The Hand Catch And Use Of The Pool During Recovery From Running Injuries


Hi folks,

The hand catch by Mr smooth. From:

The hand catch by Mr. Smooth. From:

I recently received a comment from Pauline, concerning swimming technique and the use of hand paddles, as she is dealing with a running injury. Blogging is all about conversation, and it is encouraging to receive this kind of input, so I thought that I would write briefly about use of the pool during ‘running injury rehabilitation.’ But first a comment on the hand catch. If you watch Mr. Smooth you will notice a very characteristic down-tilt of the hand from the wrist early in the power stroke as he ‘catches’ the water. This maneuver causes the hand to push you forward instead of upwards as force is applied to the arm to propel you through the water. You can feel this effect much more clearly when wearing hand paddles as they exaggerate the forces produced through interaction of your hands with the water. I was swimming the other day next to ‘the squad’ in the local pool (they were moving), and I noticed that the fastest swimmers all dropped their hands for the catch, just like Mr. Smooth.

So! If you have a running injury there are plenty of useful things to be done as you patiently (or generally impatiently) await your full recovery, including core, strength, and pool work. Here are some things to consider when it comes to the pool:

  1. If it does not impact your injured body-part, pool running is great exercise and when carried out correctly it is the perfect adjunct to running, as explained by Earl W. Fee, in his excellent book on running.
  2. Work on staying high in the water using the ‘floating face down’ exercise, which is harder than it looks. Whilst doing this routine, remember to engage your core and feel your heels clearing the water. When you get it right you’ll have the sensation of falling forward, but this requires high shoulder blades, a straight spine bringing your head high, and a good sense of balance.
  3. Do some long pull buoy workouts, as this simulates wetsuit swimming to some extent.
  4. Carry out some of the Total Emersion (TI) swim drills to improve your balance in the water.

This will keep you busy, improve your stroke, and maintain aerobic conditioning. I have found that each injury has been an opportunity to improve something or other, for which I would normally not have enough time.

Make a negative into a positive whenever you can! I hope that helps, Pauline.

-k @FitOldDog



  1. I wonder how you pronounce “buoy” these days. The English way or the American (at least Californian) way.

  2. English as “boy”
    American sounds like boo-ee

  3. Pauline Watson says

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll try some of them out today. I suspect I have a stress fracture, but the running conditions here have deteriorated so I am looking forward to a change in training emphasis 🙂 I need to get myself together for the Robbie Burns Day 8km run in 3 weeks, so will definitely add pool jogging.

    • After Burns’ day comes Burns’ night:

      Address to a Haggis.

      Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
      Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
      Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
      Painch, tripe, or thairm:
      Weel are ye wordy of a grace
      As lang’s my arm.

      The groaning trencher there ye fill,
      Your hurdies like a distant hill,
      Your pin wad help to mend a mill
      In time o need,
      While thro your pores the dews distil
      Like amber bead.

      His knife see rustic Labour dight,
      An cut you up wi ready slight,
      Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
      Like onie ditch;
      And then, O what a glorious sight,
      Warm-reekin, rich!

      Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
      Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
      Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
      Are bent like drums;
      The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
      ‘Bethankit’ hums.

      Is there that owre his French ragout,
      Or olio that wad staw a sow,
      Or fricassee wad mak her spew
      Wi perfect sconner,
      Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
      On sic a dinner?

      Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
      As feckless as a wither’d rash,
      His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
      His nieve a nit:
      Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
      O how unfit!

      But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
      The trembling earth resounds his tread,
      Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
      He’ll make it whissle;
      An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
      Like taps o thrissle.

      Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
      And dish them out their bill o fare,
      Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
      That jaups in luggies:
      But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
      Gie her a Haggis!


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.