Coach Mike Mead

August 2009

Water Works

I’m sure you have heard the term, “A fish out of water,” some time during your life. The basic meaning is that an individual is in unfamiliar territory, or dealing with circumstances they have not dealt with before.

Well, water is my theme for this month’s article and most of us runners know the importance of the clear, wet stuff, but some runners may feel “out of water” when posed with alternatives to running. Water’s most important service to mankind is keeping us alive. Without water, we’d all pretty much be goners in a few days, depending on the conditions around us.

Runners of all athletic types know the importance of maintaining proper hydration. We’re in the “Dog Days” of summer and water is a vital commodity that keeps us moving. Water is also important that while we run, we perspire (water) to keep our bodies cool. And when we finish our runs, we eventually hit the shower, tub, or perhaps a swimming pool to refresh ourselves and wash off the sweat that kept us from burning up during our run.

Water serves another purpose that hardcore runners should include as part of their training regiment – recovery. Utilizing a swimming pool during these warm summer months following hard workouts can help your body recover from those hard workouts and keep you going when it’s particularly hot.

I do not believe most hardcore runners utilize water therapy enough as part of their training. I know I don’t. My excuse is that I do not have convenient access to a swimming pool. In addition, I’ve always had trouble staying afloat in a pool because of my “buoyancy challenged” condition – low body fat.

The closest I get to water therapy is taking cool showers after hard, hot runs. Perhaps if I had more at stake in my running, I’d be using a pool – at least a whirlpool – more often. But since my better days are behind me and my time limited, I’m guilty of not doing the “little things” like water therapy.

During the final month of my college career, it was pretty common to find me in the training room’s whirlpool at West Georgia. I was a little banged up and my almost daily whirlpool treatments kept me going.

In our program at Clayton State, the whirlpools we have are used almost exclusively by the cross country and track kids – particularly the distance folks. Their whirlpool experience is enhanced with ice that provides an initial shock to the system, but leaves the legs feeling refreshed once they “thaw” out. Also during this time of the year, we are big on our runners to incorporate swimming as part of their active recovery or supplementing their training.

Water therapy does work. Consider Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 U.S. Olympic marathon silver medalist’s well-documented move to Mammoth Mountain, Calif. to take advantage of the cold mountain stream near his home to reduce muscle inflammation after his long runs.

Water can be a big help when a runner is either working through an injury or coming off one. I’ve known several runners who have used the pool to assimilate running. The greatest advantage to running in a pool is no impact on the joints since you are in water. Astronauts use to train in water to assimilate the feel of weightlessness in preparing to work in zero gravity. Heck, anytime a runner can beat gravity and the pounding their legs take has to gain an edge in their training.

So, think about taking the plunge and utilize water to enhance your running experience.