The Zen of Water Running

I didn’t really ‘learn to run’ until I was a junior at San Diego State University, running the streets around the University.  I started running with a pair of Reebok High tops, running just a block or two. Then I would walk or run when I felt like it. No one was telling me what to where, how far to run, or what pace to run; none of that. I began listening to my body, letting the stresses of a packed school and work schedule drift to the recesses of my mind, and over the spring term of 1987 I was running for hours without even thinking about it. I would be enjoying my surroundings, the architecture of the homes, the birds, landscapes, my breathing – all of it…. And no, there wasn’t any music (this was way before iPods).  I found my “zen” and I didn’t even know that term.

What happened? I spent years trying to run on someone else’s terms (my true first running experience was in junior high. I was the person who would hide in the tule fog during the mile run just to avoid running two of the four laps of a mile). When I finally took time to do the sport on my terms, I started having fun. I learned to take the training in my own direction as well, and this direction took me back to the water.

Now, I know we all look for the “next big thing” in fitness, but maybe we have been walking by it every time we go into the gym or drop the kids at the pool so you can get your land based workout.  Possibly, in this world of trying to pound out the troubles, stresses and all things life hands us, we instead need to dive in, unplug, and find zen in a whole other way.

Why Water?

Because water is a great neutralizer.  What I mean is that the training environment is more receptive to any type of athlete, from the novice to an ultra-distance athlete like me.  We can all work out at the same time together if we choose.  The reason for this is that neither can truly tell how hard each are working.  With only your head above water (bodies submerged), we cannot look at each other for some type of comparison. Effort isn’t determined by the speed of which individuals are traveling through the water, rather it is based on how hard they work against the water. In some cases, the harder you work the slower you actually travel. Therefore, only the coach (and the individual) knows how hard they are working.

Without any judgemental comparison, the activity becomes a completely internalized fitness program lending itself to a zen-like feeling. When I train in the water, I am not distracted by other people’s movements. Rather, I’m focused on my body and how I’m moving. In turn, my mind opens up for greater clarity and focus. This is where the zen comes into play.  I talk about this hyper focused attention in my book, as I see my athletes ‘lock in’ when I’m taking them through an intense workout. It is the same place athletes go on a long distance run when they get their “second wind.”

When I feel good on the trail, time elapses and great things happen. The same thing occurs in a water training session; it is my panacea. I find that running through a routine which is an hour-long can feel like I only just started. Whether I run in a group or go solo, that same zen is achieved. Currently, my regular summer routine is to hit the pool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I wake up excited about having an hour totally for myself.  Even when others join me, we chat for a bit, but then fall into our personal space. We enjoy the camaraderie of being there together – but we enjoy doing our own workouts as if we were running at different points on a trail.

So, rather than hitting the trails or pounding the pavement every day, consider going to your local pool (or use your backyard pool) and jump into the deep end to give water training a try.   Maybe you too will find a new opportunity to unplug from the outside and plug into YOU.

Melis Edwards has over 30 years of experience as a running and triathlon coach, personal trainer, fitness instructor and athlete, having participated in Ironman distance triathlons, and the Western States 100 mile endurance run. Ms. Edwards holds a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion, a Bachelor’s in Health Education, and several teaching and training certifications. Her newly released book, Deep End of the Pool Workouts: No-Impact Interval Training and Strength Exercises is available wherever books are sold. Check out for more info.


10 Reasons Why You Should Do More Strength Training and Cardio

300px-Diagram_of_the_human_heart_(cropped)_svgI have been looking back on some of my recent strength training sessions as well as the interval training I have been doing on the cardio side. We have a tendency, with exercise, to judge if it’s working by what the bathroom scale currently reads. But that should not be the case; weight loss does not always depict the full story. With each bout of exercise, we are improving various physiological and psychological aspects of our body that are not visible to the naked eye. For example:

Strength Training:

  • Building muscle mass can increase metabolism by 15% – so if you’re looking to rev up that slow metabolism and become or stay functional as you age – you need to be strength training at least a few times each week.
  • Prevents Sarcopenia – which is the loss of muscle mass as you age – you can lose up to 10% or more of your muscle per decade after age 50.
  • Plays a role in disease prevention – like type 2 diabetes for example.
  • Improves the way your body moves resulting in better balance and less falls as you age (you can reduce your risk for falling by 40%).
  • Preserves the loss of muscle during weight loss (Donnelly et al., 2003)
  • Will offset bone loss as you age – women can expect to lose 1% of their bone mass after age 35 (and this increases following menopause) – see Strong Women, Strong Bones

Cardiovascular Exercise:

  • Aerobic exercise will improve your mood by decreasing stress and anxiety levels – read The Inner Runner by Jason Karp, Phd and Exercise for Mood and Anxiety by Michael Otto, Phd and Jasper Smits, PhD
  • Regular cardio exercise like jogging, hiking, jump roping etc will “load” your bones in your lower extremity and make them stronger.
  • Makes your heart stronger, lowers your resting heart rate and enables your body to deliver oxygen more efficiently to your working muscles.
  • The American College of Sports Medicine states that higher levels of cardiovascular fitness are associated with approximately a 50% reduction in disease risk.


Donnelly, J.E., Jakicic, J.M., Pronk, N., Smith, B.K., Kirk, E.P., Jacobsen, D.J., Washburn, R. “Is Resistance Training Effective for Weight Management?” Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine. 2003; 1(1): 21-29.

Creative Options to Stay Fit While You Travel

kayak 1 copy 2Traveling can pose a challenge to fitness-minded people who have busy schedules.  When you must travel outside of your home city for a few days for business meetings, you don’t have to leave your fitness activities at home.  More hotels, airports and inns are taking great measures to provide contemporary fitness options and amenities for guests who want to continue their workout regimens while they are on the road.  By doing some minor research before you travel, you can gain insight to which hotels and airports offer fitness-friendly amenities that will help you to stick to your health goals during times of traveling. On a recent trip to San Francisco I was able to book a hotel with a 24-hour gym because I did a little due diligence on a travel reviews site before booking. Here I was able to see a list of San Francisco hotels and could scroll through to see which ones had 24-hr gyms and which didn’t. This was invaluable for the overall experience of my trip.

What Type of Fitness Are Offered Away From Home?

A few airports have just begun to offer excellent options for travelers to stay active between flights.  This can be especially handy if you are at a layover between long flights.  Walking paths and yoga rooms are just a couple fit-friendly amenities that are springing up at select airports.  If you are at an airport that does not offer these options, you can always take a brisk or a calming walk from one end of the airport to another to improve your circulatory system.  This type of activity is also ideal for relieving cramped muscles and pinched nerves that can occur when a person travels and must sit for long periods of time while on a flight.

In an article provided by, it is stated that specific hotel chains are taking great efforts to meet as many fitness demands of their guests as possible.  With more business travelers becoming increasingly health-conscious, hotels are stepping up to provide rooms and facilities to meet these needs.  In the NBC News article, it is listed that several hotels offer several variations of fitness-friendly rooms.  This eliminates the need for guests to wait in long lines for a treadmill at the hotel gym.

Creative Physical Activities

An intriguing online publication by ABC News Explore lists several ways people can get creative with their fitness activities.  Some of these exercises include aquatic yoga combinations, inn-to-inn hiking and baby boot camp.  If you are traveling with an infant when you go out of town for a business meeting, calling ahead to ask your hotel about fitness spas and centers nearby that cater to mothers will help you to continue your exercises in a fun and creative way.

This post is from guest blogger Mike Manning who is a healthy living and fitness enthusiast. You can find his new blog at