Oldham County High School runners stay cool despite the blistering heat with plenty of time in the water

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By Greg Waddell

While many athletes have struggled to stay hydrated during this summer’s brutal heat wave, the Oldham County High School cross country runners are taking a different approach, taking to the water rather than just taking it in. Nearly 50 Colonel runners converge on the John W. Black Aquatic Center once a week for a series of drills designed not only to keep them cool, but work them out.

After stretching outside the aquatic center, the runners break into groups of 10 to start the 60-minute workout, cycling through five stations — each about 10 minutes long — designed to work key muscle groups.

It also helps work other muscle groups that may not be as emphasized as much, senior Sam Chesak said.

“When you’re running, you don’t use certain areas and the swimming helps build those,” Chesak said. 

The treading water station proves that.

“If they tell you to only use your legs, that’s pretty easy,” he said, “but when they tell you to only use your arms and you’ve been running your entire life, it throws you for a loop.”

In addition to swimming laps, treading water with their legs and shallow-water running in knee-deep water, they’ll also get to have some fun as the coaches include the aquatic center’s waterslide into the regiment. 

After sprinting up stairs to the top of the slide, the runners slide down and finish with 10 push-ups and crunches. For the final exercise, they head to the sand volleyball court for laps.

While most runners agree the workout is one of their favorites, it’s also one of the toughest. That combination makes the water workouts a success in the eyes of head coach Kirk Thomas. In addition to giving them a mental break, the workout also gives them incentive to go all out in practices leading up to the pool.

“Anytime the kids go to a swimming pool, they associate that with fun automatically,” he said. “They get a great workout and they’re tired when they finish, but they kind of don’t realize it until almost when they’re done.”

The idea to start the water workouts came after a conversation with one of the aquatic center managers, Thomas said. When they mentioned a soccer team is utilizing the pool, it just made sense. 

With swimming offering many of the same benefits of running, what could be better to help alleviate the heat?

More than just a chance to stay cool though, there are other benefits as well. By training in the water, athletes get the chance to rest joints that take a beating during the long cross country season. Thomas’ team might not recognize it now, but by the end of the season, they’ll be happy to have those breaks, he said.

“It’s a long season and they just get a lot of miles on their legs,” he said. “Anytime you can get a workout in where you’re giving them a break from that repetitive motion of running and still keep that same benefit is a bonus.”


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