CSCS, ACSM, HFI
activities like running create a lot of stress on lower
body joints. Many acute (ankle sprains) and overuse (tendonitis, stress
fractures) injuries require complete rest in order for
adequate recovery. Most
athletes are faced with the problem of losing conditioning
when recovering from an injury and often begin training
too early which can aggravate the injury and extend the
is a valid concern as loss of conditioning can begin as
early as 2-4 weeks after cessation of training(1).
Injuries such as tendonitis and stress fractures
often require an athlete to rest the area up to 8 weeks.
And to “add insult to injury” – OK that was a
bad pun - injuries tend to crop up at the most
inconvenient times – they don’t always conveniently
occur during the recovery period or off-season.
This is where deep water running can be very
is a great rehabilitative tool as it allows an athlete to
participate in an activity very similar to running, in an
environment that will allow the injury to heal.
benefit of deep water running is that it requires very
little equipment – a deep pool and a flotation belt.
These belts are made from soft, flexible foam and
have an adjustable buckle.
The belt should be worn around the waist/torso to
keep the person’s head above water, and their body in a
Many recreation centers with aqua aerobics programs
have flotation belts called “Aquajoggers” available to
can also be purchased in swim shops and online.
Water Running Technique:
density of water will initially make deep water running
feel awkward, however, with practice there really isn’t
much difference in land vs. deep water running technique.
As long as the runner focuses on keeping a natural
hip flexion (knee drive) the leg turnover will be similar.
The biggest challenge is to prevent
over-exaggeration of arm work by keeping the hands closed
or palm-inwards (not cupping the water)(1).
using endurance athletes, reports that deep water running
is very successful in maintaining aerobic fitness(1).
Setting the appropriate intensity during this type
of activity is important.
Due to the properties of water, Heart Rate
responses for the same level of land running intensity are
approximately 10-12 bpm lower in the pool(1)(2).
Therefore, an athlete can adjust their Heart Rate
training zones by lowering the training ranges by 10-12bpm
when deep water running.
The repetitive and monotonous nature of pool
running can be minimized by simulating intervals (greater
than 3 minutes each for endurance sessions).
increase intensity an elastic cord can be used to tether
the athlete (attached to the back of flotation belt) to
the edge of the pool(1).
This method is also effective if pool space is
the water runner may “run” the length of the pool (as
long as their feet do not contact the bottom of the pool).
running is appropriate only when an injury is internal or
closed (and physician approved).
Do not participate in water sports with an open
consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of
cords can be purchased for $10-$15 at the same merchants
that sell flotation belts(1).
water running is a successful method for maintaining
fitness when recovering from lower-extremity injury.
When performed with the correct technique it can
simulate land based running and allow time for an injury
J Mayo, PhD, CSCS. 2000: Practical Guidelines for
the Use of Deep-Water Running, NSCA Strength
& Conditioning Journal: Vol 22, No 1, pp
J Michaud, Jorge Rodriguez-Zayas, Frederick F. Andres,
Michael G. Flynn & Charles P. Lambert. 1995: Comparative
Exercise Responses of Deep-Water and Treadmill Running,
Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research:
Vol 9, No 2, pp 104-109.
Kylie Ramsey, CSCS, ACSM HFI, is a USA Triathlon Certified
Level 1 Coach as well as a Certified Strength and
You can learn more about her at www.atpcoaching.com
or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.