How to Do Deep Water Running for Injury Recovery

water running
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Deep water running, also known as aqua jogging, is great cross training for runners and an excellent way to deal with and prevent injuries. If you're getting over an injury, water running can allow you to recover without losing fitness. Research has shown that deep water running is relatively close to real running in terms of cardiovascular demand at easy to moderate intensities. You can expect to maintain your fitness for at least six weeks by doing water running during injury recovery.

And if you're not injured, aqua jogging is a great way to work on improving your running form and fitness without increasing the pounding on your joints from running on hard surfaces. It's also an effective and safe alternative to outside running on extremely hot and humid days. And for runners with kids, you can get some exercise while watching your kids splash around in the pool.

To do deep water running effectively, you'll need a floatation vest or belt. A popular one used by deep water runners is the AquaJogger. It's made from EVA foam and straps around your waist, like a belt. Almost any flotation vest or belt will work, as long as it keeps your body afloat while allowing you to perform a running motion. Wearing a flotation device or belt will help you continue practicing your normal running biomechanics. If you're not wearing one, you'll have to lift your knees very high and have a quick stride turnover in order to stay afloat.

Some floatation devices, such as the AquaJogger, come with instructions for water running. But here are some tips to help get you started:

How to Do Water Running

  • Start with a warm-up, just as you would any other run. Get in the water and swim (or tread water) for 2-3 minutes to get your body warmed up.
  • In deep water, where your feet can't touch the bottom, simulate running with your flotation device worn as instructed. Try to use the same good running form that you would when running on the ground or the treadmill. Don't lean forward much or hunch over. Try to keep your body straight up in the water. Keep your shoulders back and your head and eyes looking at the horizon.
  • To get the most out of your workout, try to simulate your normal running style as closely as possible. Don't paddle with your hands. You should keep your fist loosely closed and let your legs move you forward. You can swing your arms higher or shorter and faster to intensify your workout.
  • To cool down, take off your flotation device and do some easy swimming for 2-3 minutes.

Although water running is a great alternative for injured runners, you may not be able to do it comfortably with certain injuries, such as a strained hip flexor. If aqua jogging causes you pain, then you shouldn't be doing it. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to determine another cross-training activity to do during your recovery.

Deepwater running takes some practice, but if you keep at it and work on your form, it'll become easier and more enjoyable — especially on those hot days when you can do your run while staying cool.

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Article Sources
  • Killgore, G. L., "Deep-Water Running: A practical review of the literature with an emphasis on biomechanics". Physician and Sportsmedicine 2012, 40 (1).