Alternatives To Hitting The Pavement Hard


The unpredictable winter and spring season is a great time to try alternatives ways to increase your run fitness while indoors besides the treadmill.   Pool running and using an Elliptical machine are two such alternatives.  These are great ways to build the necessary base you need for the rest of the season and to evaluate and work on your running mechanics. The key is to keep moving consistently and focus on building a strong foundation of fitness and proper form to take with you outdoors.

Pool Running

Most runners discover pool running only after they get injured. But you don’t have to wait for misfortune to strike to start reaping its benefits.  

Benefits of Pool Running:

 --   Getting a lot of “miles” in while reducing common impact-related injuries.

 --   Replacing running completely if the pool is your only option. As with the treadmill, you can simulate most of your typical training runs – tempo runs, fartlek, speed intervals and progression runs – in the water.

 --   Gaining strength. The water’s resistance affects your whole body; in addition to giving your legs a good workout, you’ll also develop strength in your back, shoulders, core and arms in the pool.

How to incorporate it into your training:

 --   Start “short” and build up. Pool running takes some getting used to. Start with 30-minute sessions and add 5-10 minutes a session.

 --   Use pool running to complement the rest of your training program and “add miles” to the miles you’re running on the roads, trails or treadmill. Try for 2-3 hard pool sessions a week. Some examples:

 --   Tempo run: Run for 20-30 minutes at around 85% effort.

 --   Fartlek run: 1/2/3/3/2/1/2/3/1 hard running with 1-minute rests.

 --   Speed intervals: Simulate 400s, 800s, 1Ks, etc. by simply running your repeats in the pool in the same amount of time they would take you on the track, insert 1 minute of easy pool running between each one.

 --   Progression run: Start out at 70 percent effort and work up to 90 percent in 5-10 minute increments, adding 5 percent effort for each.

 --   Warm up and cool down rules apply; “run” easy (or swim) for at least 5-10 minutes before and after the harder work.

 Tips for getting started:

--   Borrow a flotation belt (or buy an inexpensive one); many rec center pools have them on hand.

 --   Learn proper form. Your tendency will be to hunch over at first, which strains your lower back and does not simulate good running form. Have a friend who pool runs coach you through a session or two, or take an aqua running class. --   Use a watch to periodically stop and check your heart rate during workouts, which should match whatever your targets are for road or track workouts. Note that it can take a little longer to get your heart rate up in the pool.

Elliptical Machines

If you don’t have a treadmill or a pool at your disposal, the elliptical is the next best training tool for runners. But you can also use it to supplement other forms of training if you want to give your legs and cardiovascular system a workout while reducing impact.

Benefits of elliptical training:

 --   Building or maintaining aerobic fitness and endurance.

 --   Keeping your “track fitness” by doing intervals.

How to incorporate it into your training program:

 --   Remember that using the elliptical is not the same as running. It uses different muscles. So introduce the elliptical to your training regimen gradually, with a run of 30-40 minutes to start with, then adding in time as your body adapts.

 --   You’ll see many users of the elliptical setting the machines to the highest resistance or inclines. Remember that as a distance runner, you’re focused on leg turnover as well as on leg strength. Use settings that will allow you to use around 180 strides per minute (or higher for intervals).

Tips for getting started:

--   Look for a machine that does not have handle levers. Running “hands free” will allow you to more easily achieve something close to a natural running form.

 --   If you’ve never used an elliptical, your impulse may be to hold on for dear life. Train yourself to run with your hands free by alternating holding on with letting go for 30 seconds at a time. Once you can run at a moderate effort without using your hands, you can work on running faster.

 --   Do a 5-10 minute cool down by reversing the direction of your feet (running backward) – but hold onto the machine when you do this so you don’t fall off the back

No matter what season it is, SBR is always here to help you reach your personal best. Stay tuned for our Spring/Summer running programs to supplement your training schedule. 

Jessica Laufenberg