Ultrarunning: Including Aqua Jogging in Your Training

November 22, 2011

This article is part of Endurance Planet’s ultrarunning article series. If you have questions, comments or feedback about “Including Aqua Jogging in Your Training”, please leave it below in the comments section…

Aqua jogging started out in the US in the field of physical therapy and was used as an exercise for recovering surgery patients. It has the unique advantage of developing physical fitness as any land based workout, but because there was no hard impact, the exercise did not result in the usual soreness and aches. Runners quickly saw the benefits of this relatively new form of exercise and added it as another tool in their box of cross-training options.

Mechanics

Execution of the workout is as the name implies, you run in the water. This sounds simple enough but the challenge here is brought about by water resistance and balance. It’s far harder to move against the weight of the water and it’s also difficult to keep yourself upright in the proper running form you would use on land. Beginners and those who don’t know how to swim will need a floatation device and there are specifically designed vests and belts for aqua jogging.

Recovering from injuries

The main use of the exercise is still its original intent. If you’re recovering from a leg injury that’s keeping you from doing your training runs on land then this serves as the best substitute. There is little risk of aggravating the injury because of the lack of impact but since a lot of effort is still involved it can maintain the conditioning achieved previous to the accident. Losing the new capacities gained through training because of forced rest is one of the bigger worries that constantly plague injured runners. Aqua jogging serves as a good solution to this dilemma.

No impact

You have to take note however that this primary benefit of aqua jogging can also be its biggest weak point. It cannot serve as a complete substitute for running on land. A runner who isn’t prepared for the constant stress and pounding that results from the feet hitting the ground with the full effect of gravity won’t survive a marathon, much less an ultramarathon. Aqua jogging at best is a good back up exercise or even an augmentation to your basic routine, which should still be racking up the miles on land.

Aerobic and other benefits

Just like your normal training runs, aqua jogging can enhance your aerobic threshold. Some runners even perform intervals in the water to add some aspect of anaerobic development as well. Be prepared to adjust how you monitor your heart rate in an aqua jog. The cool temperature of the water can lower it significantly but this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not strenuously exercising. Another benefit of running in the water is that it challenges you to keep a well balanced running form. This could be an opportunity for you to work on improving your strides.

Summary

Do you have questions about aqua jogging, or what you’ve read so far? Do you have any ultrarunning pointers of your own to add? Please leave your feedback, comments and questions below, and we promise we’ll respond.

Comments (7)

  • Roy Galvin says:

    After tearing my left meniscus, I struggled to even walk, I even had to walk up the stairs sideways. But the injury itself wasn't the worse part, it was the inability to do nothing, couldn't run, cycle, nothing. Thats when I started aqua jogging, apart from the rehabilitation that you mention above, it was the mental relief that I now could do an exercise pain free, plus the Mrs was pain free of my bad humors! :-). I highly recommend 'Aquajogger' flotation aids, they have different belt sizes depending on the physical condition of the person, so just don't pick up any belt. Running in the water, can be boring, like any indoor workout, especially like running on a treadmill, cycling on a turbo, they all share one similarity and that is you are stationary. To get by this, like with all indoor exercises you need to put some 'fun' into them, and that is 'intervals'. I use a Polar s625x HR watch for those intervals when in the water. The newer Polar W.I.N.D do not transmit under water but the older straps do. Either attach the watch to your wrist or sometimes I place it under my hat, and I can easily hear those beats for the 'On' & 'Off'. In a nutshell I certainly am a big advocate on aqua running, not just when injured but even for those xtraining days especially in the off season. Oh and Happy Thanks Giving!

  • craig says:

    anyone know what is the ideal depth of water? Great way to end a long run or bike session with obvious visual benefits.

  • Ben says:

    It's hard to know what proper water running form is. Can you post a video, or try to describe get the most out of water running? I find that if I work on stride frequency, then my knees are basically just pumping up and down. If I work on stride length and range of motion then I can't keep the same cadence and it's hard to keep my upper body from rotating backward. What is proper form for water running?

  • Jose says:

    Thanks for the nice article. I am getting back into running after a stress fracture and have been looking into this.
    I subscribe to Ben's request, can you post a video of good water running form and technique?


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