You may not be able to walk on water …………….. but you certainly can run in it.
Aqua running (AR) has long been recognised as a rehabilitation exercise for athletes who have sustained an injury and wish to maintain aerobic fitness by transferring their land based training regimes to the water.
I have used AR for over 25 years for my Age Groupers as well as elite triathletes – including Spencer Smith , Stuart Hayes and Richard Stannard to name a few.
It is a valid form of training and can also add variety to an athletes programme.
Let us look at the special properties of water and gain a better understanding of their effects on us physically when working in water.
BUOYANCY – a submerged body weighs approximately 90% less, specific to body type and composition,, balance and coordination need adjustment ,, gravitational effect is 10% of land force, reduces stress on the joints and connective tissue.
RESISTANCE is approximately 15 x greater in water (depending on speed and surface area worked ). Resistance is also 3 dimensional which in turn enhances development of muscular strength and endurance.
HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE – greater than air and equal on all sides. It increases with the water depth. Increases circulation and may account for a lower heart rate.
EDDY /DRAG – moving creates different pressure front and back. Increased front pressure / decreased back pressure. Water flowing alongside of a moving body creates resistance called drag.
TEMPERATURE – may create lower body temperature and lower heart rate plus alter perception of exercise intensity.
EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY of working in water.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH – training effect varies with exertion/ intensity. Movement in water will strengthen the back , leg muscles and abdominals.
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE – working at lower training heart rate increases the possibility of extending the duration of the exercise. Heart rate may be lower due to hydrostatic pressure , cooler temperatures, body composition, depth of water and running skill.
AEROBIC FITNESS – the heart functions more efficiently. Decreased gravitational pull, increase return circulation. Buoyancy allows the athlete to work out for longer duration without injury.
FLEXIBILITY – natural water movement (in warm water) encourages relaxation of muscles, encouraging full range of motion and active stretching after they are warmed up.
HEART RATE – when standing upright performing vertical exercise, gravity begins to have a limited effect, so heart rates will be approximately 10 bpm lower than land based rates. While in swimming (horizontally) it will be around 20 bpm lower.
So how do you start and what do you need in terms of equipment?
I often ask swimmers who attend my swim clinics to run two lengths as the start of their warm up. More often than not, they look very surprised and have been heard to quote the tennis player McEnroe “ You cannot be serious……..?“ But I am.
They start from the shallow end and when about 2/3rds down the pool in around 20” – 30” – but once their feet are off the bottom of the pool it takes them around the same time to complete the last 1/3rd . On the return back to the shallow end attitudes have changed and they realise the potential of this alternative running regime.
Many combine an AR session with their swim training, using it either before or after the swim session or add it to a gym work out.
POOL RUNNING Has 2 forms.
1st is when your feet are in contact with the pool bottom.
2nd is when your feet remain off the bottom of the pool.
This 2nd form is classed as Deep Water Running (DWR)
Of course you can combine both forms – should you wish too by running the whole length of the pool.
If you decide to run as in 1st, I would suggest you invest in a pair of windsurfers rubber shoes, as they will stop your feet from slipping on the floor tiles and protect them from any uneven tile joints.
If using DWR – it might be worth investing in a flotation belt especially if a novice.
Another quick and cheap fix is to put a pull buoy down the back of your swim shorts!
The idea is to allow the athlete to keep their head above the water and help to maintain an upright running position.
You can keep track of your workouts by using your HRM to ensure you are working at the correct level.
Stay conscious of your running form and be careful to mimic your land running technique.