Aqua Jogging For Runner Rehab
If you’re a serious runner, or even a casual runner, you know that injuries tend to crop up from over use and repetitive motion. Whether it’s your feet, ankles, knees, or hips, there’s nothing more frustrating to a runner than an injury prevents you from logging your miles.
This is where aqua jogging for injured runners comes in. Rehabilitation specialists often refer rehabbing runners to water based exercise, which limit impact and stress on over extended joints. Since aqua jogging mimics the motion and stride of a running workout, it’s more than a respectable temporary solution for a runner sidelined due to injury.
Benefits of Aqua Jogging for Injured Runners
Water based workouts, particularly aqua jogging, have specific benefits to runners beyond the normal standard fitness benefits. For one, it allows a runner to get their “running fix”! We know full well the frustration a runner feels when told to stop due to injury.
Second, the similarity in motion allows a runner to practice and maintain running technique. The motion used isn’t 100% like running outdoors, of course, because you’re not actually impacting (loading) your legs and feet, but it’s as close as anything. The trade off in this regard is the total lack of impact, as well as an opportunity to cross train.
The biggest difference in our opinion is how your workout is measured. Judging by distance covered in a swimming pool is misleading, because your slightly forward leaning motion is what propels you through the water.
Rather, your workout here is best measured by a heart rate monitor. You’ll typically find a good aqua jogging workout gets your heart rate within about 90% of what you’d experience running.
Proper Aqua Jogging Form For Runners
Just like any other workout, the effectiveness of aqua jogging for injured runners depends on your technique. Here are a few tips you’ll want to remember when you get in the pool.
* First, if you’ve never done an aqua jogging workout before, we suggest you use an aqua jogging belt. This is a flotation device that keeps you comfortably afloat. Even if you’re a good swimmer, it’s a good idea to use one of these belts so you can focus more on proper technique instead of staying afloat.
* Next, find a depth area that’s slightly above your head, i.e. if you’re 5’10” go to the 6 foot depth level. Then, you should begin to simulate running in the same posture and position as you normally would outdoors or on a treadmill. Specifically, lean forward ever so slightly and use your arms and legs to propel forward.
By the way, the reason you want to start at a depth slightly beyond your height is so your arms won’t be splashing about. Your arms and arm movements should be under water.
Here’s a video showing a runner aqua jogging to give you an idea:
* Also in regard to your arm movements, make sure they’re moving in a straight line (forward and back) rather than across your body. In the water, we have a tendency to move our arms across our bodies, sort of in a modified breast stroke. Keep in mind you want to mimic your normal running movements and you’ll be fine.
* Regarding your legs, you’ll probably be tempted to drive your knees up and down, as if you were doing knee lifts. Avoid this temptation, as it’s not normal running form. Instead, focus on your hamstrings to lift your legs up toward your rear end.
By the way, aqua jogging is a GREAT workout for your hamstrings!
* Your quadriceps will also come into play, particularly on your downward stride. Envision yourself running and focus on pushing the bottoms of your feet down into the water.
* Keep the palms of your hands closed into a loose fist if at all possible. What you want to avoid is using your palms to help paddle or propel you forward through the water.
Generally, it takes a couple of minutes to get used to aqua jogging, but once you’ve mastered good running form, you’ll be able to focus completely on the workout vs. your form.
Maintaining Runner Performance Through Aqua Jogging
Speaking from experience, one of the biggest worries of a runner being forced to stop due to injury is concern over performance times. While scientific evidence is limited at best, studies have been conducted with runners over defined time periods.
In these studies, runners tested their times for specific distances (like a 10k run) and then withdrew from running for a defined period of time, using aqua jogging as a substitute for their normal running schedule. In almost all cases, runners had the same performance times after resuming normal running.
There’s also the question of complete rest after an injury vs. performing a cross training activity like this. It’s generally accepted that your running performance won’t suffer if you take up to five days off. Many times, five days off is enough to resolve minor injuries …
After five days though, a runner’s performance level will start to drop steeply, bottoming out after eight to ten weeks. Cross training, such as running in a swimming pool, will help you retain 80% to 90% of your hard earned performance levels.
So it’s a great idea to incorporate a cross training activity, whether you’re injured. If you are in fact suffering from injury, and you want to maintain your running performance levels, a cross training workout activity is crucial.
In summary, if you’re on the shelf due to a running injury, or you’re just looking for an effective method of cross training, consider aqua jogging. There’s only a short acclimation period, the fitness results are remarkably similar, and your aching joints will thank you!