If you have ever experienced an injury, you have probably heard people recommend that you try running in the pool. Known by many different terms, pool running or aqua jogging can be beneficial to athletes.
Although most runners don’t think of going for a pool run until they are plagued by injury and cannot pound the pavement, there are actually benefits beyond when you are hurt.
Benefits for Cross-Training
When looking for cross-training for runners, it is wise to consider non-impact options. Many people think of old ladies in floatation belts when the visualize pool workouts, but this isn’t your grandmother’s workout we are talking about! Here are excellent reasons to incorporate pool running into your regime:
✓ Zero Impact – In the water, you can get a zero-impact workout in. Especially once you start getting into higher mileage, it is advantageous to have some cross-training activities that won’t involve the pounding of your joints.
✓ Form Work – When you get fatigued running on land it’s easy to have a breakdown in proper running form. One way to combat this is to do form work in the water. If you focus on form in a methodical and consistent manner in water, it is certain to transfer to land workouts,
✓ Cardiovascular Benefits – Plain and simple the heart muscles don’t know what kind of workout you are using. Your heart just knows if you are challenging it. This is where water running can come in handy! Taking that a step further, there is science that validates that deep water running can tax the cardio system more than running on land or shallow water running.
✓ Recovery – Often runners are only worried about their intense workouts when recovery is equally as important. Many coaches favor a non-impact recovery tool for the day after a long or very challenging workout, especially for those who are in intense training, a pool workout is a great way to recover! Especially in those hot summer months.
How Do Aqua Runners Run?
If you are planning to get the most out of your pool run, you need to focus on the ABCs of aqua running.
First, form. While water running you should have a straight back and focus on leg turnover. One thing many people do wrong is they move slowly when running in water. You should try to have a leg turnover cadence similar to that you would have when on land.
Do not make the mistake of overextending your stride. Sometimes people are moving slowly and with exaggerated movement, thus having potential for hamstring injury.
Drive is also important. Drive the knee up and the foot down as you move in a somewhat cyclical motion. Know that it is completely normal to be a bit more up and down (like riding a bike) when running in water.
Although you may be able to water run and keep afloat, if you are focusing on form you absolutely want to wear a water belt. The belt will help you maintain exceptional form which is important.
Is Pool Running Effective?
Pool running will help you to accomplish many things. Among those things are cardiovascular fitness and time to work on improving your running form.
Furthermore, it can also be an excellent social exercise. That friend we all have who we love but doesn’t run the same pace as us? Invite him or her to a pool workout!
Pool Running While Injured
Now that we have gone over the benefits of water running, there are other considerations especially for those who are injured.
First, you can certainly just grab your towel and head to the pool. Depending on your injury, many people can enjoy pool running without concern. This is especially true if your injury is one where your primary concern is avoiding impact.
Most local pools have aqua belts you can borrow as part of the entrance fee to use the facility. The belts help keep you afloat. Regardless of your swimming ability, most people use the belt because it helps promote proper form.
Other considerations are if you plan to do shallow or deep water running. For most injuries, deep water is preferred so your feet aren’t touching the bottom at all.
Pool jogging can help you keep up your cardiovascular base, still, work on running form, and also have positive mental health impacts. How does that work, you wonder? For many people, a daily dose of purposeful physical activity is important to keep their sanity. When a runner is sidelined with injury, this is especially true. Many athletes can get a similar adrenaline rush from aqua running as they do from running outside.
As you come back from an injury or for older runners, running in water can actually increase the range of motion! As you rehabilitate an injury this can be an excellent tool.
If you are looking to expand your workout repertoire, here are some things to try.
Pool Sprints (45-minute workout)
- Warm-up in the pool for roughly 5 minutes.
- Set one: 10×1:00 hard sprints with :30 seconds rest between.
- Set two: 6 x 2:00 moderate running with 1:00 gentle jogging between.
- Cool down with 5 minutes easy water walking or jogging
- Warm-up 5-10 minutes (60-70 minutes)
- Alternate hard/easy efforts with same time interval
- 1:00 minute hard / 1:00 minute easy
- 2:00 hard/easy
- 3:00 hard/easy
- 4:00 hard/easy
- 5:00 hard/easy
- 4:00 hard/easy
- 3:00 hard/easy
- 2:00 hard/easy
- 1:00 hard/easy
- 5 minute cool down
When working pure speed, you completely rest between sprint intervals. Plan to be near the edge so you can grab on to rest.
- 5-10 minutes warm-up
- 20 x :30 seconds hard effort (rest :30 between efforts)
- 10 x :15 seconds hard efforts (rest :30 between)
- 5 minutes cool down
Whether you are investigating pool workouts as a means of non-impact cardio, or looking for a HIIT workout, or perhaps you are part of the injured reserve club, whatever your rationale, there is a pool workout to fit your needs.
Running is a dynamic, exciting way to exercise and many runners prefer not to leave their comfort zone. However, especially on a hot summer day, it’s super fun to hit up the water! Give it a try!