Water Workouts For Track & Field Athletes

If you run track in a northern state you understand that the weather is often uncooperative in our efforts to train and race.  There is often a need to put together alternative workouts.  One such alternative is to run in the water.  Water workouts can also be used to rehab an injury or slow down the progression of the dreaded shin splints.  Developing a workout in the water is fairly easy.  The principles that you follow on the track apply in the water with a few modifications.
  • Sprint Water Workouts.  These workouts can be done in the shallow or deep end of the pool.  The athlete must carefully maintain good running posture in the water.  If the workout on the track was going to be 5-6 x 200's with 45 seconds rest, that same workout could be adapted to the pool with more reps and shorter rest.  You can do (10-12) x 30 second runs with 15 second rest/rep.  This simulates what you would do on the track without impact on the legs.  It is easier to do most sprint work in the shallow end.  The sprinter has an easier time maintaining good form and the coach can observe mechanics in the shallow end.  Running in the deep end requires wearing a water vest.  When wearing the vest one must be very careful to maintain good running posture.  The vest often forces the wearer to bend forward at the waist.  Training over any period of time using bad posture programs the motor memory with that posture and it carries over to the track--so don't do it incorrectly.
  • Distance Water Workouts.  Distance runners often use the pool on recovery days in injury situations.  Long runs of 30-45 minutes can be easily accomplished in the deep end wearing water vests.  The distance runner can also interval train in the water in much the same manner as a sprinter would.  Again posture becomes a concern and must be checked regularly.
  • Jump Water Workouts.  Any drill that you do on land, in a sand pit, or on mats can be done in a pool.  Landing drills can be done in the deep end.  Bounding can be done in the shallow end.  Flight drills can be done off either the side of the pool or off the diving board.
The pluses of pool workouts are that they are great in cardiovascular training and rehabilitation of an injury.  There are, however, negatives to strict pool training.  The leg muscles, primarily hamstrings and quads, never learn proper recruitment in simple pool running.  Technique, especially arm drive and ankle recovery tend to get worse.  So don't base all of your training in the pool!

For those of you with limited imaginations, we have listed some good pool workouts to use.  Feel free to modify them as needed.  These should, however, give you a good idea of how to work your pool workouts.

Examples of  Pool Workouts

       Set 1

  • 3 minute easy run in the water
  • 3 x 50 sec run 85% effort 25 sec rest/rep 1min rest/set
  • 3 x 30 sec run 90% effort 15 sec rest/rep 1min rest/set
  • 3 x 10 sec run 100% effort 5 sec rest/rep 1min rest/set
  • 3 min. cool down easy run
       Set 2
  • 5 min easy warm up run
  • 2 x 70 sec run 85% effort 20 sec. rest/rep  1min rest/set
  • 2 x 50 sec. run 85% effort 20 sec rest/rep  1min rest/set
  • 2 x 30 sec. run 85% effort 15 sec. rest/rep  1min rest/set
  • 2 x 15 sec run 85% effort 10 sec. rest/rep  1min rest/set
  • 2 x 8 sec run 100% effort 10 sec rest/rep  1min rest/set
  • 3-4 min easy cool down run
Your imagination is the only limit on what can be accomplished in the pool.  While it doesn't replace the track it does aid in preventing and rehabbing injuries.  Use the pool wisely and you can build a championship season!