Train like Mo Farah and Galen Rupp at David Graham Fitness (Belfast):

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NiRunning visit David Graham Fitness to check out new underwater treadmill:

As runners, we are always looking for that ‘edge’, something that we can do a little different, that will hopefully lead to a new personal best or as we look towards the elite end of the running spectrum, qualification for the upcoming Championships; in particular, this Summers World Junior Championships and the Commonwealth Games.

In the case of local athlete, and Northern Ireland record holder for the 3,000m Steeplechase, Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC), that little ‘edge’ is in the form of the new underwater treadmill at David Graham Fitness (Gasworks, Belfast).  The international star has followed in the foot steps of London 2012 Olympic hero, Mo Farah and his training partner, man of the moment, Galen Rupp, both of whom are avid believers in the benefits of the under water treadmill.

Infact, double Olympic Champion Mo Farah, has stated (in an interview with Runners World Magazine) that changes made to his training by his coach, Alberto Salazar, which included the use of physcoligists and the underwater treadmill have played an instrumental part in his progress in recent years; “the shift (in training) has been to start using psychologists and doing extra bits on the side, like training with an underwater treadmill.”  He continued, “the underwater treadmill means you can run extra miles without the same injury risk as running outside.  If you feel any niggles or if you’ve already clocked up more than 100 miles that week, you can just add a few extra miles on the side.  I probably use it three or four times a week now.”

Personally, having attempted aqua-jogging in the past, I was initially doubtful of the type of workout that could be performed/executed ‘under water’.  However, after a visit to ‘Hydro Run’ at David Graham Fitness with Kerry O’Flaherty, I came away with a lot more knowledge and more importantly, the belief that the machine can enhance an athletes training as opposed to just keep them ‘ticking over’ whilst injured (although, in fairness, this is also a massive ‘plus’ for the machine and something that makes it equally attractive).

The setup includes, a treadmill, which visually, isn’t much different to the one you would see in your local gym, and underwater camera’s.  These allow you to monitor your foot strike; the resistance of the machine can also be adjusted via remote control.

Kerry described the ‘Hydro Run’ underwater treadmill as the first thing she has found “that replicates proper running”.  Not only that but it now allows the Newcastle AC lady to add in an extra day’s running to her training schedule with no risk of injury; this is something that the versatile athlete has been unable to achieve: “Before, I found that I was maxing out at 60-70 miles per week, anything longer than that and I was starting to break down.  Now, I do two sessions per week on the Hydro Run machine and that takes me up to the mileage that I want to be doing, this means that I should be able to compete at a higher level.”

Hydro Run provides a metabolic and cardiovascular environment as effective as land training, but with the reduced stress on your body.  Kerry described how she could enjoy “a proper workout with no soreness after”, interestingly, when I asked for comparisons, Kerry explained that whilst she was chatting to me (quite comfortably I might add), her heart rate was at 160bpm, and to get the same heart rate whilst cross-training, she would need to be doing a proper session on the cross-trainer, after which, her muscles would be sore.

I was fascinated in the story behind Hydro Run and why David Graham decided to bring the underwater treadmill to Northern Ireland, making it available to local athletes (and not just elite competitors).  David informed me, “Hydro Run came into existence in a very roundabout way, it came down to good timing.  I had been working towards getting an Endless Pool for a couple of years, my intention was to use it for Swim Analysis and for it to be used for physiotherapy.  I only really became aware of what an underwater treadmill was when I read about Alistair Brownlee using one to rehab his Achilles before the London Olympics. Then last year I read some articles about Mo Farah using one every week as part of his on going training. That is when I really took notice of what an underwater treadmill was.

Interested in how David thought that the underwater treadmill would benefit the local running community, I put the question to him, he replied, “I see the treadmill being of benefit to local runners in a few ways. Firstly, when you pick up an injury and are unable to run it can be used to increase the training you are doing whilst still recovering from the injury.  It also means you feel that you are still ‘running’ and not stopping entirely.  Secondly, when things are going well and you are doing a good amount of training it allows you to add in some safe extra miles.  The reduced impact makes it a safe environment to progress our training and take you to that next level.”

On top of all this, research shows that underwater running builds strength and power.  Running against the resistance of the water enables athletes to build power, using water’s property of viscosity (drag), and achieve a greater workout in a shorter period of time.  It is refreshing and exhilarating, Kerry O’Flaherty spoke of feeling “rejuvenated and relaxed” when she works out in the water; athlete have also talked about it’s soothing, calming effect.  Warm water also releases endorphins that add enjoyment and satisfaction to a workout.

Another local runner I spoke to about the Hydro Run underwater treadmill was Melissa Eccles.  Some may say that the North Down AC member is slightly biased as she works with David Graham at Hydro Run; however, being a runner herself, I think that Melissa, with her knowledge of the treadmill and having spoken to the athletes who have used the machine, is in the perfect position to tell us the benefits:

“As runners we are always wanting to progress and improve our performance but the risk of overuse injuries from running on land limits us, especially if you have been injured before – you are always worried about doing too much and risk further injury.  But with Hydro Run, the fact that you can come in on your lunch break or before/after work and sneak in an hour of running without increasing your risk of injury and actually recover quicker from your hard work on the roads is something that I think is really exciting for the Northern Ireland running community.  With access to the same facility used by the likes of Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, I hope Hydro Run will motivate and encourage us to reassess our training and implement a new, positive outlook to training and performance. With the limits being broken down thanks to unlimited hydro run mileage I hope we can help runners reach new potential!”

Sessions on the underwater treadmill are NOW available, they cost £30 for 1hr or £20 for 30mins.  Block sessions are also available at the following rate:  6 x 30mins for £90, or 6 x 1hr for £150.

For further information on Hydro Run or to book a session, please visit www.davidgrahamfitness.co.uk or email info@davidgrahamfitness.co.uk.  You can also follow them on facebook (facebook.com/hydrorununderwatertreadmill) and twitter (HydroRunUK).

Note – Some information for this article has been taken from Runners World website and PRWeb website.  Article by Ryan Maxwell (NiRunning).