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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Deep Water Running (or, Something About Mary)

When I was starting my knee-hab at the end of last year, the knee doc recommended (insisted) that I try water jogging -- and even went online to show me what equipment to buy and found me an online video on how to aqua jog -- it was this video or one very much like it.  The folks in the video looked unnaturally happy, but I was a little skeptical.  Still -- I trusted the knee doc, so I thought I'd give it a go.  I bought a flotation belt and tried it once in the pool at Equinox but I felt ridiculous (or at least self-conscious) jogging back and forth on my own.  Since I don't have a private pool, I figured that I was more likely to stick to the program if I could find a group class (safety in numbers).  And then I found Blue Ocean Swimming and the fabulous Robert Valentin and discovered deep water running.  This class has helped my knee more than almost anything else (and it's also whipped me into shape in the process).

Robert is very upbeat and funny (and very fit).  He makes an effort to get to know everyone's names -- and sometimes inadvertently renames his students.  For a couple of weeks, he called me Mary (not my name).  In his defense, I didn't correct him and I confessed to him that -- as a lawyer -- I have been called worse names.  So, in deep water running, I am now [insert my real name here]/Mary.  I kind of like having an alter-ego/evil twin who likes to run.  Left to her own devices [insert real name here] is more of a couch potato.

Blue Ocean provides flotation belts to use during the class.  We start each class with a little stretching and a warm up -- sculling back and forth across the pool on our backs, and then sitting up in the pool and criss-crossing our legs for about 30 seconds (it reminds me of my Pilates days).  Then we do about 30-35 minutes of running intervals, simulating power walking (4 foot strides), running on a flat surface (3 foot strides), running uphill (2 foot strides) and running down hill (1 foot strides) -- and some occasional standing flutter kicking, holding our hands above our heads and trying not to drown.  For each step, you keep track of the number of repeats per minute (your cadence).  It's also a good arm workout, since you move your arms with each step.  Robert varies the routine in each class -- and I sometimes close my eyes and visualize running around Central Park (not that I've every actually run around Central Park, but I have walked around it quite a few times).  We end the class by sprinting back and forth across the pool, which is not easy.  

The nice thing about the class is that everyone goes at their own pace.  When I started, I was REALLY out of shape, but was in a class with marathon runners and triathletes, which was kind of inspiring.  The people in the class cover a wide age range and they are very friendly and welcoming.  Some of the more seasoned athletes are either spicing up their training routine or recovering from injuries.  Each week, I can measure my own progress.  I know that I am getting faster (my cadence has picked up consistently since I started in February).  I am also staying in one spot for most of the class, rather than drifting around (which means my abs are engaged throughout the class).  And my knee feels GREAT after each class -- seriously.  I have brought friends to the class and they have enjoyed it.

Blue Ocean offers classes on Monday night at 7 pm at John Jay College at 899 10th Avenue (Between 58th & 59th). 

The pool at John Jay is a nice big 25 yard pool, so there is plenty of room to move around, and there are also lane dividers (which makes it easier for me to avoid drifting into my classmates).

There are also classes on Wednesday at 6:45 pm and Thursday at 7 pm in the Community House at St. Bartholomew's Church 109 E. 50th Street (enter on the 50th Street side of the building -- the pool is in the basement).  The Community House is a landmark building which also houses a gym and a dojo (you can hear the yelling from the karate classes on the way to the pool).  The pool itself is lovely, clean, and slightly warm (which is nice for the achy knee).  

St. Bart's is very convenient if you work in midtown.  The locker room can be a little dank, but I just wear flip flops and avoid the showers (which are a little gross).  I've gotten used to it.

You can register directly on the site -- you can pay by the class ($30) or buy a card for 7 classes ($150) or 20 classes ($400).  If you are a member of the New York Road Runner's Club, you get an additional discount by registering here.  It is money well spent.

Once you get the hang of it, you can run in any body of water -- here I am running in chilly Smith Mountain Lake (Southern Virginia) over Memorial Day Weekend.

I only lasted about 5 minutes (the lake was quite brisk).  

And then I recovered with some home made mint juleps.

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