure. I felt like I’ve been fooling myself, thinking that I could actually do an Ironman. All of my doubts attacked me at once. Luckily, I have a waterproof mp3 player. I just turned the music up louder and got to the business at hand.
To aqua jog, I use a flotation belt, and a pair of old running shoes, as these sneaks help add some resistanc.
When I first tried aqua jogging, it took me about 10 minutes to develop a technique that felt most like running. This technique involved leaning slightly forward with my upper body. This position allowed me to get my legs at just the right angle.
Then, I “ran” by pushing my legs in circular motion (more like oblong), rather than simply just pumping up and down. I pushed my feet backward (here’s where the shoe resistance comes in handy), just as you do when pushing off the ground. I pumped my arms with my legs. The more vigorously I pumped my arms, the more able I was to get my legs to move quickly–hence getting my heart rate into a zone that mimicked an easy run–high end zone 1.
Once I got the hang of it, I could really feel it in my legs, especially my hamstrings. I could feel my heart rate pick up, and I was “running.”
The first 20 minutes weren’t too bad mentally, as I spent most of that time working on my form and making sure I was getting maximum benefit for my efforts. After that interval, I had to engage in some mental trickery to prevent myself from agonizing over my injury and feeling sorry for myself. My music helped. I have a song called “‘Till I collapse” by Eminem, which I first heard as the background music to a “pump up” Ironman video I watched on YouTube.
Here are some of the lyrics:
Cause sometimes you just feel tired.
You feel weak and when you feel weak you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that sh*t out of you and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.
Till the roof comes off, till the lights go out
Till my legs give out, can’t shut my mouth.
I’ma rip this sh*t till my bone collapse.
I’m quite far from an Eminem fan, but this song has great lyrics and a beat that makes you feel fierce while aqua jogging. Oh, yes, I said FIERCE.
I started to visualize the Lake Placid run course. I went from feeling like a pathetic wounded wannabe to an Ironwoman, pushing the course, running past the signs of encouragement placed along River Road by families and friends for their athletes, running over the chalk cheerleading as I headed to the final loop along Lake Placid Club Drive, which hugs Mirror Lake. I could hear the announcer: “You are an IRONMAN.” I was THERE! I wasn’t a failure. I wasn’t weak. I WAS RUNNING! (Okay, just a little Forrest Gump…)
I’d love to say that this euphoria last for the entire 2 hours. It didn’t. I had moments when I looked at my watch, thinking, “How has it only been X long?” But, once I made an hour, I was committed to finishing the full 2 hours.
And, whenever I wanted to quit, I just returned to River Road. I imagined signs my family would make that said, “You DON’T quit.” John’s parents also love signs that tell us we’re crazy. I saw those too. I imagined cycling the screaming downhill into Keene; I saw the river as I cycled into Lake Placid along Route 86. I followed the lines that held the buoys in place along the swim course in Mirror Lake. Every time I wanted to stop, I reminded myself why I was there in the first place.
At the end of two hours, I was beat and ridiculously hungry. Aqua jogging is no joke. I feel confident that if I stick with it this week, I will be able to recover while also maintaining my running fitness. I am a skeptic no more. Of course, once the ITB heals, I can’t say that I’m going to skip the roads for the pool. 🙂
Want more information about aqua jogging? Try these sites. I found them very useful to help me get started.