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Pool Running: Workouts and Tips for Injured Runners

Pool running is something most runners never consider unless they’re forced to. However, whether you’re injured or not, aqua jogging provides some surprising benefits and opportunities.

What is pool running?

Pool running is exactly what it sounds like: “running” in a pool. It is a form of cardio that runners and non-runners alike complete as a way to maintain or gain fitness, burn calories and improve strength. Since there is no impact involved with pool running, it is a go-to option for injured runners who are hoping to continue training during their injury.

Athletes head to the deep end of a pool and “run” through the water with some type of buoyancy belt by pumping their legs and arms in a similar motion as if they were running on land.

Is there a difference between aqua jogging and pool running?

Aqua jogging and pool running are essentially the same thing, with the terms used interchangeably. The term aqua jogging is often used when referring to a class or group workout, whereas pool running is what runners use when referring to their solo workouts at the pool.

Is pool running a good workout?

When completed effectively, pool running can be a great workout. It works similar muscles to those of regular road running by mimicking the motions. Since there is no impact, it requires consistent effort to keep the heart rate elevated throughout the workout. When pool running, fartleks and sprint-style workouts help increase the effects.

Benefits of Pool Running for Injured Runners

There are a surprising number of pool running benefits for injured runners. The most notable benefit being that it provides perhaps the best way to mimic training without the impact. Here are some more specific benefits of aqua jogging.

  • Supports a positive mental state during injury recovery
  • Allows runners to maintain “running” a similar load while recovering from injury
  • For most injuries, there is no risk of worsening or re-injuring the area
  • Motion is similar to running which helps muscles and nerves remember how to run during the period of time off
  • Workouts can easily be tailored to individual fitness level
  • Easy to pick up with very little learning curve
  • Promotes recovery by engaging muscles, tendons and ligaments in a non-destructive way while also encouraging blood flow and circulation

According to a 2003 study in the Journal of Sports Sciences, pool running can maintain aerobic fitness for up to 6 weeks in runners (trained endurance athletes).

For runners who find themselves sidelined with an injury in the middle of a training season, pool running provides a welcomed opportunity to continue training while recovering and not losing fitness.

Proper Pool Running Technique

In order for pool running to successfully supplement your training while injured, you’ll need to maintain proper form.

The biggest mistake runners can make when trying to replace road running with aqua jogging is to do so with improper technique. Doing so could result in a loss of fitness, even when putting in the time in the pool.

Here are a few key elements of proper pool running form.

  • Run tall, with a straight back and upright posture
  • Pump your arms through the water, just as you do when road running
  • Drive the knee up and the foot down –> it should feel like a mix between cycling and running
  • Maintain quick turnover with a fast cadence (aim for 175 bpm or faster, just as you do when road running)
  • Use a water belt (such as the Aquajogger) to maintain buoyancy and proper form

Be sure to stay aware of your form and adjust throughout the workout – especially as you get tired. Staying purposeful with your movements will help you maintain maximum aerobic fitness and ease the transition when you’re ready to return to road running.

Pool running is a great form of cross training or substitute for running when you are injured. Here’s what to know about aqua jogging and how to do it right!

3 Pool Running Workouts for Aqua Jogging

Workout #1: 45 Minute Fartlek

  • 10 minute warm up – easy running
  • 3 minutes hard, 1 minute easy à repeat 4 times
  • 2 minutes hard, 30 seconds easy à repeat 4 times
  • 9 minute cool down – easy running

Workout #2: Pyramid Workout

  • 5 minute warm up – easy running
  • 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy
  • 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 3 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 4 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 5 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 4 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 3 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 2 minutes hard, 1 minute easy
  • 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy
  • 5 minute cool down – easy running

Workout #3: Intervals

  • 10 minute warm up – easy running
  • 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy, 1 minute hard, 30 seconds easy à repeat 8 times
  • 10 minute cool down

Pool Running Summary

If you’re looking for the quick guide on pool running, you’re in the right place. Here is the short cheat sheet with everything you need to know before starting.

  • Use an Aquajogger or other flotation belt
  • Can supplement training in place of running for up to 6 weeks
  • You’ll need access to a lap pool but don’t need to attend a class
  • Workouts can be judged by time and effort only
  • Focus on form: straight back, cadence of 180 bpm, stride is a mix between cycling and running
  • Pay attention to heart rate – keep it high throughout workout

Pool running is such a great tool to have in your pocket. Knowing that there are still options when you unexpectedly find yourself injured in the middle of a key training season helps take the pressure off and spirits high.

Utilizing aqua jogging, whether it’s by choice or circumstance, is a great way to supplement your training. Find a pool nearby and give it a try today! You’ll be stronger for it.

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