Water Running
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Water Running

Water Running

by Super Dave, Industry Expert

It really works-even if you can't swim a stroke. Water running became popular a few years ago when runners realized that water workouts offered some great benefits-no pounding, good resistance and soothing massage qualities. These days there are all sorts of exercise classes held at swimming pools, from synchronized swimming to programs for senior citizens. Water running is a great alternative workout for runners because it:

  • mimics your running motion
  • provides a workout without the pounding
  • speeds up the recovery from injuries
  • improves your aerobic fitness level

Water running isn't complicated. It all boils down to this: with the help of a flotation device (like a ski vest, ski belt, or Aqua-Jogger) you run in deep water, performing the same workouts you perform on land.

A Boatload of Benefits
Because the water creates resistance to movement, being submerged is like having an adjustable weight machine surrounding your body. Want to adjust the intensity of your workout? Just change the speed of your arm and leg actions. Faster movements create more resistance and greater intensity. There are some nice side-benefits to all this, too. Your legs not only avoid the pounding of running on land, they get a soothing massage at the same time. This increases the blood flow to and from the muscles and helps eliminate muscle tension. Water running is also a great fitness-builder. Your heart and lungs are stressed just like when you're on the road.

How to Get Started
Buy or borrow a flotation device (many pools have Aqua Joggers available). Find a pool not filled with serious swimmers or screaming kids playing Marco Polo. Make sure the water is over your head so that when you "run," your feet don't hit the bottom. The flotation device should lift you so that just your head and neck are out of the water. When you're submerged to your neck in water, your body weighs about 10% of its land weight. If you weigh 200 pounds on land, you weigh only 20 pounds in water.

Basic Technique
Use the same running motion as on land, bringing your arms and legs through normal or slightly exaggerated arcs. Pump! Pump! Pump! You'll feel a rhythm building, just like on land. Concentrate on staying upright and tall. Maintain a consistent running stride.

Common Mistake
Resist the tendency of your body to roll up into a ball while running. In water, the lungs become the center of gravity (or is it buoyancy?) and you naturally begin to crunch forward. Be mindful of this and run tall. Keep your hips forward and your head up. Extend your legs fully behind you.

Water Running Workouts
You can perform your normal land running workouts in the pool. For example, if your outdoor program calls for a 30-minute easy run, then do the same in the water. The benefits are very similar. Unless someone drains the pool, the scenery isn't going to change. To avoid boredom you'll have to be creative. Add variety by interspersing hard running with easy running. For example, warm up with 5 easy minutes, then alternate hard and easy minutes for a while, followed by a 5-minute easy cool-down. It's fun, and very beneficial. Since there's no traffic to contend with, and no danger of a tidal wave, the pool is a great place to use your headset. (Make sure it's waterproof, of course.)

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