Ultrarunner Mike Wardian Takes the Weight Off

Fastest 50K on a treadmill.
Fastest marathon while dressed as Elvis.
Fastest time completing 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents.
These World Records are all held by one man. So our friends at SwimBox, the sports performance center in Fairfax, Virginia, invited him to run on the Underwater Treadmill in their Endless Pools® Performance pool.

Mike Wardian ran 47 marathons and ultra-marathons last year. The 43-year-old's 2017 calendar is comparably busy. To train, he runs 80 to 120 miles each week!

"I usually run two to three times a day," he states. "Usually I run to work [6 to 8 miles, depending on the route] then from work, then I get a workout at lunch." If anyone could use a break from pounding the pavement, it's Mike Wardian!

Wardian spoke with us last week from an overlook at Hurricane Point, California. He was on his way to the Big Sur Marathon, which he'd win decisively just two days later. He compared his first Endless Pools run at SwimBox to other low-impact training methods.

Endless Pools vs. AlterG

Wardian previously tried the AlterG, a treadmill that minimizes impact by putting the lower half of your body in a compression chamber. "It fills with air to offset your body weight," he observes. "It pushes you up, but it also pulls on your hips and genitalia and everything."

His initial discomfort only grew over time. "The one thing about the AlterG is you get really sweaty. Especially if you go more than an hour, your lower legs just get saturated, and it pulls on your waist.

"It's not terrible, but it's definitely not as unrestricted as the Endless Pool and its treadmill.

"It's more artificial in the AlterG. It's like if you had a parent holding a little kid and just helping them," he finds. "Whereas in the Endless Pool, it feels more like it's under your direction. It puts more onus on the athlete to make sure you're doing things properly."

SwimBox Coach Dominic Latella (left) invited ultra-marathon runner Mike Wardian to try our Underwater Treadmill. Wardian found the Endless Pools run to be less restricting than the AlterG and more focused than aqua-jogging. Notes Wardian, "Adding in the SwimBox experience with the Endless Pool, you can get in a workout without taking the pounding."

Endless Pool vs. Aqua-Jogging

"I've done aqua-jogging quite a bit, but this was quite a bit different," he notes.

Different indeed! Aqua-jogging requires a floatation belt to allow you to simulate jogging in deep water. It's low-impact, for sure, but as Wardian found, the balance can get tricky.

When aqua-jogging, Wardian felt distracted from running because he had to expend energy on "not sinking." By contrast, the Endless Pool "allowed me to focus more on the running."

Endless Pools Potential

As with swimming, the Endless Pool isn't just for endurance training. The unique environment of the pool is also ideally suited to technique refinement. After one Endless Pools run, Wardian already sees the pool's potential for runners.

"It would be good to work on form in there," he observes. "Because you're in the water, you have to be really deliberate with your running. It's exaggerated movement. It could be beneficial to reinforce your technique.

"If you don’t land properly on the treadmill, you don't notice it as much on a regular treadmill as when it's underwater, because there's less friction."

He's already targeted one problem area: "I noticed when we watched the video that my right foot kicks up a little bit. I'd like to make that a little straighter."

Returning to SwimBox

Wardian expects to become a loyal SwimBox customer. "Adding in the SwimBox experience with the Endless Pool, you can get in a workout without taking the pounding."

"I'd like to add that as part of the regular routine just to be able to get some cardio in without the impact." The team at SwimBox looks forward to seeing him again soon!

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