Aquajogging – once the preserve of injured athletes – has become a cross training activity in its own right for runners of all abilities, irrespective of their injury status. So why is it making such a big splash and will it improve your running on dry land?
The concept of aquajogging is simple – you strap a flotation device (usually an aquajogging belt, which you can get cheaply online) around your midriff then move your arms in a running motion in the deep end of a swimming pool. The emphasis should be on having good running action rather than keeping your head above water.
Why do it?
The great appeal, of course, is that aquajogging doesn’t put the same stresses on your body as conventional running, while still boosting your endurance and fitness levels. It will also help you increase your cardiovascular capacity and is an excellent form of resistance training.
As a cross-training option aquajogging is great for runners, because it replicates the same movement, working your legs, core and upper body. It is particularly effective in strengthening your hip flexors. These are often weak in runners, so strengthening can help you to avoid injuries such as the dreaded ‘runner’s knee’.
Who’s used it?
Dame Kelly Holmes used aquajogging to great effect in 2000 after being sidelined by a calf injury in the build-up to Sydney Olympics where she won bronze in the 800m. Other high profile proponents include Jessica Ennis-Hill, Andy Murray, and, perhaps surprisingly, Jennifer Aniston. It is probably the most common cross training option for elite athletes but is beneficial for everyone.
It’s important to train in water that is deep enough to avoid your feet hitting the bottom when you run. You should also ensure that your hands are clenched in a fist, so that you don’t end up using them for forward propulsion, which is essentially swimming.
Don’t lean too far forward and straighten your upper body so that your shoulders are directly above your hips. You should also bring your knees up in a more exaggerated fashion than you would when running on land.
Running in water can seem excruciatingly slow compared to the drier variety, so pairing up with a partner or doing interval sessions may make it more enjoyable. Also, be prepared to be the slowest person in the pool. Your times will obviously not be comparable to those on land.
Many sports centres offer aqua jogging classes. Contact your local centre to find out if they offer them. If not, strap on your belt and hit the slow lane. We’re sure you’ll get on swimmingly…