More and more people are finding an alternative workout by taking their running into the pool. Called water running, water jogging, or aqua jogging, running in the water is a great way to add mileage to your program without the impact of land running.
Pool running can with be an alternative to running on land, or an addition to a regular run training program. Injured, pregnant, or injury prone athlete can often water run instead of land run and performing both endurance and quality sessions in the pool helps maintain fitness. When regular run training is resumed, most athletes are able to get back up to speed faster as a result of a water running program.
Pool running is also a useful recovery session to flush tired muscles without the pounding that land running produces. It creates less stress on the body and the more gentle environment of water allows athletes to recover faster between session.
How to Pool Run
Run in deep water where your feet do not touch the bottom (a lot of larger pools will have a water running lane in the deep end or dive tank) and until you are proficient with water running technique, wear a narrow flotation belt specifically designed for water running. With the belt, you can maintain proper body position while focusing on replicating true running form.
Hop in a start mimicking your run motion. Whether you run with a normal run stride, or with a piston style with driving knees, aim to keep turnover high. Maintain a relaxed upper body that is vertical with a slight lean forward. Drive the arms as on land and keep the hands closed - do not cup or scull the water. You do not need to cover a lot of distance, the focus is more on turnover and knee drive. Avoid going backwards or bobbing too much.
Here are a few additional tips to help you get the most out of a pool-running session:
As with all workouts, if you have a plan, the time will go by quickly and you will get better results. Use time and heart rate to measure your exertion efforts in the pool.
Try a series of challenging intervals such as: 10 x 2 minutes at 85% effort or 5 x 4 minutes at 75% effort. Follow each work interval with 100% (or 50% as you get better) of equal rest consisting of easy water running.
Most workouts should be kept to less than 45 minutes in length. With this type of exercise especially, shorter and more intense workouts are more effective, mentally and physically, than an extended low-intensity session.
The added resistance provided by the water will help you increase your running strength. Normal and easy movements, such as arm recovery, become more difficult in water. As well, some athletes prefer to water run in an old, but clean, pair of running shoes. Doing so provides slightly more resistance and gives the bottom of your foot a sense of pressure to better simulate the feeling of outdoor running. Increased resistance can allow you to feel stronger and more fluid when the resistance is removed in an outdoor run.
Range of Motion
Try some drills where you run with a longer stride, higher knees and faster or slower feet than you would be able to perform on land. Increased range of motion is especially important for slower runners who shuffle along without an adequate stride length.
Pool running offers triathletes an endless array of workouts that will increase running performance. If you are creative and focused on the task, pool running can become one of the most enjoyable workouts of your week. But at the very least, pool running will make you healthier, stronger and more motivated to get outside!
Thanks to Jessica Kirkwood for her contribution to this piece