One of the first places injured runners go for cross training is to the pool. As a cardio exercise that is similar to running but without the pounding, aqua jogging can help you stay in shape while rehabbing an injury, taking a break from the road or just looking for an alternative to running. Learning the differences and similarities between the workouts can help you decide which is right for you.
When it comes to mechanics, running and aqua jogging are similar if not virtually identical. Both involve reaching out with a lead leg and using it to propel you forward while pulling the trailing leg to the front to repeat the motion. Your arms are held in the same relaxed, bent position in the water as they are on land, and your feet flex and extend in the same pattern as if to push off of a solid surface.
According to “Runner’s World,” pool running is equivalent to running when it comes to fitness. By aqua jogging at the same level of exertion you put forward on the road for the same amount of time, you can maintain your running endurance and pace. Some runners even improve their fitness while aqua jogging, because they are able to hold a faster pace longer because of the reduced amount of physical stress.
Aqua jogging involves more preparation and scheduling than running. It requires access to a pool and specific gear such as goggles and flotation devices. Aqua jogging can only be done when the pool is open, may cost a fee and can be limited by pool class schedules or public recreation hours. Running can be done anytime, at no cost, except for shoes. Pool running -- at least in an indoor pool -- offers the benefit of weather protection and can be done during extreme hot or cold. Runners can get the same protection, but only with a treadmill.
As a non-weight-bearing exercise, aqua jogging is less taxing on your joints and muscles than running. There is no impact on your body, which reduces your risk of injury; there is only the resistance of the water. Pool running can also allow you to maintain your training schedule even when you are hindered by shin splints, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis or other physical limitations. The impact of running, however, can benefit your joints by strengthening your ligaments. This kind of strength can’t be achieved with pool running.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.