Deep water running is a great form of training for injured athletes and athletes in training and looking for a way to save resulting impact on their legs. I frequently recommend to my athletes while not injured that replacing a few easy recovery days if you are tired with the equivalent time in the pool would be “smart training”. You will not loose any benefit by replacing a few easy recovery runs with runs in the water and you will only possibly be saving yourself from injury.
Unfortunately a number of running and sports injuries are irritated by impact and other forms of cross-training (cycling, walking, elliptical, rowing, etc). Fortunately with most running injuries, you can safely run in the water. Deep water running in which you wear a flotation vest provides an excellent training stimulus. Deep water running is one of the closet related forms of training to land running (outside of long distance fast-paced walking).
Florida State University researchers did a study over 6 weeks taking a group to train 100% in the pool while the other group stayed on dry land running. Before and after the 6 weeks, the runners were tested for VO2max, lactate threshold, and running economy. The water-running group fully maintained their aerobic fitness over the entire 6 week study. Another study by Ed Eyestone and colleagues at BYU found no change in a 2 mile timed run after runners spent 6 weeks training by deep water running.
Form & Posture
It is crucial to think of maintaining correct posture while in the water and making sure your core muscles remain engaged throughout your training session. It is important to stimulate land running as closely as possible, your stride rate will be slower due to the increased resistance of the moving water. However, you do want to try to bring your leg up and pull the water back as you bring your leg back behind you. Most athletes like to move forward up & down the pool lane lines. Another option is in an endless pool or swimex where you are tethered to the front of the pool and then you run against the force of a controlled currant of water. Both options offer very similar benefits.
It is very easy to simulate interval and tempo runs in the water. Athletes can basically do their exact workout in the pool as they were scheduled on the road or track. If you will be wearing a HR monitor your HR will be 8-14 beats per minute lower when in the water compared to the value it would be running on dry land. Studies have confirmed that Max HR is 14-16 bpm lower during water-running interval workouts. Another important variable to consider is the temperature of the water. Your HR will be lower in cooler water and a bit higher in warm water. Where I frequently water-run in a swimex therapy pool the temperature of the water ranges from about 88-90 degrees which is quite different than when I water-run at one of the high school pools. Gender, while does not play a HUGE role in varying HR’s, gender should be considered a variable. Women have slightly lower heart rates and oxygen consumption compared to men. This is mostly due to woman’s generally higher body fat levels and greater buoyancy
So just do it! You can get a water-running belt at swimoutlet.com, amazon, and some sporting goods store. Aquajogger makes a number of great models. I recently bought this version and for the price I find it to work great. Club Swim Water Running Belt
Some of my favorite workouts
1. Warm-up 10-15 minutes, (6 x 3:00 hard effort, 2:00 easy effort), Cool-down 5-10 minutes
2. Warm-up 10-15 minutes, (1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, 4:00, 3:00. 2:00, 1:00 each hard effort with 1:00 in between each as a recovery), Cool-down 5-10 minutes
3. Warm-up 10-15 minutes, (3 x 10:00 hard/tempo effort, with 2:00 easy recovery), Cool-down 5-10 minutes
Enjoy the time in the pool, change it up, and remember your body is thanking you even if your mind goes numb 😉