Pool Running Techniques

Deep water running mimics dry land running.
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If jogging along your normal neighborhood route or trundling around and around on the local high school track is getting a little old, try pool running. The water provides a fun alternative that closely mimics running on land while strengthening your muscles. Also called aqua running and water running, pool running makes for a non-impact, aerobic exercise and is not just for runners. It’s the perfect workout for Nesties who want some resistance in their training -- but with increased bouyancy.


    Pool running is a lot easier on your body, a nice break from your joint-pounding, hard-surface workouts. Even if you have an injury, such as an ankle sprain, soreness in your knees or lower back pain, you can still train and at the same time, help speed up the recovery process. It's no secret that dry land running elevates your heart rate and running in deep water is no different -- it's a solid cardio workout. The water provides stiff resistance and thus more muscles are involved and strengthened than when running on land, states Joe Puleo and Patrick Milroy, authors of “Deep Water Running.” The faster your move your arms and legs, the more resistance you'll encounter and the greater the strength gain. Running in deep water helps runners increase their speed and their range of motion.

Basic Deep-Water Technique

    Get into deep enough water so your feet don't touch the bottom of the pool. Only your head, neck and shoulders should be above the surface of the water. Maintain a slight forward lean from your waist just as you do when you are running on land. Keep your chest up and your shoulders pulled back. Bend your elbows 90 degrees. Pump your arms opposite to your legs with your wrists firm and your hands slightly open, not clenched. As you lift your knees, keep your feet flat, and as you drive your legs down, under your butt and behind you, point your toes down. Maintain 76 to 80 cycles per minute with each leg to simulate dry land running, recommends Al Lyman, a USA Triathlon certified coach.

Shallow Water Techniques

    If you're uncomfortable running in deep water, train in shallow water. Get into water at one side of the pool that reaches to somewhere between your waist and your chest. Start with a power walk. Keep you back straight, head up and a slight forward lean. Move your arms opposite to your legs and take 4-foot strides. Avoid walking on your tiptoes. To simulate running on flat land, make your strides 3 feet long. Shorten your strides to 2 feet and, as your arms move back, drive your elbows toward the sky to simulate running up hills. Make your strides 1 foot long to simulate running down hills. Quickly slice your hands by your hips as you pump your arms back and forth. Perform 10 side-to-side laps with each exercise and take a one-minute rest between laps. These techniques can also be done in deep water.


    It's a good idea to begin with a 10-minute warm-up to prepare your muscles for pool running. Maintaining proper form is critical when doing pool running. Avoid slouching and keep your back straight. Avoid over-extending your legs as you stride through the water. Simply drive your knees up and then drive your foot down and back. Wearing an aqua-jogging belt can help keep you afloat, which allows you to concentrate on your form. A simple 30-minute pool-running workout entails one minute of hard, high cadence running followed by 30 seconds of easy, low-cadence running, repeated 20 times. If you haven't exercised in several months, get the OK from your doctor.

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