Aqua Jogging – The What’s, Why’s and Hows!
Aqua jogging or ‘deep water running’ as it is commonly called, really is the ultimate form of x training to simulate running.
If you haven’t got an ‘anti gravity treadmill’ close to hand (a treadmill that lets runners race in a 'cushion' of air which reduces the effect of their weight)… and let”s face it, unless you are Mo or Paula who has?! Then aqua jogging is the perfect form of x training to either retain fitness whilst injured OR increase your weekly volume of training without the worry and stress of more impact.
What is it?
Deep water running really is just that…. Simulating running whilst in water but without your feet on the ground. To begin with you have the aid of an ‘aqua jogging floatation belt’ tied around your waist to aid buoyancy but the stronger you get and the better your technique gets it is possible to aqua jog with no help at all using just the natural buoyancy provided by the water…. Honestly!
Why do it?
Aqua jogging is almost the complete form of exercise, in that it works every element of the body constantly due to it being a continuous resistance in all planes of movement all of the time. This makes it a form of isokinetic exercise meaning the muscles work at a controlled constant speed because they are working against the resistance of the water. The body is not having to deal with ‘toeing off’ the ground after each running stride so it therefore cuts out the eccentric contractions that we ask the lower limb muscles to make when running on land and it’s at this point we see the majority of running injuries taking place.
The complete lack of impact deep water running provides means we completely reduce the impact and stress on the joints making it a safe way to increase exercise volume.
The constant ‘fight’ against the resistance of the water means there are enormous strength and conditioning gains but also huge cardiovascular gains.
It’s not only one of the most effective forms of exercise to strengthen the heart, tone muscles and improve your running but it is also one of the cheapest… With just the initial cost of an aqua jogging belt (£15-30) plus the cost of a swimming pool entry there really is no excuse!
How do I do it?
The correct technique for aqua jogging is paramount to getting the correct workout from it.
Ensure you are in the deep end of the pool or deep enough for you feet to not touch the floor
Your upper body needs to be tall and upright in the water as if you have a cord through your centre pulling you up and out of your hips.
You then need a very slight lean forward as you do when running to ensure gravity is working in the right direction. However please avoid leaning far too far forward and ending up in a ‘doggy paddle’ position… this is totally incorrect, cheating and no one wants to look like it’s their first day trying to swim a length at primary school!
At this point your arm and leg drive is essential. The arms should be at right angles really driving forwards and backwards almost as if you are trying to elbow someone behind you!
Legs need to then have a full leg drive and normal stride with high knees as if you are touching the ground and toeing off as you would when running normally on dry land.
Remember the movement forwards is small and slow but the challenge is in staying upright, and working as hard as you can against the resistance of the water in order to create some gradual travel forwards... Believe me, it’s not easy as the heart and body will certainly know they are having a good workout.
You don’t have to be an amazing swimmer to do as long as you are wearing a buoyancy belt but confidence in the water helps.
How do I structure a session?
Aqua jogging sessions really can re create the type of ‘time based’ interval sessions that are on an ordinary running training plan
Some example sessions are below:
5 mins normal running style/pace - perceived effort (PE) 6/10
15s,30s, 45s, 60s, 75s, 90s sprint as hard as you can off 15 s rest
Repeat x 3 or 4
5 mins warm down
5 mins warm up
8 mins steady (PE 7/10) 90s rest
2 x 4 mins increased pace (PE 8/10) 75secs rest
4 x2 mins increased pace (PE 9/10) 45secs rest
8 x 1 min sprint (PE 10/10) 30secs rest
5 mins warm down
Try not to hold onto side during rest just keep legs moving in treading water style
Fartlek : 1min, 2min, 3min, 4min, 5min, 5min, 4min, 3min, 2min, 1min hard - Take half the length of the interval time as rest
Two Top Tips for all sessions:
Make them exciting!
Avoid getting into a ‘semi controlled’ comfort zone during longer intervals, where the interval gradually gets easier… keep the heart rate consistent by putting in a 20-30second sprint from time to time in the middle of the interval.
Until you jump in a pool and try it yourself you really can’t describe how tough it is and how much it will challenge your cardiovascular system, but trust me, the majority of runners I coach have tried aqua jogging and have never looked back . It is now a regular part of their training regime and part of the on going success to their training and racing goals. It's added elements like this that can make those PBS a reality.