Competitive athletes often gauge their fitness based on their VO2 max, a scientific formula that indicates the maximum
capacity of their bodies to transport and utilize oxygen during exercise.
The higher the VO2 max, the better your level of fitness" said Mary Ann Erickson of Fort Lewis College.
Erickson, who holds a doctorate in exercise science, is conducting a research project with Melissa Knight-Maloney and
Mark Dutro to determine if high intensity water running will improve the quality of long distance runs while
maintaining or improving VO2 max in trained individuals 35 to 55 years old.
Erickson came up with her idea for the project as a result of a running injury.
I was training for a half-marathon and couldn't run, so Dr. Knight-Maloney suggested I try running in the pool. Four
weeks prior to the race, I did most of my training in the pool and was able to complete the race. I was curious is it
an alternate form of training and how would it translate into VO2 max."
Fit individuals typically have a VO2 max range of between 50-60 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per
minute (ml/kg/min), whereas elite athletes can be in the 80 ml/kg/min range.
Genetics play a part, but there is also a training factor that allows you to improve. Unfortunately, with age it begins
Most of the individuals in the research group tested above average," Erickson said. It was a fairly fit group with
most of the participants in the over-40 age group."
Twelve participants completed the program, seven doing intervals in the pool and five on land.
We were encouraged to continue our normal regimen of exercise outside of the additional intervals.
I was part of the pool group, which met twice per week for a 30-minute interval pool running workout wearing AQx
training shoes and flotation belts as well as heart-rate monitors to stay within our predetermined range.
Prior to the workouts, our VO2 max was tested on a treadmill and again following the six-week program.
According to Erickson, all the participants stayed within their range and many improved over the six-week period.
We were looking to see if the VO2 max levels would be maintained or improved by training in the water, the theory
being that this method of training would equate to the same land training," Erickson said.
Since many injuries in this age group are lower extremity injuries related to the impact of running, this could be an
alternate form of training that provides the benefit without the pounding.
Matthew Krichman, a pool-running participant, said, It was a way better workout than I anticipated. I never knew you
could sweat in a pool."
Amy Milofsky another pool participant, wasn't sure it would improve her running but felt certain it improved her
overall fitness and also helped relieve the soreness from a hamstring pull.
Erickson said she believes that water running is a really valuable training tool, especially if you are feeling tired
or are injured.
As she continues to
collect data, specifically the
documentation we provided on the quality of our weekly long runs, she anticipates that she will see an improvement in
that area as well.
Personally, I enjoyed the variety in my workout schedule, especially with the challenges that running outside presented
Water running provided a different, but sufficiently intense, training alternative.
My VO2 max actually improved after the six week period and my legs felt good during and after my weekly runs.
So, if you are sidelined because of an injury or just need to reduce the number of days that you run on hard surfaces,pool running is an effective alternative training method to maintain your fitness while reducing the stress to your
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org