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Aquajogger Water

A Water Running Workout

Water running, also called aqua jogging or water jogging, offers many health benefits for many people.  According to Aquajogger water fitness products, more than 2.2 millions Americans have started deep water running.  These enthusiasts have discovered the benefits gained from exercising in water.  Aquajogging has been used by professional athletes, the elderly, the injured, and the overweight, and pregnant women alike.  Water running has been used as a means of exercise when other exercise options are just not possible.  When injuries, excess weight, surgeries, orthopedic conditions, back ailments, pregnancy, or arthritis stop people from getting the exercise they need, aquajogging and other water exercise is a viable solution.

For athletes, aquajogging can be used as an alternative workout for anyone who wants to add mileage to their current running program without adding the impact or stress of running on land.  It can also serve as a backup plan on those cold, nasty days when you don't want to go outside or are tired of the treadmill.  Aqua jogging can also be incorporated into an athlete's training plan as a means of recovery after a hard workout.  Kate Major, a top Ironman athlete, regularly used aqua jogging in her training. In addition to her land-based running, she has been quoted saying "I also do a couple of water runs a week. That helps, especially on your big mileage weeks when you don't want to go out pounding your legs all day. The water runs help my muscle tissue to recover."  Mary Decker-Slaney, an Olympic runner, used water running extensively prior to setting a world record in the 2,000 meters event.  She was in the pool a full month and only completed one land workout prior this feat. Even sprinters like Carl Lewis have used aquajogging in their training regimen.

Aqua jogging has also been used extensively by injured athletes as a form of rehabilitation.  Many injuries will not allow an athlete to run on a hard surface.  Because the runner is suspended in water and the feet do not touch the bottom of the pool, the exercise is considered no-impact.   Most injuries require complete rest for adequate recovery.  Injured athletes are faced with the dilemma of losing fitness when recovering from an injury. They may become impatient and decide to return to training too soon.  However, by using aqua jogging, an athlete can simulate land-based training in the water.  Most of these athletes can expect to return to their pre-injury fitness level quicker as a result of water running.  With aquajogging, you get all the effects and benefits of running without the stress on your bones, tendons and ligaments.
Like those with injuries, people with disabilities such as arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), and others can greatly benefit from aquajogging or other water exercise. Those with arthritis find it difficult and painful to move due to the stiffness of their joints.  The water environment allows these joints to move more freely.  MS is a devastating autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system.  Aquajogging can help strengthen the weakened muscles and improve balance and flexibility. It also helps to increase overall stamina.   

Aqua jogging is also beneficial both during pregnancy and postpartum.  Exercise is beneficial to both woman and fetus because there is an increased supply of oxygen in the blood during exercise. However, some pregnant women find it difficult because they feel uncomfortable.  The buoyancy of the water will provide a nice relief from the extra body weight. These water workouts will not only help the mother get needed exercise, but it will also add to the health and development of the child.  Much like injured athletes, those who remain active during pregnancy will usually return to pre-pregnancy form and fitness soon after the baby arrives.  

Similar to expectant mothers, overweight or obese people may find it uncomfortable or even painful to exercise on land.  Carrying extra weight may cause added stress on feet, hips and legs.  Aqua jogging or other water exercises help to lessen this stress and make exercise more comfortable because the body is buoyant and the exercise is non-impact.  The water also adds the needed resistance for muscle strength and development. In addition, aquajogging allows a person to get their heart rate and respiratory rate up to a reasonable level in order to aid blood circulation and a healthy heart.

Most pools will allow a person to aqua jog during lap swimming hours.  Many pools are even creating special use lanes for water running and fitness.  Some pools will also allow aquajogging in the diving well areas since these are vacant a large portion of time.  Many pools also have specialized flotation vests or belts to use.  It is generally recommended that these belts be used to ensure proper running form.  In fact, running without a vest or belt makes it very difficult to maintain good form for a workout.  These vests or belts are made of a buoyant foam and come with an adjustable waist.  The buoyancy belt should fit snuggly so that your head and mouth stays above the water without tilting the head.  The water level should hit at shoulder height.  A belt or vest will also help to support your lower back to provide good posture for running.  

Once the vest or belt is secure, head to the deep end of the pool so that you are suspended in the water without your feet touching the bottom of the pool.  Look straight forward and not downward. Make sure you do not lean too far forward. Instead, concentrate on having a good posture with only a slight forward lean.  Mimic your land running form. Toes should not be pointed, but relaxed and flexible as in running. Focus on keeping a high leg turnover rate by driving the knees as in land running.  Aim for a turnover rate of 76 to 80 cycles per minute (cpm).  Due to water resistance, this would be equivalent to 88 to 90 cpm on land.  Swing your arms as you do on land and keep them close to the body.  Keep your hands closed. Do not cup or scull with the hands as this will tend to over exaggerate the upper body movement.  Also avoid any bobbing.  

In aqua jogging, just like land running, there are various options for workouts.  You should pre-plan a workout and goal for each training day before heading to the pool.  For instance, you can incorporate intervals, drills, strength building, tempo, or steady-state  efforts into your aqua jogging sessions.  There should also be sessions of low intensity used for recovery or endurance work.  Heart rate monitors can be used to help gage your workouts.  However, it should be kept in mind that due to the buoyancy of water, your heart rate will be anywhere from 10 to 15 beats per minute lower than it would be on land for the same level of effort.  In addition, a warm-up and cool-down period should be incorporated into the session just as a land-based workout.  Start by trying a 30 minute session before progressing to more advanced workouts.    

Progress to one of the following workouts:

1. Steady-state: 10 minute warm-up, then aquajog five to ten minutes steady at 75-80% effort.  This can be repeated three to four times with one minute of easy jogging between each.

2. Tempo: 10 minute warm-up, then do 5 x 1 minute at 80-85% effort with 30 seconds of easy jogging between each.  Then do 4 X 2 minutes at the same effort with 30 seconds of easy jogging between each five times.  Finally, a last set of 3 X 3 minutes each at 80-85% effort with 30 seconds of easy jogging between each.

3. Intervals: warm-up 10 minutes then try intervals of 10 X 2 minutes at 85% effort or 5 X 4 minutes at 75% effort.  These should be followed by easy jogging of equal recovery.

4. Strength: To build running strength, add a pair of shoes. Use either a clean old pair or footwear made specifically for the water . Shoes provide more resistance.  An elastic/tether cord (aquahitch) can also be attached to both the back of the floatation belt and pool to add more resistance or when space is limited. This tether increases resistance by pulling you back as you attempt to advance forward.  There are also aqua-specific hand weights on the market that can be used for additional resistance.     

5. Drills:  Use a variety of range of motion drills to increase your flexibility and stride length on land.  Try running with a longer stride, higher knees, and play around with stride rate (how fast or slow your legs go).

Aquajogging can offer many benefits to many people.  It can increase running and sport performance, help an injured person to rehabilitate, aid in weight loss, improve functioning  in those with disabilities, help expectant mothers, and increase quality of life.  Be sure to get a physician's approval before beginning aquajogging.  Then keep the sessions to no more than 45 minutes.  Have fun and be creative with your workouts.  Run with a partner or add music.  Enjoy your aquajogging experience!

About the Author

Personal trainer & professional triathlete Jolene Wilkinson is a Certified Chek Exercise Coach, holds a BS in psychology and physical education, and an MS in exercise science. She is a triathlon World Champion, competes for the Air Force, & is Utah's top female triathlete. For more information, you can visit pacificfit.net

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