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Deep Water Running: How To and Benefits of Water Running

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Runners often overlook fantastic opportunities for cross-training. As a coach, the first thing I ask an injured athlete is if they have pool access. Even for perfectly healthy athletes, the pool is a fantastic place for cross-training. 

I am a former swim coach/personal trainer and spent twelve years as the aquatics director for a city pool here in Northeastern Wisconsin; I can tell of the magical powers of the pool from first-hand experience.  

Let’s dive in (pun intended!). 

What Is Deep Water Running?

Deep water running is a cardiovascular exercise that the name implies: running in deep water. Also called aqua jogging, there are different ways to perform this training activity.

All you need for deep water running is a  body of water deeper than you are tall. Some people aqua jog wearing a flotation belt, and others use their bodies to stay afloat. 

6 Deep Water Running Benefits

There are so many benefits of deep water running!

  1. Injury Recovery: If you are injured, the buoyancy of the water helps you get in a workout without being in danger of hurting yourself further. 
  2. Rehab: This may seem like just a different way to say the same thing, but hear me out. If you are rehabilitating an injury such as stress fractures or muscle tears, working muscles while in the bounce of the water allows you to work your upper body and lower body in certain motions without impact. That can be crucial to quick healing. 
  3. Zero Impact: Even if you are healthy, it can be to your benefit to have some zero or low impact workouts. Pounding the pavement day after day can be hard on your body. Spending time in the pool allows you to get your heart rate up in a different way. 
  4. Calorie Burn: Water workouts burn a sneaky amount of calories. If you are trying to drop a few pounds, try some water training!
  5. Cool Workout in Hot Weather: Sure, some pools are kept at a high water temperature; however, most are kept at a lower temperature for competitive swimmers. Is there anything more refreshing on a hot day than a dip in the swimming pool?
  6. Cardio: Did you miss where we mentioned that you could get your heart rate up in the pool? You can get a great workout in and not even realize you are sweating. 
  7. Social Activity: When you are aqua jogging, you can be working out right next to your friends, and speed does not play a factor. No matter how fast or slow someone is, you can all be right in the same area. 

Is Deep Water Running Good For Weight Loss?

Runners are usually surprised to hear that deep water running burns anywhere from 30 – 40 % more calories than running on land. Deep water running burns approximately 11 1/2 calories per minute, whereas land running will have you burn about 8.

Does that mean you can splash your way to a thinner you? Perhaps. 

Remember that you cannot undo a bad diet with exercise when push comes to shove. Just like other aspects of life, you need balance. Deep water running calories are just like any other calories. You need to get your body in a calorie deficit to lose weight. 

The benefits of deep water running are great for weight problems. Since there is no impact of other exercises, you can burn calories and get some excellent movement in without putting strain on your joints. 

Is Deep Water Running Hard?

Like any other form of exercise, pool running is as hard or as easy as the effort you put in. Think about it in comparison to running. Depending on your fitness level, pace, and how far you run, you can make it hard or easy. Same with aqua jogging.

If you are comfortable in the water, you will probably enjoy deep water running. You may want to check out some aquatics classes to learn deep water running techniques.

When discussing technique, there are some specific things you should shoot for:

  • Posture: Keep your back straight, and don’t hunch over.
  • Legs: Just the back portion of the run is happening with your legs, most of the time. Don’t try to do the forward reach with your leg.
  • Arms: Work your arms just like you do when jogging on land. It is important to pay attention to your running form in the water. Don’t cross your arms in front of your body.

Difference Between Deep Water Running and Aqua Jogging

Honestly, there is no difference. The only thing is that many people hear the word jogging and are insulted. After all, if you are a runner, you don’t want to be caught jogging. Right?

The other end of the spectrum is someone afraid to try an aerobic workout that is high intensity. They might hear the word running and get scared. Jogging, on the other hand, feels obtainable for a newbie.

However, sometimes workouts that are labeled aqua jogging do have the athlete pulling the knees closer to the chest than in aqua running. That is a difference you might find if you attend a teacher-led class at your local pool.

Your best bet is to ask questions of the aquatics staff if you are looking for a certain type of workout.

What Equipment Do You Need for Deep Water Running?

Of course, you need a swimming suit. You will probably feel more comfortable either in a one-piece or a suit specially designed for competitive swimming if you plan to sweat in the pool. Sometimes wearing a suit made for lounging on the beach is not conducive to working out. 

Most water joggers or walkers use a floatation belt to help them stay afloat. These belts help you stay up and keep the good posture that you need to be doing it correctly.

They also make water-resistance gloves. Made with special webbing, these provide drag when you move your hands through the water. This helps you get a bit more bang or your buck while working out.

Lastly, if you are not just running but trying other types of water exercise, you might want to test some aqua dumbbells. Made of foam or another floating material, you have to work your body to move them through the water. 

Note: If you are heading to a pool that hosts classes, you can usually borrow these pieces of equipment rather than purchase your own. 

Deep Water Running Workouts

If you are new to deep water running, you might want to start with an easy 20-30 minutes jogging around the pool. While you acclimate to your new workout, take in the warm environment and focus on your posture. 

Once you feel comfortable in the pool and with the aqua jogging, you can do any workout you do on land in the water. You need to think about it translating to water. 

I like to use Nike Running Club App for workouts. Pick a sprint guided run. It will give you advice on how to run. When it says 5K effort, just set an idea how that translates to the pool in your head. 

Sample Workout

  • 5-minute warm-up (easy jogging)
  • 1:00 minute hard jogging x 1:00 easy jogging (repeat 5 times)
  • :30 seconds hard x :30 seconds easy x :30 seconds rest (repeat 10 times)
  • 5 minute cool down

Time to Jump in the Deep End

Whether you are injured and working your way back or a perfectly healthy athlete just looking for a new challenge, you are sure to enjoy the swimming workout and benefits of deep water running.

Don’t delay. Find a pool, grab your swimsuit and jump right in. You won’t regret it. 

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