Pool running: Feeling like a cartoon character

There is always a certain amount of dread at the beginning of an interval workout. Pacing, whether it be by land or chlorine, is still an elusive art for to me. This week’s interval swim workout featured 200 yard sprints. The longer the sprint, the more dread tends to build, both over how much it will hurt and low-grade concern over hitting the prescribed times.

Ah, but the most excellent news is that my coach is Canadian. From time to time, he forgets to convert distances. Hence, while he knows I’m currently swimming in a pool where one length equals 25 yards, I’m pretty sure he gave me the split time for meters instead. I sense this because my slowest of the six 200-yard intervals was 21 seconds faster than the time he gave me.

The good thing about being able to make up stories in your head is that you can make up great stories. Sure, it probably was the wrong time. But this time, I let myself think that I was superfly and super fast. In a week where I got the news that running had to be shut down for about two more weeks, it was just the story I needed to tell myself.

Then came the pool running.

I have described that I feel ridiculous doing this.

Let me walk you through it.

First, I strap on an aqua jogging belt. It’s not a floatation device, but it is buoyant and keeps me from sinking.

Then, I go.

You use a regular running motion. (Oh and yes, you’re in the deep end, not running on the bottom of the pool.) Swing your arms as normal and use your normal stride. The big key is to stay upright and not lean forward.

It feels a bit unnatural at first. Kind of like running in jello. Or as if you are a cartoon character, running suspended in space. I think about the Hall of Justice from Super Friends and ask myself if I feel a bit superhero like. Nope. No superhero. Just one of those crazy, silly and lovable cartoon characters.

I move ridiculously slow and am sure the swimmers in the pool are looking at me and rolling their eyes. (Then again, I’m pretty sure that swimmers do that to me when I’m actually doing a swim workout. So really, the only difference here is that my head is above water and I’m not looking at the world through my blue-tinted metallized  lenses.)

My time pool running is spent concentrating on my form. Allegedly, you can change up your speeds, but at the moment I have only two speeds: Run and Float.

Runners have long used pool running as a way to recover from injury and with great success. Anecdotally, I’ve heard about runners who took to the pool and returned to land to win championships or give personal best performances.

The revered magazine Runner’s World has written about ways to make pool running fun and touts it not just as a cross-training method but as a way to actually maintain your running fitness and form through an injury.

And so while I feel a bit silly and awkward, the pool running is starting to grow on me. I get to watch what’s going on at the pool, something impossible when your face is constantly in the water lap after lap. Plus, I get to create new stories for myself.

I become a champion pool runner. Where does she get her spirit from? Look at her go. In another three minutes she’ll have another lap completed. Pool runner extraordinaire!

I smile, laugh at myself, and climb out of the pool, happy and spent.

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