A few weeks ago I started water running. Since I’m not the son of God, I have to run under the surface of the water rather than upon it.
Naturally, one might wonder why I’m running in water. After all, water is normally for swimming. The reason is that I tore my quadriceps tendon and had it repaired on April 3, 2009. After 15 weeks of recovery, the tendon was still not quite ready to handle to impact of land running, but was able to handle resistance reasonable well. Since running in water provides resistance without impact shock, it was a logical choice.
Naturally, I did wonder if water running would be a useful exercise and how it would compare with running. So far, I can attest that it does provide enough of a workout to tire me and I even, at the end of the week, feel like I have been running. However, I will not know how effective it has been until I start running on land again.
In order to water run, you will need access to water deep enough to keep your feet from touching (although you can run with your feet actually touching the bottom) as well as a suitable flotation device. A pool is an ideal place for this activity. If you use a public pool be sure to check before jumping in to run. I know that some YMCAs allow people to water run, but some pools might not allow that sort of thing, or at least restrict it to certain times.
As far as flotation goes, I use an Aqua Jogger, since it is actually designed for water running. I’d suggest avoiding an actual life vest because they are not really designed for this sort of thing. If you want to get a bit more elaborate, you can get a fitness system that includes the Aqua Jogger, delta bells, and “shoes” for added resistance. But, all you really need is the Aqua Jogger belt.
The point of the flotation is so you can run with a natural motion in the water. Although it might seem that running in water with your feet connecting with the bottom would be more like land running, I’ve found that trying to run that way is annoying. Getting used to running with proper form might take a while and it can help to have someone watching you to make sure that you are not, for example, just kicking your legs rather than running.
You can get a cord to attach yourself to the pool wall so you stay in place while you run. Some pools might require this. Since I use the pool at my home owners’ association I don’t do this and, in fact, run “laps” in the pool. Naturally, I go early in the morning so I can be the only one in the pool. I’ve found that moving makes me feel more like I am really running and this helps me get into my running groove. I’ve found this makes pool running much more pleasant.
One obvious difference between land running and water running is that the terrain in the pool never changes-you will always be running in water. As such, there are no hills or rougher terrain to provide a challenge. To provide some variation, I will pretend that one side of the pool is a “hill” and run harder while moving along that side. Silly, but it works. It also helps to change your pace throughout the workout so as to avoid falling into a rut.
Another obvious difference between land running and water running is that distance is fairly meaningless in water running. When I was running on land, I would use my GPS watch to track my miles and determine my pace. However, in the water I cover very little actual distance (and if you are tied to the side, you’ll cover no distance).
So, in water running to measure your workout you’ll have to rely on perceived effort and time. Or, if you want to get a bit more fancy, you can use a heart rate monitor. Naturally, there is probably a way to calculate distance run in the water, but I’m just sticking with time and effort as my measures.
While I am water running because land running is not an option, it does seem like it would be a nice change of pace for uninjured runners (especially in the hot Florida summer).
As noted above, I won’t know how effective this water running has been until I can see what I can do on land. But, it does seem to be restoring my cardiovascular levels and it satisfies (mostly) my desire to run.