Aqua jogging, or ‘deepwater running’ as it is commonly called, is the ultimate form of cross training that simulates running. It will help you to retain fitness while you’re injured or increase your weekly volume of training without the stress of more impact on your joints.
What is it?
It’s simulated running while in the water, but without your feet on the pool floor. To begin with, you can use an aqua jogging flotation belt tied around your waist to aid buoyancy, but once you become stronger and your technique improves, it will be possible to aqua jog with no help at all.
Why do it?
Aqua jogging works every element of the body because you’re under continuous resistance in all phases of the running action. The muscles work at a controlled, constant speed because they are working against the resistance of the water. The body doesn’t have to deal with the landing phase of running in each stride, so aqua jogging cuts out the eccentric contractions that your lower-leg muscles have to perform, which is the point at which most running injuries take place.
The complete lack of impact involved in deep-water running means you greatly reduce the stress on your joints, making it a safe way to increase exercise volume. The constant ‘fight’ against the resistance of the water ensures there are not only enormous strength and conditioning gains, but also huge cardiovascular improvements. It’s not only one of the most effective forms of exercise for strengthening the heart, toning the muscles and improving your running, but it is also one of the cheapest.
How do I do it?
The correct technique for aqua jogging is paramount to getting the most from every workout.
1) Ensure you are in the deep end of the pool or deep enough that your feet don’t touch the floor.
2) 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.
3) You need a very slight lean forward, as you do when running, to ensure gravity is working in the right direction. However, avoid leaning too far forward and ending up in a doggy paddle position – no one wants to look as if it’s their first day trying to swim a length at primary school.
4) At this point, your arm and leg drive are essential. The arms should be at right angles, really driving forwards and backwards, as if you are trying to elbow someone behind you.
5) Your legs need to have a full-leg drive and normal stride, with high knees and your heels lifting behind the body (almost a cycling action), as if you are touching the ground and toeing off the way you would when running normally on dry land.
6) Remember, the movement forward is small and slow. The challenge is in staying upright and working as hard as you can against the resistance of the water to create some gradual forward motion.
Structuring a session
Aqua jogging sessions can recreate the time-based interval sessions of an ordinary running training plan.
Here are some examples:
• 5 mins normal running pace – perceived effort (PE) of 6/10.
• 15, 30, 45, 60, 75 and 90 secs sprinting as hard as you can, with 15 seconds’ rest between each effort.
• Repeat 3-4 times.
• 5 mins warm-down.
• 5 mins warm-up.
• 8 mins steady (PE 7/10), 90 secs rest.
• 2 x 4 mins increased pace (PE 8/10),
75 secs rest.
• 4 x 2 mins increased pace (PE 9/10),
45 secs rest.
• 8 x 1 min sprint (PE 10/10),
30 secs rest.
• 5 mins warm-down.
• Try not to hold on to the side of the pool when resting. Just keep your legs moving, as if you’re treading water.
• Fartlek: 1 min, 2 mins, 3 mins, 4 mins, 5 mins, 5 mins, 4 mins, 3 mins, 2 mins, 1 min, all hard. Take half the length of each interval time as rest.
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 sprints of 20 or 30 seconds from time to time, in the middle of an interval.